When something is hyped up, I’m usually in two minds: See what the fuss is all about – or stay away from it, because of the hype?
It was the same with Manhattn’s Burgers: After all the noise surrounding its opening in October, I decided to wait for a couple of weeks – and then see what’s behind the hype. So, on a rainy November evening, I went to Manhattn’s at Avenue Louise to get the advertised “taste of New York”.
The first thing I noticed: Somebody who knows a thing or two about marketing and branding has had a hand in this. And I don’t mean that in a negative way: You just notice that there is concept behind the restaurant – the interior, the menu, even the male/female signs on the toilet doors that are made to look like grafitti all fit together.
The second thing that came to my mind: Hey, I’ve seen this before! Where? Right, in New York. If you’ve ever been to one of the Shake Shacks in NYC, you can’t but wonder whether the makers of Manhattns have been there too (the style, combined with system of ordering at one counter, waiting with a buzzer in your hand and then collecting your order at a different counter, is strikingly similar). Again, that’s rather a good thing – as the Shake Shack is a great place to get a great burger.
I had heard that the place gets crowded – so I avoided the usual busy nights on Friday/Saturday, and tried to be there soon after their opening time at 7 pm. When I got there at 7.20, nearly all the tables were occupied, but there were only a couple of people waiting in line. It didn’t take long to order and I was even able to grab a table when somebody was leaving. When I got up 15 minutes later to collect my order, I knew I had been lucky: The line stretched all across the room back to the door and people were already asking to ‘reserve’ my table for when I would be leaving.
The burger itself is a contender for the best in Brussels: The meat was tasty, juicy, made to order (pink or not pink); the caramelized onions and crispy bacon in the “Rockefeller Burger” were a great add-on; the smoky BBQ sauce was delicious.
The fries were a bit of a double surprise for me: First, I was surprised that they were rather small, since most “high-end” burger places tend to go for thicker ones or even wedges. Then I was surprised that these small and thin fries were tastier than they looked; not Antoine-quality for me, but a nice side.
What spoiled the experience somewhat for me were the crowds. A lot of space was occupied by people standing and waiting: As mentioned, the line most of the time stretched back all the way to the door; others waited for their food and a table to become available. Of course, it’s not a chic restaurant, but still – too many people standing and waiting, combined with those that collect their food from the counter and carry it back to their table, was just way too much buzzing around for my taste.
For me, there was really no ‘good’ spot in the restaurant that night: You were either sat at one of the tables next to the queue or en route to the collection-counter. Or you had to make do with a bar stool at a counter along the side of the room – which means looking out onto the street, at a wall of the next-door building or at recycling-containers; not a great choice of views, if you ask me.
That said, the staff were really nice and there was always someone near the entrance to guide the newcomers.
Will I be back? Yes, because the burgers are really great. But it will probably be at lunchtime or on a Monday or Tuesday night – and I’ll probably wait until the hype has died down a bit more.
Manhattn’s, Avenue Louise 164, Brussels // Website