The 5 Napkin Burger

I’ve always felt a little awkward when it comes to eating in social situations. I mean really, I’ve always felt a little awkward in any social situation.  But eating is a big one.  It’s especially bad when other people are around and I’m the only one eating.  I try to avoid those types of scenarios as best I can, but sometimes a girl’s gotta eat.  Related depressingly funny anecdote follows.

Last week I had dinner at 5 Napkin Burger, a slightly upscale chain restaurant on Ninth Avenue.  It was a spur of the moment decision, one that was fueled primarily by, well, hunger of course, but also by my almost monthly urge to consume a hunk of partially cooked cow meat.  The meat that makes up my home cooked meals is almost exclusively chicken.  I happen to like chicken a lot, it is the most cost effective thing for me to eat, and it also has a reputation for being one of the healthier animal products to deposit into your body tube.



But as I said, about once a month, I get a primal craving that chicken alone cannot satisfy, and forth I go to find a burger!!!  Hence, 5 Napkin Burger.  It was a nice day, which I point out because it was a nice day in a sea of what have been terrible, cold, rainy spring days. Accordingly, I requested a table outside for one.  The hostess gave me a long look, turned to a server and said, as loudly as if she wanted to broadcast it to the entire restaurant, “SHE NEEDS A TABLE FOR ONE”.  With a pitying look, the server led me outside and I sat down at a table.  There were two couples sitting on either side of me.  One couple was sharing a milk shake.  It was depressingly romantic.

I order the 5 Napkin Burger.  Side note: It confuses me when people go to restaurants that have a “thing” for the first time and proceed NOT to get that “thing”.  It’s called building a base, bruh.  Although what generally ends up happening is that I am severely unimpressed by the “thing” and never return to the restaurant, so maybe every single friend and family member I have is onto something.  Whatever.

So there I am.  Eating in public.  Which I hate.  ALONE.  Which just cranks it up from feeling uncomfortable to feeling both awkward and uncomfortable.   My food comes.  I immediately wolf down most of the fries before even looking at the burger.  I can’t turn away from hot fries, okay.  I eat 3/4ths of the burger.  Honestly, it was pretty good.  This article is really not about the food at 5 Napkin Burger, but if you want a rating, I’ll give it 4 out of 5 burgers.  I’m taking one burger away because A) you don’t even get ANY napkins.  All you get is a fancy cloth to mop up your face juice.  And B) they have friggin’ GLASS KETCHUP BOTTLES.

I’m sitting alone outside on Ninth Ave.  The burger is mostly gone and I turn back to the now slightly cooled fries I hadn’t devoured when my plate first came out. No longer bolstered by steaming hot grease, the salty potato sticks are just begging for a slick coat of the bright red culinary miracle we know as ketchup.  (Some chef is probably cursing me to hell for saying that.)  I reach out for the bottle.  The battle begins.

People pass by the restaurant in a constant stream.  It’s 6:30PM.  It’s New York City.  It’s warm outside.  You get the picture.  I grab the ketchup bottle by the base, flip it 180 degrees, and start banging at the bottom.  The ketchup sticks resolutely to it’s glass-walled home.  I would estimate that roughly 2 minutes pass by as I continue to try and fail at getting the ketchup out of the bottle.  Of course, in my mind, every one who is walking by is silently making fun of me for not only daring to eat in public, but for being completely unable to do something as simple as extract ketchup substance from a bottle.


The ketchup bottle that shall not be named.

“Hit the 57!”  Suddenly I am being ambushed by an older woman with a shopping cart.  “You gotta tilt the bottle then hit the side!”  Unable to speak for embarrassment, I do as she says.  Turning the bottle sideways, I tap meekly at it’s neck.  No ketchup emerges.  She continues to stand at my side, rooting me on.  We cycle through a few other suggestions, such as using my steak knife to “scoop” the ketchup out.  Nothing works.

I’m getting more and more agitated by the second, and I have a terrible feeling that she’s about to grab another person from the street for additional support.  At this point I’m not sure how to get this woman away from me.  I say, “ah, it’s okay,” and  point a good-natured grimace in her direction.  My tactic falls flat. She doesn’t get it.  “I don’t know why they still use those bottles,” she says conversationally.  I don’t respond because I’m frantically shaking the bottle.  I understand that this curse will only be lifted when I get some ketchup out.  I tap harder on the 57.  Miraculously, a few drops fall onto the plate.  Relieved, I thank her, point to the ketchup, and raise a french fry to my mouth.  Smiling triumphantly, she departs.

As soon as she leaves I go at it again with the bottle.  I have no better luck with round 2.  It’s at the point where I literally have 5 fries left to eat but god damn it if I don’t want that ketchup!  The couple to the right of me are giggling in a cute way.  At my other side, a young woman is sitting alone.  Her date must have left sometime in the midst of my ketchup battle.  She’s talking on the phone about going on some sort of tour and it sounds pretty important.

She looks at me, and she looks at the ketchup bottle.  “Hold on,” she says to Important Phone Person.  She tells me to put the cap back on the bottle, shake it upside down, and then try to get the ketchup out.  Thankfully she doesn’t keep watching me but goes back to her phone call.  I try her method.  It works!  Kind of.  I get enough ketchup out to finish the fries.  What a happy day!  I eavesdrop on her call for 5 minutes.  It sounds super important and also super glamorous.  I have a brief fantasy about us becoming best friends due to this 5 Napkin Burger encounter and about how she takes me on her glamorous world tours.  I try to think of a funny comment that will immediately charm her and show her that I am best friend material.  Nothing comes to mind.

Finally she finishes her call.  I turn around and say thanks.  She tells me I am welcome.  Then she points to the empty seat next to me.  I tense up in excitement. This is it! She’s about to sit with me, we will become best friends, and I will never be alone again!!

She smiles a big, friendly smile.  “My friends are meeting me in a bit.  Can I have that chair?”