From 1983 to 2016, Nusret Gökçe was… Nusret Gökçe.
Just a guy.
A guy with a knack for slicing, salting, and serving steak, sure, but a guy nonetheless.
Then, in 2017, with a pinch of sea salt on his chiseled forearm, bouncing off his protruding elbow, Nusret Gökçe became Salt Bae.
Turning viral fame into mega-dollars isn’t new, but the gulf between his initial social media fame (just one short video) and his mind-blowing wealth (around $ 50 million) is truly remarkable, even at the Kim Kardashian era. Where is.
He’s been on everyone’s lips in the UK for about a week now, for sticking overpriced cow patties in the gaping mouths of finance brothers with juicy expense accounts and Instagrammers with even juicier overdrafts.
A food critic for the London newspaper The Evening Standard ended up losing £ 500 for a dinner for two, even after limiting himself to the house red. The steak was ‘shockingly good’ but a bunch of missteps on the sides and finger foods highlighted the mouthwatering sum. £ 120 Wagyu strip loin? £ 50 of cappuccino? Salt Bae left them feeling salty.
But listen – if you’re a Salt Bae super fan whose bank balance is redder than a bottle of Heinz’s best, you’ve got another option: Salt Bae fast food. It’s a place where you can soak up all the gadgets of Bae’s whimsical big brother, at around a sixth the cost.
The name – which we’d love to imagine was conjured up by a team of Madison Avenue advertising executives at $ 1,000 a day – is “#Saltbae,” and it opened at the worst possible time.
That’s right, it opened at the end of February 2020, just days before meals inside were closed for months due to the coronavirus. Nonetheless, Nusret himself made it to the restaurant for the launch, smiling and laughing with the guests as the photographers flash and New York’s Foodstagram VIPs crept in.
So how is it? And should you add it to your NYC itinerary the next time you’re in town? We went there to find out.
The first thing that happened? A flashback.
I remember when I was a kid there was a big field, and once a year the circus came to town. It was quite exciting; The big top ! Strong men roaming around with cartoon biceps! The smell of elephant dung! For a week that was part of the horizon line, and then once the ringmaster and his colleagues were gone all that was left was the sight of trampled grass and the odd feeling of wondering if such show had even happened.
That is to say – and I admit it was a nostalgic trip with misty eyes, indulgent to get there – it gave off the same vibes of a place where the circus had evolved a lot. This place was dead. We went to this huge burger narcissism palace in the middle of New York on a Friday night and there were maybe 10 other diners in a place that looks like it can hold about 100.
But with a customer to employee ratio close to 1: 1, the service was as good as you might expect. An attentive host, quick service and lots of smiles.
The menu of chaos
My smile quickly turned into a confused grimace as I surveyed the chaotic menu. The Saltbae burger, with a 7oz wagyu beef patty, blue cheese, and crispy onions, costs $ 19. Sounds classy, doesn’t it? So we can assume that the after dinner baklava milkshake is, what, $ 10? Bad bucko, it’s $ 25. Perhaps the only restaurant in New York where the dessert is more expensive than the main course.
How about a meatless salad of tomatoes, nuts, onions and parsley? It’s the kind of thing a half-decent Persian restaurant will offer for free with your order of grilled meat. But here? It’s $ 20. It stings more than the pomegranate vinaigrette. They also have the crazy $ 120 “golden burger” covered in 24k edible gold, which is also on the menu at the main restaurant. For the indy100 expense account, we were successful.
Then there is the question of which burger to order. The Saltbae Burger sounds, because of the name, like the flagship burger, but just below is something called the “juicy burger” which looks more appealing and costs a dollar less. Then there’s a “saslik” burger – a filet marinated in olive oil and buttermilk on a homemade bun – which looks more like a steak sandwich than a hamburger. But there’s already a steak sandwich elsewhere on the menu, so what does saslik have that doesn’t? This is all a bit confusing.
Plus, when this place first opened, they offered free veggie burgers for women – something that rightly raised eyebrows and generated column inches. It’s long gone – they’re now at $ 16. A reaction to the backlash? Unlikely. A cost calculation made after the start of the media circus? Probably.
Fries were also on the menu in all caps as “FREE” – but it seems the Salt Bae team gave in and recognized that most burgers come with fries and that they are simply listed as a component of a typical burger combo, rather than an act of benevolence towards the potato.
The main event
So after all that growling, you’re probably ready for some flame-grilled food roast. You’re not going to get it.
We ordered a Saltbae burger, medium rare, and that’s what we got (although they cut them in half and grill the edge open before serving, so it looked like they had cooked it well in the oven. start (luckily it was perfectly cooked).
The meat in the burger is not very finely chopped, which gives it an excellent texture, a hearty bite, and keeps a lot of juice inside the patty.
In terms of flavor, I’m not sure what cuts of meat are used in burgers, but there was an almost cheerful and offaly flavor that we last experienced when we laughed at a burger made with 50% of hearts in a hipster food truck in Kings Cross, London. Good thing – I want my burgers to taste like something and it was delivered, it just had to fight with a slightly tangy layer of salt to shine. But it seems unfair to complain about the use of salt in a restaurant named after the salt.
Blue cheese was scarce but with a little investigative work we found a splodge just hidden in the roof of the bun, with a few rather shy bits of onion.
Each plate comes with a few black gloves – this is what Salt Bae himself wears as he moves from table to table to distribute salt to his new openings – which the waiter says is optional when devouring. the hamburger. It seemed to evoke proctologist vibes, so we ignored them.
The fries were well seasoned but lukewarm which meant they were partly soft. A shame.
A $ 25 milkshake
Then we finished with the $ 25 baklava milkshake, shared between us. He promised a vanilla cream, a rim of pistachio, a white chocolate sauce and a baklava. It was so incredibly sweet that it was difficult to analyze the different flavors inside, and while there was a huge chunk of baklava perched on top, it was difficult to tell if any baklava had been whipped. in the milkshake.
So what is the damage? Well, $ 112 with tip. If you are in UK it costs around 90 pounds. We had a drink each – a glass of cabernet and a small beer – and although it seems expensive, NYC is still expensive and the cost of restaurant meals has gone particularly crazy over the past few months.
Would I stay here again? No. But there are only about ten places in the city that I return to several times. Would I urge you on a trip to New York to avoid this place at all costs? Also no.
When I posted an Instagram story showing where I was, I received a bunch of responses, some from people I hadn’t spoken to in ages. They loved it, it sparked the conversation.
This place is good. It’s solid in fact. It’s a place where you can get a good burger and have fun instagraming the Salt Bae branded trays, packaging, and decor while paying a relatively modest premium for the celebrity gadget. As long as you skip the golden burger.