Vynl Bacon Cheeseburger & Pad Thai: Good effort, poor delivery

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Despite looking cool from the outside, Vynl, a trendy diner with 4 locations in NYC (Hell’s Kitchen pictured), is just that: A cool place with a contemporary menu that serves everything from eggs all day to meatloaf and mashed potatoes to red Thai curry with jasmine rice.

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My friends Lindsay and Teresa recommended the Chicken Pad Thai and the Turkey Burger, respectively, but NYC Food Guy doesn’t eat Turkey burgers. He eats Bacon Cheeseburgers, made of beef.

Despite Vynl’s admirable efforts, they came up big on glitz but fell short on delivery.

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Both the bacon cheeseburger & the chicken pad Thai failed to impress. Find out why after the jump.

Thursday night I went for dinner at Vynl Hell’s Kitchen with a few friends. I ordered the 8 oz. Angus burger ($8.95) with bacon well done and cheddar cheese ($1.00/topping). It came served on a fluffy, slightly toasted brioche bun which tasted sweet but would have benefited from being grilled with a little butter. Beside the crunchy, hand-cut French fries sat a half-sour pickle spear, a pile of liquidy, boring coleslaw, and some lettuce, tomato, and raw red onion. Before I get to the specifics, let me tell you a bit more about the restaurant.

A Blogger on a mission, NYC Food Guy was firing questions at the waitress while making mental notes galore. The decorative motif of the restaurant is funky music. Reflective circle cut-outs resembling CDs enclosed our booth from the neighboring one. The menus came inside laminated 1970s and 80s record covers. I was given an Olivia Newton John “Soulkiss” album with Sandy from Grease looking quite sexy on the back cover. The rest of the place seemed like it was just trying really hard to be funky and cool. My two friends who recommended the place were both women in their 20s. So guys pay attention, despite NYC Food Guy’s disappointing visit, the woman in your life might like Vynl.

Let’s return to the matter at hand, the bacon cheeseburger.

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My two friends Rocky and Spider also ordered burgers. Spider ordered his well done while Rocky and I went with medium rare, which came cooked to order and tasted like it was cooked on a flat griddle (which the waitress later confirmed for me). I didn’t use the lettuce or onion, but I had a nice looking slice of tomato, so I added that for texture; good move. Cheddar came melted well, but was quiet, upstaged by the bacon and beef. Fries came crunchy, as ordered, had some skin on them and were pretty tasty. Ketchup was served in a small silver cup and reserves were obviously requested.

I also ordered a Vanilla Egg Cream ($3.00)…

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…which was tasty but broke from the traditional style: The Vanilla syrup contained pieces of vanilla bean in it but unlike most coffee shop egg creams, the seltzer was actually bubbly. Unfortunately, the vanilla bean as sweetener didn’t deliver the sugar rush I was hoping for. Coming soon on NYCFoodGuy.com: A list of the city’s best egg creams.

***The Downfall of it all was that my friend Rocky and I both felt pretty unsettled after we both ate our medium rare cheeseburgers. I initially thought the combo of the egg cream and burger made me feel slightly queasy, but Rocky, who drank water, was feeling the same way hours later. I didn’t get sick but haven’t spoken to Rocky yet.

NYC Food Guy can’t recommend the Vnyl cheeseburger at the Hell’s Kitchen branch after this experience.

Lindsay and Teresa were also in attendance and they ordered the Chicken Pad Thai ($10.95 w/chicken & tofu, $12.95 w/shrimp) from the Thai Specialties section, a potpourri of Asian dishes: Massaman Curry with peanut-coconut sauce and potatoes and onions served with jasmine rice and Sesame Chicken with honey sauce and broccoli ($11.50) are just two of the eight options you can find here.

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Both girls were equally pleased but neither has much Pad Thai experience; NYC Food Guy does. This Pad Thai was bland, something I credit to a lack of chili paste. When I asked the waitress if you can order the Pad Thai spicy she said just add the chili sauce offered on the side, which I inferred meant minimal to zero chili paste in the actual dish. I could be wrong. Either way, I wouldn’t recommend it.

To wash down the Pad Thai, the girls ordered Watermelon Lemonade ($3.50). This is just lemonade with a spritz of watermelon juice. The sip I took was very tart and the lemon overpowered the watermelon. Lindsay enjoyed it but Teresa disliked it enough to exchange it for a Diet Coke. Again, no recommendation from NYC Food Guy.

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You have to respect Vynl’s ambition. Where else can you go for a meal and have the option of getting a burger, Thai food, a respectable salad, a grilled tuna steak, macaroni and cheese, and meatloaf? Unfortunately, they missed the mark on two of those options during my visit, but they wouldn’t be in business if they weren’t doing something right.

Avoid the burger and pad thai and head for one of the interesting sandwiches like the Grilled Chicken Club ($8.95) with bacon, lettuce, tomato, basil, harissa mayo, and chili jam or the Vynl Grilled Chicken Sandwich ($8.95) with aioli, roasted peppers, arugula, and jack cheese, both served with homemade potato chips. If those fail and you really want to make Vynl work, just head for the breakfast because really, how bad can that be? In the end, NYC Food Guy won’t be going back to find out.

VYNL (4 locations)

1491 2nd Ave at 78th St.

(212) 249-6080

754 9th Ave b/t 50th & 51st

(212) 974-2003

507 Columbus Ave b/t 84th & 85th St.

(212) 362-1107

102 8th Ave at 15th St.

(212) 400-2118


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