NYC Chicken & Burgers: Cookout Grill Disappoints

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Since moving from the Upper West Side to the East Village, I haven’t found any chicken as good as Chirping Chicken on 77th Street & Amsterdam Avenue. Cookout Grill, which opened on 13th Street & 1st Avenue in October, has a wood fired rotisserie, an open flame grill and a sign advertising an 100 percent beef burger. How bad could it be? Well I should have known from the sleek and flashy interior that Cookout Grill was trying too hard in all the wrong places. Read on the find out exactly what I mean…

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$17 Worth of food and the hand cut fries were the best part.
cookout-grill-0281
A sleek interior can’t mask misguided grub.

When It Comes To Charbroiled Chicken, More is Less

Look at that beautiful chicken being cooked over an open wood-fired flame. So much promise. So much potential. The name Cookout Grill implies simple food prepared cookout style. When it comes to the chicken, they’ve got the right idea with the cooking, it’s just the preparation where they took a wrong turn.

cookout-grill-005

Whereas Chirping Chicken’s great for its simplicity, its charbroiled birds are prepared with nothing more than chicken fat, garlic and salt, Cookout Grill gets a little trigger happy. They employ a spice rub containing garlic, oregano, rosemary, a special salt, pepper, prunes (for color), and most offensively, Indian yellow curry powder. The chicken marinates in this concoction for 2 days before being roasted over burning wood. I went with the 1/4 dark meat chicken with corn bread and sauce ($5.50).

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The first bite was surprising but not in a good way. I detected the unwelcome yellow curry almost immediately. It didn’t grow on me as I continued eating and I felt duped. Indian curry is not a flavor your sneak into a chicken rub. I say sneak because it’s a dominant flavor; not oppressively so, but enough to be the main flavor of each bite. If I wanted curry, I’d go for Indian food.

The chicken was tender, fatty and moist, what you’d expect from dark meat. The “sauce” contained chopped carrot, red onion, tomato and cucumber in a light vinegar dressing. It didn’t add much but the room temperature cornbread was light and sweet. Unfortunately, the curry was an issue for me. I came for the flavors of a cookout, something the burger delivered but the chicken missed…

Here’s the Beef But Where’s the Love?

I’ll give Cookout Grill credit for two things when it comes to their burger: One, at a half pound, it’s a big burger. Two, it’s cooked over an open flame. That’s where the love ends from NYC Food Guy and apparently that’s where it ends at Cookout Grill too.

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The sign out front of the restaurant advertises “never frozen meat.” Well if that’s the case, let us enjoy the use of fresh beef instead of smushing the life out of the burger, leaving a little pink and no juice for my medium rare. My 1/2 pound cheeseburger ($7.99 + $3.00 for lettuce, tomato, onion, pickle, cole slaw, a side of your choice and a soda) looked great upon first slice. It was pretty much all downhill from there. American cheese was low quality and the bun was standard cafeteria fare, making the standalone cheeseburger very unworthy of its $7.99 price tag.

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It seems like their was no attention to grill work. The burger was flattened and charred around the edges. Although it embodied the cookout flavor, it lacked any real beefiness. Burger purists will argue that I can expect no less with the amount of ketchup I put on. Ordinarily I wouldn’t acknowledge their statement because Heinz ketchup is heaven in a bottle. Unfortunately at Cookout Grill, we were dealing with an impostor…

Ketchup Blasphemy

I know Heinz ketchup when I taste it and this was no Heinz. Despite the appearance of Heinz bottles on every table at Cookout Grill, there was an impostor in our company and its name was Hunt’s. I should have known from the start when I spied packets of Hunt’s ketchup behind the counter. But the gig was up as soon as fry struck ketchup. This brand of treachery is reason enough for me to never return to Cookout Grill.

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A Cookout Up In Smoke

If you’re going to bill yourself as Cookout Grill, keep it simple and keep it affordable. The crispy, hand-cut fries were the only saving grace for the $11 burger platter. As for the chicken, I admire the initiative to try something new in regard to the curry spice mix, but it just didn’t work. It’s peculiar to me that so much effort would be put into the chicken but so little into the burger. A better bun, higher quality cheese and grill regulation could put this burger near the top of the East Village food chain. Cookout Grill is exerting effort in all the wrong places; pretentious chicken and underwhelming burgers can’t be masked by a flashy atmosphere.

cookout-grill-001Cookout Grill

214 1st Avenue at 13th Street
New York, NY 10003
212-677-7001
Hours: Mon. – Sat. 11AM – 12PM,
Sun. 12AM – 11PM
Chelsea Location:
207 W 14th St b/t 7th Ave & 8th Ave
New York, NY 10011
212-924-9663
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21 Responses to “NYC Chicken & Burgers: Cookout Grill Disappoints”

  1. Vic Says:

    As a guy who eats Heinz ketchup with EVERYTHING, I cant believe this. An imposter! For crying out loud!!!!! Nuts!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Who passes off crap as Heinz? Maybe the world is coming to an end!

  2. Dr. Dyspepsia Says:

    Uh, not to start a riot, but Hunt’s won the Cook’s Illustrated taste test for best ketchup. I have no dog in this fight, and I’ve never tasted Hunt’s, but I will, with an open mind. Here’s the verdict, copied from http://www.cooksillustated.com

    From Cook’s Illustrated.

    Product Name
    Hunt’s Ketchup

    Manufacturer
    Hunt’s

    Price
    $1.69 for 24 ounces

    Recommendation Status
    Recommended

    Testers’ Comments
    This “cherry red” ketchup scored the highest for both taste and texture and was the overall winner. Tasters praised the “inviting, smooth” texture and “tangy,” “fresh” flavor. Some commented that this “well-balanced” sample tasted “exactly as it should.

  3. The NYC Food Guy Says:

    Vic,

    I know man, really disappointing.

    Doc,

    What are they smkoing at Cook’s illustrated? I’d pay 10 bucks a bottle for Heinz. Lets just hope they don’t find out.

  4. foodie Says:

    NYCFG-

    Doesn’t that take away from your credibility? If you have a bad taste in ketchup(americas most common condiment), how credible is your opinion for all other flavors. then again, everything you have recommended has been AMAZING so maybe those guys at cooks illustrated dont know what they are talking about!!

  5. Dr. Dyspepsia Says:

    Guy, don’t know. Have never tasted Hunt’s. But willing to try anything once. Well, almost anything….

  6. Dr. Dyspepsia Says:

    And Vic, Guy: ever tasted Hunt’s? Somehow, don’t think so! C’mon tell the TRUTH! Tasted it, or just locked into childhood ketchup tradition?

  7. Maris Says:

    I laughed at your ketchup blasphemy – when I was a kid I refused to eat ANY ketchup unless it was Heinz. And as a child I put ketchup on everything I could get my hands on!

  8. Jack Says:

    Anything other than Heinz tastes like Cousin Eddy’s “real tomato ketchup”

  9. The NYC Food Guy Says:

    foodie,
    Im more worried about Cooks Illustrated’s credibility. Not really. Everyone knows Heinz is the best ketchup.

    Dr. Dyspepsia,
    You got the right idea. No Hunt’s in my house.

    Maris,
    I pretty much still put ketchup on everything I can get my hands on.

    Jack,
    Well said. Or like America’s Choice generic “KETCHUP”

  10. To Heinz or not to Heinz Says:

    NYC food guy, I went to the Cookout Grill after reading your blog and just had to ask. “Is this really Heinz?” I am a Heinz guy myself so I found your article amusing. Are you sure its not Heinz? the texture and the fluidity of the substance at hand seems to point to the correct labeling on the bottle in which it was presented. Then again who knows but the masterminds behind Hunts ketchup slowly taking its share in the ketchup world even if it has to hitch a ride in the Heinz bottle.

  11. kingofketchup Says:

    OK guys, the king of ketchup is here to answer these allegations of hunts-in-a-heinz-bottle. no question is this blasphemous (and illegal) act reprehensible and unforgivable, but we need to be sure of it before we go making any more false allegations. the only real way to do this is to do a taste test, which it doesn’t appear the food guy did at cookout grill. this problem can be easily avoided by carrying a few packets (**this is one of the VERY few situations in which packets are an acceptable mode of ketchup) of heinz around at all times, just in case an emergency taste-test situation arises…you can keep them in the same pocket as your condoms — but the same mantra applies — always be prepared!

    judging by the 2nd picture above of the empty table in the foreground with the bottle of heinz on the table, that bottle appears to be one of the un-refillable bottles of heinz — it’s not the standard glass diner bottle, but it’s one of those opaque plastic bottles. I once made the mistake of thinking that ketchup from this same type of bottle was a heinz-imposter, re-filled by the restaurant with the cheap shit to save money, but upon further investigation discovered that the caps to these bottles are not removable! I twisted the hell out of the cap trying to get it off, but trust me when i tell you that thing wasn’t coming off; these bottles physically cannot be re-filled. Maybe it’s something about these bottles of ketchup — because something definitely did not taste right when i was eating it that night. Another problem with these bottles is that you can’t see how much ketchup is left inside! sure, you’re able to get a feel as to how much is left, but it’s just not the same.

    and as for the claim above that hunts is the “best ketchup” — that had to have been for comedic purposes…

  12. Phil Says:

    Couldn’t agree more with KOK. Heinz > Hunts. Plain and simple.

    KOK – do you use ketchup on anything other than the “standard” foods (i.e. fries, burgers, hot dogs, etc.)?

  13. The NYC Food Guy Says:

    To heinz or not to heinz,

    I know what I tasted and it didn’t taste like Heinz. I will head over to Cookout tomorrow and see if these bottles are the unrefillable ones.

    Phil,

    How about ketchup with eggs or with grilled cheese?

  14. moe Says:

    no curry and curry spice mix, but it just didn’t work. shame on cookout grill
    when too far. Garlic,Salt and pepper is good enough1

  15. Dr. Dyspepsia Says:

    Put a little bit of ketchup in with the Mayo in your next home-made tuna salad. Adds a little Russian-dressing je ne sais quoi overtone.

    Anyone wanna go to battle on Hellman’s v. Miracle Whip? Completely different tastes, Hellman’s the standard but some Miracle Whip as a surprise is often welcome. At least I think so.

    Dr. D

  16. AJ Says:

    Came across the Chirping Chicken quite by accident when visiting NYC last year. It was the best chicken I’d ever had that wasn’t cooked by someone I knew and loved. Will have to checkout Cookout next time I’m in your city.

  17. The NYC Food Guy Says:

    Moe,
    You’re correct, sorry to hear you suffered the same disappointment as me.

    Doc,
    Thanks for the comment, I’ve tried your ketchup addition to the tuna and you’re right it is damn tasty. I’m a Hellmans man though over Miracle Whip. Never loved Miracle Whip with tuna unless you’re dipping chips into the tuna, the mircale whip and tuna on a sandwich never did it for me.

    AJ,
    Don’t bother checking out Cookout Grill, it was wholly disappointing. If you are heading to the east village, however, please email me and Ill give you personal list of reccomendations. Lawrence@nycfoodguy.com

  18. nick Says:

    As an owner of a burge joint in Connecticut, I use Heinz. BUT, personally, I find hunts a bit more tasty. Now, just because I find it a better product, I would be beating my head against the wall trying to convince Heinz fans of this simple fact. I started on Hunts when I had the misfortune of getting to know Kerry’s wife.

    Heinz is great. Hunts is just as good, if not better. But I can’t seem to convince anyone of this.

  19. The NYC Food Guy Says:

    Nick,
    That’s pretty interesting that your fear of disappointing Heinz devouts keeps your forbidden love for Hunt’s hidden. I still can’t bring myself to eat Hunts. What and where is your burger joint in Connecticut?

  20. Bobby Says:

    I think they read your review. They changed their menu. Don’t know if they changed their choice of ketchup, they did improve a few things.

  21. The NYC Food Guy Says:

    Bobby,
    Interesting. How did they change the recipe? what do you recommend there? Should I give it another chance?

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