Head over to West Village for a weekday lunch at Village Burger Bar, and you’ll find that everybody else had the same idea. The line snakes out the door, with customers vying for a sacred spot on the sidewalk patio, especially during these cool winter months. There’s no denying the place is cute and contemporary, with its mix of wood and steel, large flat-screen TV, and a list of cocktails such as Russian spring punch and the watermelon mojito. Despite the name, panini and salads are on the menu, too, but burgers are what come out of the kitchen most. And how good does a burger topped with blue cheese, bacon, and avocado sound? Seems impossible to screw that up. But an overcooked, underseasoned beef patty will do just that. (Perhaps the solution is to request the meat cooked medium rare.) The ingredients are fresh—bright green and creamy avocado, crisp lettuce, not-too-ripe tomato—but the beef is the foundation of a good burger, and no amount of fancy toppings can salvage it. Our only consolation was a side order of sweet potato fries, pulled out of the fryer at just the right moment. It’s the only explanation for those lunch crowds.

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