My map is pretty weak on Upper East Side locations, so I was eager to add JG Melon, an old school watering hole famous for its burgers. Although it looks much older, JG Melon has occupied the corner of 74th and 3rd since 1972. For almost four decades, this tavern has attracted a loyal following that consists primarily of UES Yuppies and old-money Ivy Leaguers. There was a wait for seats during lunch, but Aaron and I were able to grab a table in the crowded room towards the back.
I asked for a Bacon Cheeseburger ($10.25), which arrived surprisingly quickly. The burger was presented open and topped with a mound of small bacon strips. I picked up a piece of bacon and immediately could tell there was something wrong. A bite confirmed that the bacon was more limp than crispy, and salted heavily. I continued with the rest of the meal, since bacon is something that’s tolerable even when it’s bad.
Unfortunately, this isn’t the case for burgers. The thick, hand-made patty arrived medium-rare (by request) and weighed somewhere between six and seven ounces, heavily packed with chopped sirloin meat. The meat itself had a wonderful texture and I had no doubt about the quality of the beef. It’s a shame the only other redeeming quality was that the unseeded bun was toasted appropriately. The meat itself didn’t even have a pinch of seasoning, so overall I was left with an overly salty and bland meal. If you plan on extracting any flavor from JG Melon’s burger, asking for it to be rare might be a good bet.
The Cottage Fried Potatoes ($4.75) and also came recommended. The fries were half-dollar sized discs with ridges running along both sides. They were lightly filled and had more pockets of air than slices of potato. There was also no consistency with the frying. Some pieces were fried appropriately and others were closer to raw than cooked. I ended up playing a personal game of Russian roulette with the side dish. (There was no winning in this game).
I washed it all down with a tall Bloody Mary ($8.50), because I was convinced I hadn’t wasted enough of my money. The service, which I was told would be rude and impersonal, was actually quite professional. With that being said, JG Melon lacked the rough charm of a bar, the taste of a good burger, but had the clientele and pricing typical of an Upper East Side establishment. It must be the iconic status of JG Melon or the opportunity to rub elbows with neighbors over casual food that brings the locals in. Whatever it is, I can’t imagine it would be something on the menu.
JG Melon ★★☆☆☆
1291 3rd Ave (between 74th St & 75th St) map
New York, NY 10021
Neighborhoods: Yorkville, Upper East Side