Ones to Watch | By Sabrina Davis
After more than 25 years influencing New York’s culinary scene, Madeline Poley believes New York Burger Co., which she and business partner Spiros Zisimatos are preparing for franchising, might be her best idea yet.
Poley, credited in the 1980s with inspiring a new American cuisine with her SoHo Charcuterie and Restaurant, started consulting in 1986, developing concepts for clients. One of those clients was Zisimatos, who thought he wanted to open a fast-food steak restaurant. “I said, ‘Why downgrade steak; why not just do a great burger,’” Poley recalls. Zisimatos opened American Burger & Co. in 1997. But Poley liked her idea so much that she wanted to take it to the next level and asked Zisimatos to join her in developing New York Burger Co.
“This was around the time of the Mad Cow scare—2002 or 2003. I started thinking about what trends were going to be and decided I wanted the challenge of doing a really good burger with all-natural beef,” Poley says. “I also thought trans fat was going to be a big deal at some point, and I wanted to do hand-cut fries in trans fat free oil. That was a good call,” Poley says, referring to New York City’s recent ban on trans fat oils in restaurants.
New York Burger makes its patties using Coleman Natural Beef shipped fresh from Colorado. The vegetarian-fed, free-range cattle receive no hormones or antibiotics. For frying, Poley chose an expeller-pressed oil, which is refined without chemicals. “Studies are now showing that some of the chemicals used to rid oils of trans fats might have carcinogens,” Poley says. “I try to stay abreast of what is healthy and things that we might need to be nervous about and bring those trends into the commercial environment.”
New York Burger opened its Park Avenue South store in 2004. “We opened there—it’s a young professional area—because I thought that was going to be our demographic, but it turned out our appeal was far broader than I thought. We’re getting the hip-hop group and the baby boomers.”
The atmosphere is upscale, modern mid-century—blues, reds, beiges, bronze, natural woods and designs by notable architects. But what truly draws the customers is the great tasting burger. It won consumers’ vote for New York City’s best burger in AOL Cityguide in 2005 and 2007 and was second to Peter Luger Steak House in 2006.