15 July 2008


Joy Burger
1567 Lexington Ave.

A Reason to Cross the Invisible Line or They Don’t Sell Crackers But They Sure Have A Lot of Them

There’s a line most white New Yorkers won’t cross and it runs along 96th Street on the East Side. “Whoa, that’s way up there,” some say. “Once you walk above 96th, the neighborhood changes quickly.” That I can’t deny. Once you pass the ritzy doorman complex known as Carnegie Hill between 96th & 97th Sts., you hit the Lexington Houses, bodegas, chicken restaurants, and find yourself in East Harlem.

It’s sort of rare to see Caucasians in this area—so rare that I’ve been called “Nicole Kidman” a few times…and I don’t look much like her. All white women look like porcelain-skinned movie stars to black people and Hispanics, I guess. It’s a delusion I must live with.

That said, there are two newish restaurants* above East 96th Street worth crossing the line for. And lately, white people have been. In fact, the first time I walked into Joy Burger, I was astounded. Where did all these hipster whities come from? Seriously. There were tables of cracker college kids, young cracker professionals, and nuclear cracker families, all chowing down on inexpensive burgers, onion rings, and sipping mint-flavored sweet tea.

I’ve been to Joy Burger a few times since – the food is really good and very reasonably priced. The service is great. The owners and workers are friendly and eager to please. But each time I step inside the joint I marvel how I never see these white people on the street…only inside the restaurant. Were they smuggled in? Grown on the premises? So white they are transparent, rendering them invisible, in the sunlight?

No matter how they’ve gotten there, though, these people have discovered a fantastic new burger hangout that’s transforming East Harlem from the inside out. Joy Burger is a reason to cross the 96th St. line…and may be the only reason.

*review for restaurant #2 coming soon.

1 comment:

Inessa said...

I'm envious; the burgers in my 'hood are truly repulsive (my pushishment for living in non-crackerland?). I've pointed some pals to Joy Burger so they need to give me a free cheeseburger or something as commission.

Looking forward to review #2!