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New Jersey Life

Burger King: If You Crave the Most Delicious Cheseburger in the State, Head to Stage Left

The most delicious burger in New Jersey.
The most delicious burger in New Jersey.
(Photo by Steve Legato.)

I am in the process of lifting the massive burger on my plate to my lips, my mouth salivating at the juicy scents wafting up, when Mark Pascal interrupts me.

"Wait," he says dramatically. "I have to warn you: You'll never enjoy another burger again. You will be ruined."

Ruined? I doubt it. I'm a girl who knows her way around a burger. I've certainly heard the raves about Stage Left's self-proclaimed "best cheeseburger in the world," but doesn't every restaurant promise its food is "the best ever"? I give him a noncommittal nod and bite. And as I succumb to the delicious flavor of perfectly grilled beef, I can think of only one thing: I am ruined.

Founded in 1992 as a casual cafe in New Brunswick, Stage Left is now known for its seasonal New American cuisine, served amid antique furniture and chandeliers. Its legendary burger, now priced at $15.95, landed on the menu accidentally.

After the restaurant closed, the staff would cook burgers and unwind. "It was one of those foods we made for our selves but not for the public," says Pascal, a co-owner.

"But it was so good, we decided that we had to share the experience."

There are burgers, and then there is the Stage Left burger. Eleven ounces of quality beef are sizzled on a wood-fueled grill. Melted three-year-aged Vermont cheddar is draped atop, in addition to sliced red onion, traditional ketchup, and the clincher: a spicy, special-recipe chipotle mayo. Baked-then-fried sea-salted steak fries prove an ideal accompaniment-as does the $115 bottle of Armilla Brunello that Pascal recommends. "It goes perfectly with the burger," he says. "In fact, some people have a burger simply because they're going to treat themselves to other, more expensive things, like good wine."

The Stage Left burger's fame is hardly fleeting. In 2000, the sandwich was judged to be so delish that Citysearch, the online search engine, declared it the best burger in New York. Anthony Bucco, Stage Left's affable executive chef, says the restaurant serves more than 200 burgers every week. "If executed properly," Bucco says, "all you need is salt and pepper."

Stage Left | 5 Livingston Avenue, New Brunswick, NJ 08901 | T: 732.828.4444
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