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5 Napkin Burger: not up for review

Lobster sliders and a mountain of pickles

Lobster sliders and a mountain of pickles

Are we a tough crowd in Atlanta?

Consider the case of 5 Napkin Burger, which has done well enough in its original location in Manhattan’s Hell’s Kitchen that it took the show on the road — first to other New York locations then to Boston, Miami and the former Nickiemoto’s on the corner of 10th and Piedmont in our fair burger haven.

But the one here is, to say the least, a perplexing restaurant. After having a meal that left me gasping at the bill and scratching my head, I poked around online and found that my impressions were pretty well in keeping with those of Cliff Bostock at Creative Loafing and many commenters on Yelp.

It’s certainly a nice-looking place. Checkered black-and-white floor and deep booths reference a 1950’s soda shop. But the furnishings have a much higher level of finish, and the full bar in the back of the room puts things a little more in neighborhood bistro mode. A fine selection of bottled beers seem to be the highlight here.

The menu keeps its burgers (purportedly so big and juicy you need five napkins to keep from having the meat-soaked face of a hyena after a kill) front and center. Yet it makes room for steaks, seafood, full-meal salads and sushi rolls.

Our meals starts off inauspiciously with these lobster roll sliders ($19.50, above) — three to the order and sided by a good 100 bread-and-butter pickle slices. The lobster had the stringy texture and papery flavor of shellfish that had been cooked, frozen and thawed. The wash of drippy mayo didn’t help.

Deep-fried pickles and pastrami ($7.50) brings soft, battered bundles nestled on sauerkraut. If you appreciate the wit of a deli sandwich reimagined as a foofy appetizer, you’ll appreciate this dish.

I can also see why some people might dig the signature original five napkin burger ($14.95), a 10-ounce behemoth lavished with the soft-on-soft richness of gruyère cheese, rosemary aïoli and caramelized onions. I can also see how some might hate its damp, soaked bun and perpetual plop-plop-plopping of condiment goo.

I don’t see how anyone could consider the inside out burger ($14.95) served between lettuce leaves with hard tomato slices and an enormous puddle of Russian dressing 5N sauce an actual burger. I was 10 napkins in before I give up. I don’t even want to extract the meat from its pink bath of sauce.

A 12-ounce strip steak ($21.50), flat and wan with no char and no redness to its color, makes us only crave good steak.

We did love our salted caramel milkshake ($5.50), which fed three for dessert amply. We didn’t love our fries, which were salted to a fare-thee-well.

I’d love to hear from anyone who really likes this restaurant to explain why. Seriously, anyone: Fans, publicists posing as fans, corporate investors, folks who get 5 bucks a pop to review restaurants they’ve never visited on social media sites, automated bots in Indonesia trying to sell Toshiba laptops, it doesn’t matter.

Are we just a tough crowd? People elsewhere really like this place.

67 comments Add your comment


September 28th, 2011
1:01 pm

sounds like a tourist trap restaurant


September 28th, 2011
2:47 pm

One word for all those who love to go out for burgers but don’t necessarily like “burger joints”:



September 28th, 2011
2:53 pm

P.S. That one’s for my lady. She’s right, too.

ATL Montrealer

September 28th, 2011
4:40 pm

I went with my family a few weeks ago. My brother in-law’s company programs the music (from NYC). Unfortunately that’s about the only thing I really enjoyed. The burgers were ok – nothing special, as was the sushi. For the price, they both should be excellent. I can get far better burgers and sushi elsewhere….for less. We live right around the corner and probably won’t go back. Too bad, I was excited about it


September 28th, 2011
5:48 pm

If I want a burger I go to Ted’s Montana Grill and have a Bison Skinny Dip; satisfies the meat craving, and the cheese of the surroundings amuses me.


September 28th, 2011
6:07 pm

My wife and I visited 5NB in NYC in 2010. It was pretty good and fairly priced for Hell’s Kitchen. As I recollect the menu and the dining area there was far simpler than that described here. It sounds like the good folks at 5NB gave us a bit more than we wanted in Atlanta with this particular site. With so many much more creative options in the price range reported I cannot many folks returning more than once. Maybe they will “get it” and survive.


September 28th, 2011
10:45 pm

Maybe we should all try the new restaurants in Atlanta before we build them up so high on social media and they end up sucking. Remember Leroy’s Fried Chicken?? Huge hype and then it sucked. Same for 5 Napkin. Hopefully STK will deliver the goods in a few months and hopefully they won’t use the same New York price points. We’ll see.

carla roqs

September 29th, 2011
8:58 am

@cale, i remember the leroy’s fc review and the commentors were not much in favor of that place. @john, thanks, i ALWAYS appreciate your warnings. coming home next weekend and the restaurant in john’s creek is a def date. that pickle dish picture shown above is hilarious!!!

John Kessler

September 29th, 2011
10:20 am

Cale – Social media aside, I gave 5 Napkin Burger my customary waiting period, visited it with the intent to review and found that perhaps I’d be better off paying multiple visits to another restaurant. I also regret the way bubbles of excitement seem to swell and burst around a new restaurant these days before any place has the chance to work out its issues, But that’s the landscape, so more thoughtful and reflective diners need to take it for what it is.
Reds – Hope you like it!

John Kessler

September 29th, 2011
10:25 am

Just noticed that all the prices at the Boston location are quite a bit cheaper. Lobster rolls $2 less and burgers $4-$5 less. (I’m assuming this means you buy your own $3.25 fries.) Still….makes me wonder why they thought Atlanta would accept the higher prices. I can’t imagine rent is that much higher in Midtown than Back Bay.


September 29th, 2011
2:26 pm

Being from MA and only getting my lobster rolls from a restaurant on the water that traps its own lobsters I won’t try a lobster roll any place else. I know I will be disappointed. I’ve never seen pickles served with lobster rolls, and if they aren’t on a New England hot dog roll, forget it! Plus, who wants such a huge burger? For me, Flip gets it right with taste, quality and portion size.


September 29th, 2011
8:35 pm

You’ll have a better meal across the street at The Flying Biscuit. It’s the best, y’all (besides my own cooking…)


September 29th, 2011
9:33 pm

I’ve been more nice restaurants than I can count in my life, and I’ve been to more dives than I can remember. And I think a $15 hamburger is about most pretentious bunch of crap I’ve ever heard of. It’s a hamburger! I don’t care how gingerly it’s plated. One of the best cheeseburgers I ever ate, ever, was at a diner in NC you’d have serious doubts about using the restroom in. You want a hamburger that’ll make you see God? Go to Ann’s Snack Bar on Memorial. She doesn’t serve beer, but here hamburgers are about as pretentious as an Otis Redding ballad. And I dare any human to eat $15 worth of hamburger there. You’ll die first.


September 30th, 2011
10:16 am

I’d rather scratch my eyes out than put up with the bovine-excrement of Ann’s Snack Bar, but that’s just my personal opinion. There is no meal worth putting up with that . Not pretentious? Oh, it’s just a different type of pretentiousness.

I always go back to my old favorite, George’s in VaHi.


September 30th, 2011
2:12 pm

I tried it and I didn’t like it AT ALL. Yeah, the burger was a nice size. However, it was dry and flavorless. I was not impressed at all. There are millions of places in Atlanta that serve better and cheaper burgers. I just don’t understand this place. Yeah ! Burger, Smashburger, Grindhouse Killer Burgers and Five Guys are 100 percent better than 5 Napkin. Hell, that large burger that McDonald’s sells is better than this place.


September 30th, 2011
3:50 pm

I…..Just….Don’t …Get….All…Those….Pickles.

What’s the point?


October 2nd, 2011
10:38 am

5N never got the memo. Look around fellas. No market for this kind of place in these times. Closed in 90 days!!!!!