Jumping For "Joy": Mouth-Watering Burgers For Under $5

By: Allana Mortell

If I could eat one food for the rest of my life it would be a really good hamburger. My palate has certainly expanded over the years and I no longer scarf down a McDonald's burger a day like I did when I was a kid. Nowadays, when looking for the mark of a great burger I check for a number of factors.

First, price. Sorry to say, but I am a firm believer that a burger under ten bucks can be just as flavorful (and from my experience, better) than a 20-dollar-plus-ten-for-fancy-cheese some restaurants call a burger. Next, in terms of toppings, a great burger joint in my opinion, should have an array of burger toppers to choose from, whether it be cheese, sauces, vegetables, maybe some fried onion strings or pickled okra? Just sayin'.

To make things even sweeter for you and your wallet is when you stumble into a restaurant that doesn't charge $5 for each topping. (Yes, I have found that restaurant and no, I will never be going back.) These days, to find a restaurant that doesn't up-sell you for jalapeno's or "House-made" cheddar cheese sauce is an absolute rarity.

With that all being said, I recently visited Joy's Burger Bar in Harlem, a restaurant that fulfilled my criteria to a tee. Cheap eats, perfect fries and no crazy up-charges in sight. Tack on some friendly service, free soda refills and killer outside seating and you've got yourself a winner winner burger dinner.

Whether you're absolutely starving or just craving a small slider, Joy's is where you need to be. With a 3 oz "Munch" burger for a whopping price of, wait for it ... $3.75 and an order of fries for $2, your stomach and wallet can be equally satisfied. Since I wasn't ravenous on my first visit to Joy's, I went with the "Munch," and I certainly got my money's worth. My burger was juicy, oozing with cheese and BBQ sauce, smothered in sauteed onions, just the way I like it!

Hungry for more meat? For a dollar more, you can snag a 5 oz burger and for $5.95, you can go with the "Max", an 8 oz burger all with toppings of your choice. With free toppings (jalapenos, sauteed onions, lettuce, tomato, etc) and free sauces (garlic mayo, chimichurri, spicy mayo & sweet chili) to choose from, it's hard to go wrong. For 75 cents, throw some avocado, sundried tomatoes or an egg on top of your expertly crafted burger. Vegetarians, don't stray too far! Joy's features veggie burgers, salads and a number of vegetarian options, including the zucchini sticks, which apparently, according to loyal customers are a must!

Joy's can be found in two locations - one up in Harlem at 1567 Lexington at 100th and the other at 361 6th Avenue.

Want some more suggestions for great burger joints? Check out our top 5 picks for best burger spots in NYC, here.

Photos: Allana Mortell

For more neighborhood eats, follow me on Twitter (@MarcusCooks)

The 5 Best Burgers In New York City

It's Friday at last, and you might be in need of some weekend eating plans. Look no further than our list of the 5 Best Burgers in New York City. NYC is burger heaven, home to both super-traditional and avant-garde patties. From cheap and gritty to definitively upscale, the New York burger scene offers something for every taste. Here are five excellent options:

1. Ruby's Cafe: Founded in 2003, this Australian restaurant serves an eclectic menu. Even though it's on Mulberry Street, skip the pasta and go straight to the burgers. Ruby's most expensive burger is also the most unusual-the Whaleys features beet, pineapple, fried egg, and ketchup over premium ground beef. This Australian style burger gives a little taste of the land down under in Nolita.

2. Minetta Tavern: The original Minetta Tavern opened in 1937. Today, the "Black Label Burger" is one of New York's most iconic dishes. Made from dry-aged beef, the $26 masterpiece delivers an unmistakable funk. For a slightly less expensive but no less delicious alternative, try the Minetta Burger, which comes with cheddar cheese and onions.

3. Joy Burger Bar: Located on the northern edge of the Upper East Side, Joy Burger Bar serves old-fashioned patties-just thick enough to stay juicy, thin enough to get a good caramelized crust. With an expansive list of free sauces, including garlic mayo, chimichuri, pesto, and spicy mango chutney, every trip is an adventure. The strawberry shakes are also delicious on a muggy, late spring day.

4. Burger Joint: Tucked away behind a dark curtain at Le Parker Meridien, a luxurious hotel in Midtown, is a closely kept secret. Discretely hidden, Burger Joint offers traditional burgers-think lettuce, tomato, pickle-in a traditional fast food setting. (Except that just outside the door are some of Manhattan's fanciest lodgings.)

5. The Breslin: Come prepared for a wait, because April Bloomfield's restaurants tend to draw hungry crowds. The Breslin's lamb burger, however, is worth that extra time in line. Fatty, salty, and covered in feta and cumin mayo, this burger is bad for the waistline and good for the soul.

If you feel like a homemade burger, check out this video about basic burgers.