What kind of name for a restaurant is Superiority Burger? To some, it’s a simple claim to be a superior burger. And it is a superior burger: delicious like White Castle but gourmet and without meat. The ice cream’s pretty dope too.
But you might suspect another intention: to make a burger so good that it bestows superiority on its consumer— a magical hipster burger that translates dollars and attention to elevation above the plebes. You order at a takeout counter. There’s six things on the menu. There’s no space, an insane line, you’re in the know.
The chef is Brook Headley, once drummer for punk bands Born Against and the Wrangler Brutes, then the head pastry chef at Mario Batali’s four-star flagship Del Posto. He left that job to make the perfect veggie burger, $6 each– the Shake Shack of tomorrow brought to you in the East Village today.
But what makes Superiority Burger and its kin Loco’l and Dirt Candy interesting (along with their ancestors Blue Hill, Shake Shack and Chipotle) is that the hipster superiority being offered has grown from aesthetic to moral. Food that’s vegetarian or ethically raises, service by people given an ethical wage and health insurance, the tastiness of your meal is inseparable from the care and responsibility with which it was prepared. No longer just for cosmopolitans with all taste, no heart, and New York Values, ethical consumerism lets you perform your moral identity by choosing a place to eat.
At this point, you’re probably like ugh, and “look at this fucking hipster,” because pretension feels gross even if (here) it’s in the service of something worthwhile. Hipsterism combines the idolatry of cultural consumerism with the prejudice of class difference.
And if you want to pass on in populist disgust at the etiolation and ennui of New York’s creative class, I can’t blame you. But… maaaaybe animal suffering is the moral struggle that is our age’s version of slavery. And maaybe… empowering workers in the service industry is crucial to the 21st century labor movement. And maybe there’s something deep and primal about the act of putting something pure and unpolluted into our body. And maybe we live in a consumerist market society for better or worse and we might as well harness our more ridiculous urges in the direction of social justice. If we have the chance, I mean. If it’s not too much. And if that’s all true, maybe ethical consumerism with trendy hipster places in the village could be the start of something bigger.
So ya, Superiority Burger. Eat there. It’s good.