5 Napkin Burger: Great Bar Food and Burgers for the Gluten-Free Diner

I happen to work in the Prudential Center, so I was very excited when someone told me 5 Napkin Burger, a NYC favorite, was opening up just downstairs from me.  5 Napkin has changed a bit from its opening and if I had written a post about my first experience, I doubt many of you would both visiting, but after a few visits, I am starting to warm up to the place.

The décor looks very New York: modern and efficient, verging on cold.  5 Napkin is surprisingly empty at lunch, but always packed after work.  Likely the dearth of the lunchtime visitors is due to the sluggish service.  I only eat lunch here on days when I know I can manage taking a longer lunch (average time of my three lunches here, an hour and a half). On our last visit, it took two hours.  We got the wrong bill and it took us ten minutes to find our waiter to get the right one. 

When it first opened, I went with several friends for happy hour.  Their selection of wines is small, but seems to be well chosen.  I really like their velvet devil, a red wine. I ordered a glass and asked about gluten-free options.  The waiter rolled his eyes and told me had no idea.  Then he walked off without asking if I wanted him to check with the kitchen or management, etc.  He was equally rude to my friends that were able to eat and the service was painfully slow.  It was impossible to find the waiter and when we did, he was surly and distant.

I was so irritated, I almost didn’t go back, but I am lazy and it is close.  On the second visit, I asked again about gluten-free options.  While our waiter was equally disinterested in the service he was providing, he was at least knowledgeable about options and this time, instead of being told I had no options, I was spoiled for options.

Almost the whole menu is gluten-free.  The turkey and beef burgers are all gluten-free and can be served on gluten-free buns.  The vegetarian and tuna burgers are not gluten-free.  It seems most of the salads are gluten-free.  The Asian-inspired dishes, including the sushi seem to be off limits, which is to be expected given the prevalence of soy sauce in each description.

The first time I found out I could eat there, I ordered the 5 Napkin classic with a side of broccoli.  It was excellent.  The broccoli was perfectly steamed.  The burger was HUGE, but delicious.  They tend to overcook a little, like most places, so if you want medium well, order medium.  The rosemary aioli was subtle.  The onions were well-caramelized.  I would have liked a little acid or heat or something to break up the richness of the burger.  The gluten-free bun was tasty, but crumbly and did not hold up fantastically with the moisture of the burger and toppings.  You may want to keep a fork and knife close by.

I have also tried their burger salad, which is like a cobb salad with a slab of burger on it.  It was also delicious and enormous: I had enough for lunch the next day.

5 Napkin has a separate fryer for gluten-free fries and wings, which affords not only plenty of options for sides, but also for great bar snacks.   Their hot wings are amazing and at 50 cents a piece on their happy hour menu, they make the perfect, messy after work snack.

My vegan friend really loves the veggie burger and is able to order it both as a burger and also as part of the burger salad sans cheese.

The prices are good, comparable to the Cheesecake Factory around the corner, but at least at 5 Napkin, a gluten-free diner has tons of options.


5 Napkin gets a 4 star rating for its food quality and ambiance, though it only deserves 2 stars for service.

5 Napkin gets a 4 star rating for its food quality and ambiance, though it only deserves 2 stars for service.

5 Napkin earns top marks for its gluten-free options and separate fryer

5 Napkin earns top marks for its gluten-free options and separate fryer