Burger blowhards are everywhere these days. Just as every Ray's Pizza calls itself "the original," every place that can scoop together a handful of ground meat and throw it on a grill likes to call their burger "the best."

After a disappointingly diminutive burger at Resto and a misfired one at Bar Marmont, I was getting ready to give up. A victim of false advertising, I actually believed Bar Marmont's menu when it touted the restaurant's own burger as a "darn good burger." The presumptuousness in the name seems akin to Bruni's pet peeve, wherein "eat" is interchangeable with "enjoy" in every waiter's vocabulary. ("Are you done enjoying that?") There's also a fashion equivalent. A girl walking down Robertson Boulevard last month sported an outsize tee shirt that read "THIS IS WHY I'M HOT." If you have to say so...

Then providence intervened in the form of Keens. High Maintenance, Fang Shui et al. ended up at Keens at the eleventh hour before a Bruce Springsteen show. The place was packed. We had no reservations. The maitre d' was merciful. If we ordered quickly, we could be in and out of the wood paneled, clubby pub room before the Boss went on.

If you don't know Keens, you're most likely female. Nearly every male in a fifty mile radius has been to historic Keens over the last 100 years. Not only are they famous for their steaks, they're also known as a prime bachelor party destination. The ceilings are decorated with hundreds of clay pipes of bachelors past, when the place was a major hangout spot for gentlemen and actresses like "Miss Keens" in the nude portrait above the bar.

Burgers can be wolfed down in a shorter time than steaks, so High Maintenance and I went for those. The "Lady Burger" is a sort of diet plate adaptation of the traditional burger, with no bun and sauteed potatoes instead of fries. This seemed interesting enough to try and showcased the meat itself, which had a deep, grassy flavor on par with aged sirloin, though it's just prime beef chuck, very freshly ground.

High Maintenance wisely ordered the regular cheeseburger and fortunately only ate half of it, so that I took other half. Finally - a great burger. Both burger and bun had a nice char from the grill. Cheddar cheese was melted to an oozy glaze. Technically, the burger was slightly smaller than the bun, but it's so juicy that once you sandwich it together with crisp lettuce, tomato and red onion and saw the whole thing in half, it all melds into a coherent circle. Best of all, there was nothing weird about it. Chef Bill Rodgers saw no need to substitute a regular bun with some kind of hardened brioche or swap out cheddar for herbed goat cheese. Nothing kills a good burger like creativity. Chefs should go as wild as they want with other American classics like meatloaf or even pancakes, but please leave burgers alone.

Other standout items on the Keens pub menu are the salty-sweet, plump oysters on the half shell, crisp, just slightly greasy fries, and the perfectly mixed martinis. This is one place that knows about kickin' it old school.

With all the burger places and gastropubs opening, it's easy to forget that steakhouses are an excellent source for burgers. The pub room at Keens is better than a go-to place before a show or game at Madison Square Garden - it should be on every carnivore's must-eat list.

Keens Steakhouse
72 West 36th Street, between Fifth and Sixth Avenues
New York, New York