Three years ago, a Turkish butcher named Nusret Gökçe became an internet phenomenon after he posted a video of himself stripping, slicing and then sensually salting a hu-nk of me-at. Salt Bae was born — and the internet couldn’t get enough … for a few months. Today, Gökçe still boasts more than 26 million Instagram followers, who eat up clips of his over-the-top seasoning style. He’s also been able to use his viral fame to grow his branded empire of ste-akhouses and burger restaurants around the world.
Today, Gökçe operates over a dozen eateries, but his latest venture, a burger place in New York City called #SaltBae, is definitely not as popular as the man himself. Gothamist’s review, “Salt Bae Burger Is the Wo-rst Restaurant in NYC Right Now,” compared #SaltBae’s cu!sine to “hospital food” served in a “theme-park” setting. Like several other cr!tics, Scott Lynch also took !ssue with the “free for ladies” veggie burger served on a pink b-un.
“I had to pay $14.50 for mine, but honestly? Free is no barga!n for this ho-rror show, which tasted of old broccoli and was garnished with a pathetic slice of wilted iceberg lettuce that was bro-wning at the edges,” Lynch wrote.Eater cr!tics Robert Sietsema and Ryan Sutton also panned the eatery, which sells a “gold burger” for $100 that’s made with wagyu be-ef and gold leaf. There’s also a $99 “golden” milkshake.
“The wagyu burger ($22.95) did not taste like wagyu, it did not taste like beef. It had the texture of a h-ot dog and the flavor of liquid sm-oke and g-as grill. It had none of the other characteristics of beef except juiciness,” Sutton noted. The shakes, one of which comes in a baklava flavor, are decorated with various sweets but were just as d!sappo-inting. Sietsema described them as “inte-nded for Instagram and nothing else,” to which Sutton agreed.
“When one thinks of a fast-food milkshake, some people want thinner and some people want thicker. But you at least want it to be cold and have some tr*ce of ice cream,” Sutton explained. “This was like drinking milk with a tiny b*t of sugar — with a whole bunch of cloying st*ff on top.” BuzzFeed’s Scaachi Koul took issue with the “ergo-nomically unpleasant booth se-ating,” and complained that everything she tried, including the truffle fr*es, were bland.
“Each table comes with a large metal box filled with flaky salt and a wooden spoon, a blessing since you’ll need to cover all your food in it in order to experience anything close to flavor,” Koul wrote. “The garlic mayo, which cost an extra $1.50, actually tasted like garlic. I was so overwh-elmed I almost wept: ha-rk, a flavor.” Things are looking slightly better for Salt Bae on Yelp, where many diners have been posting pictures of themselves with Gökçe, who has been han-ging out at the restaurant during its opening days.
One fan raved about the “wet burger,” a Turkish dish that features a white bun dous-ed in sauce. “It was (sic) tasted like cumin la-mb and was melt in your mouth mo!st. (It) blew my mind,” one Yelper wrote in his five-star review. Another Yelper appla-uded the “juicy” burgers and “attentive staff.”But there are plenty of one-star reviews, too.“This place will sh-ut down in a year,” one person predicted.
Added another, “There was literally no upside to anything.”Gökçe is no stranger to bad press. Last year, four servers at Gökçe’s New York City’s Nusr-Et Ste-akhouse acc-used the internet celebrity of fir!ng them for asking about their tips. Gökçe and his business partners were for-ced to pay out a $230,000 settlement.