He’s turning the tables.
For three decades, Mike Puma worked on Wall Street. In 2013, he formed the Gotham Burger Social Club, an exclusive society for finance guys devoted to trying and rating the city’s best burgers. The group applied the same analytical skills they used to rate stocks as buy or sell to studying the best patties.
It took off, eventually attracting some 200,000 Instagram followers and spawning a series of popups with hours-long lines.
Earlier this month, Puma took a big leap and opened a burger joint — also called Gotham Burger Social Club — of his own on the Lower East Side. He’s left banking — and his Barney’s suits and ties — behind, in favor of a cowboy hat and kerchief.
“I always loved restaurants and cooking,” said Puma, who lives in Battery Park City with his wife. “The transition from finance to this came very naturally.”
The centerpiece of the short menu is the Gotham Smash, an Oklahoma-style burger. The patty is composed of Puma’s own custom beef blend and thinly sliced onions are smashed into the burger while it cooks on a flattop grill. It’s topped with melted American cheese, ketchup, mustard, a secret sauce similar to thousand island dressing and a pickle. It all comes together on a toasted potato bun.
“It’s a very nostalgic burger – you bite into it and it brings you back to your childhood, but with better ingredients you grew up on,” the Brooklyn native said. “There are a lot of familiar notes.”
Customers are loving it.
“It’s the best burger I’ve ever had – I love the toasted bun, and the quality of the meat is insane,” said Priscilla Hernandez, a 31-year-old who lives in Yonkers. Last Saturday, she trekked out in the cold to eat at the restaurant with two friends.“Nothing compares to Gotham Burger.”
Sylvia Sawires, a 27-year-old Upper East Sider, who follows Puma on social media and had been eagerly awaiting his opening, agrees. The chowhound recently sampled the acclaimed $33 burger from Au Cheval in Soho and preferred Gotham’s.
“It’s so good,” she said. “A good smash burger is better than any regular patty.”
Puma said his burgers are so tasty, he converted “more vegetarians that I can count.”
He added, “It’s definitely a point of pride.”
Another thing he’s proud of is his spot’s affordability. The Gotham Smash with a single patty is just $8 — not bad in a town and at a time when buzzy burgers are pushing past the $30 mark.
“No one needs a big bonus to eat here,” he said.
Back when he and club members would rate burgers on a scale of 1 to 10, Puma told The Post, “A 10 is what you constantly search for, but you may never get there.”
Pound for pound, he believes he’s achieved perfection, however elusive, with his burger.
“I mean obviously it’s a 10 – it’s a perfect burger, but I’d rather other people rate it,” he said. “Someone yesterday said it’s an 11 out of 10. It’s better when other people say it.”
Puma has no professional training in the kitchen and was initially hesitant to open his own place, but friends and fans encouraged him.
“This is bigger than a pop-up,” someone told him as his food-world star rose.
He has no regrets leaving finance behind — even if he’s working more than the 80-hour weeks he clocked as the longtime director of investments at Oppenheimer.
“I’m definitely working harder than ever … I clean toilets, I wipe down tables,” Puma said of his career change. “But I’m having more fun.”