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A Better Backyard Burger @ City Beer Hall

July 10, 2012

This makes me very happy. Grassfed burgers are popping up in more places. It seems like just yesterday when I remember the first one coming to Albany. Maybe there was one on the scene before that, but if that’s the case, it escaped me.

Recently, I was at the City Beer Hall with AOA Greg. I had not been since they had launched their newest menu, and I had a tough decision ahead of me. I was trying to make more healthy choices. It was a hot day. And I knew that I was going to have a big meal later that night. Greg ordered the massaged kale salad. My plan was to eat something light and summery.

But staring up at me from the page, locking me in its unrelenting grasp was the 518 Burger. It’s hand-packed Kilcoyne grass-fed beef with Grafton one-year aged cheddar, Bibb lettuce, tomato, spicy pickles and hand cut fries.

Given that I have committed to highlighting local restaurants that put higher-quality ingredients on the menu, how could I not try this? I’d be compelled to write about this regardless, simply because of its presence in the Capital Region. So I figured I better just take the burger bullet for the sake of the blog.

I’m glad I did.

Sometimes you just want a good honest burger, made with the high-quality ingredients that you would use at home, with a crisp mound of french fries and a great beer. All too often grassfed burgers get tarted up. They also tend to be relegated to the fancier restaurants around the area, and command sums more befitting steaks than ground meat.

But this is almost everything I want in a burger. It’s simple and it’s classic. Kilcoyne beef is great and served at some of the best restaurants in town. Grafton cheddar is a solid regional choice, and even the Bibb lettuce comes from a local source. The bun is beautifully toasted, and the thick hand formed patty fits snugly in its confines.

Most importantly, it’s served without pretense. Yes, there is a waiter. But there are no fine linen tablecloths at the City Beer Hall. They have picnic tables, inside and out, with no tablecloths at all.

Did I mention the whole thing was just $10? It’s also delicious!

Plus there are always plenty of beers to choose from to help wash it down. And you can even get them in half pints, which is perfect for a workday lunch. It’s a little bit of a treat, but so long as you pay attention to the ABV it won’t send you back to the office with a buzz. It will simply be a great way to clear the fat off your palate in between bites.

I did get to talk with chef Dimitrios Menagias after my meal, and he was explaining the importance of hand-forming the burgers. He was going for something like what you would eat in your own backyard. Other operators get pre-formed patties from Kilcoyne, and they has a denser, less satisfying texture than these more loosely packed specimens.

It’s really exciting to have another grassfed burger option in the area, and as far as I’m concerned, this is now the burger to beat.

Until someone can come up with an equally tasty $8 grass-fed burger, that is.

10 Comments leave one →
  1. Kong Torben permalink
    July 10, 2012 10:31 am

    For clarification, Kilcoyne = grass fed/grain finished bouef, for all you purists out there.

    • July 10, 2012 11:12 am

      That’s the way I roll! Grass-finished beef is too lean and stringy for my taste. Grain-finished gives it a nice mouth feel and adds to the taste thanks to the miracle of additional fat. It’s how they do it at Niman Ranch, among other places.

      • Kong Torben permalink
        July 10, 2012 12:06 pm

        Try some ground beef from Sweet Tree Farm at the Troy farmers market and throw it on the grill, or make a few sliders.

  2. July 10, 2012 11:40 am

    Let’s meet there for lunch soon.

  3. July 10, 2012 2:32 pm

    Speaking of grass-fed beef, do you know of any local place selling fresh, grass-fed ground beef? If fresh isn’t possible, then do you have recommendations for happy pork/beef/chicken? I’ve stocked up on some bulk stuff from Adventure in Food but if I need the convenience of grabbing something at any given moment and want to ensure it is happy, what is my best bet?

  4. July 10, 2012 2:58 pm

    The Saturday Delmar Farmers Market has several vendors who sell happy, grass-fed/pasture raised (usually grain finished), organic beef/pork/chicken and eggs every week, so does the Honest Weight Food Coop. Everybody has frozen though (some fresh at the Coop). So glad CBH is on the local, clean food train!!

  5. July 10, 2012 3:14 pm

    Kilcoyne Farms beef is actually becoming more and more common to find at our local restaurants. And this is a great thing. I’ve been buying the pre-pressed patties from Adventures in Food Trading, and I’ve been cooking those at home; however, I don’t just flop the patty on the hot cast iron, I actually completely mix and reform the patty after it sits at room temperature for about half an hour. The main reason for this is to form a less compressed patty that will baste itself as it cooks, but it’s also because the pre-formed patties are too wide to fit on most nice buns that I find in the area.

    I’m looking forward to checking out City Beer Hall, because I’m hearing many great things.

    The Capital City Gastropub also does a great burger with the Kilcoyne beef. It’s lured me back multiple times this summer so far. Theirs is also $10 (with no cheese), but has the ability to be customized with some great burger toppers, including a hops infused cheese that is just incredible.

  6. July 10, 2012 8:58 pm

    I just had this the other night! My only complaint about the burger – this is the second burger I’ve gotten from CBH (C got a burger the last time we were there, too, so this would be 3 burgers total) is that they tend to overcook them. Knowing this, I ordered my burger “between rare and medium rare” and arrived on the rarer side of medium. Next time I’ll just order it rare and see what happens. However, despite it being overcooked (for me), the burger really was delicious – loved the Grafton cheddar and the fresh veggies on the burger (I normally pick off the garden, but these were great).

  7. July 10, 2012 11:11 pm

    Go to locust grove farms rt 40 argyle for grass fed steak, t-bones and sirloins @DavidRegan

  8. Chrystal permalink
    July 11, 2012 9:04 am

    Loved the burger when I had it at brunch last weekend. The spicy pickles were a nice surprise. I have to say the french fries along side were some of the best I’ve ever had, extra crispy outside, just the way I like them.

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