Skip to content

The Tour That Never Will Be

May 4, 2015

Monday and I’m already behind. I don’t even know how that’s possible. Just this weekend I realized that I never reached out to Dairy Haus and told them they won the Tour de Soft Serve 2.0. Maybe one of you could be an angel and send a note over their way.

I’m hoping that the next tour will finally be the tour that never happened last summer. The move from New Jersey and a long slate of summer travel were both to blame. But I think we’re ripe for the Tour de Italian Sandwich, or something like that. The name may need some work, but it will involve going around from Italian deli to Italian deli and trying their heroes or subs or grinders or hoagies or what-have-you.

Today we’re not doing the nominations. That will happen as we get closer. Instead, today I wanted to take a moment and talk about the tours in a larger context. Because part of every tour involves a conversation on what other tours people would be interested in either attending or reading about the findings.

Invariably, one comes up all the time. But it’s never going to happen.

Originally, the point of the tours was to evaluate foods that were:
– An indelible part of life in the region,
– Considered to be indistinguishable across producers, and
– Best consumed at the point of origin.

So we started with apple cider donuts, and moved to mini hot dogs, then soft serve, fish fry, and so on, and so on, and so on. But the tours have also evolved over time. That said, not everything needs a tour. Cupcakes can easily be taken to go and brought to a central location for a blind tasting. I think one could make a case for giving bagels the blind tasting treatment too.

Looking back on past tours, the egg and cheese sandwich one was probably my favorite. I could eat those things all day. The best discovery to come out of these events was probably the mozzarella sticks at Ralph’s. But despite it all, I keep hearing cries for a Tour de Burger.

Regrettably, people don’t really want to know the best greasy takeout burger. Because that one could actually be doable. Grabbing burgers at the counter from Jumpin’ Jacks, The Brown Bag, Jack’s Drive-In, Pirates Lakeside Grill, and Country Drive-in, might make sense. But people want to know about the best hand-formed thick burgers, cooked to temperature and dripping with hot, juicy, rendered beef fat.

Really, I think a burger tour would work best if burgers were divided into quarters. Then, over five stops, everyone eats a little bit more than a burger. It’s totally reasonable. Less reasonable would be splitting each burger in half and asking everyone to chow down on two and a half burgers in just a few hours.

The problem with tours that involve sit down restaurants is the ratio between party size and order size. On the Tour de Mozz & Melba we pretty much took up the whole bar at Ralph’s for 20 minutes just to eat two orders of cheese sticks.

Of course, this would be a non-issue if I called ahead and let the businesses know that we would be coming in as part of a tour. That would solve the seating weirdness, but it would bring a whole new kind of awkward silences and lies to the day. Restaurant owners tend to hover and ask for immediate feedback. “So, how’d we do?” And tour attendees tend to be polite and have no interest in being directly confrontational, so the answer is usually, “It was good” even if it wasn’t.

Plus, there would be no way for us to know if the burgers we ate was indicative of a typical burger from the place. No, they can’t change their meat supplier or their buns, but a little bit of extra care can turn a good burger into a great burger.

That means everyone who wants the Tour de Burger is just out of luck. That said, I don’t want to leave you totally empty handed today. So, let’s create a list of our favorite burgers at our favorite burger places in the comments below.

I’ll start, and I’m going to list two. The thing is that I don’t get out for burgers nearly enough. But I love what Dimitrios does to elevate the backyard burger to higher heights at The City Beer Hall. Separately, I have a soft spot for the deep-fried buffalo burger at Swifty’s in Delmar (and apparently now on Everett Road too).

Now it’s your turn. Who makes your favorite burger in the area?

11 Comments leave one →
  1. May 4, 2015 9:41 am

    I have a few that I enjoy:

    1. The best burger I ever had was at 15 Church in Saratoga. The pork belly made it so juicy and flavorful. I had it right around the time they opened, with Chef Jason Baker running the kitchen. I do know they have changed Chefs, and the menu and so I do not know if that exact burger is available any longer. But I did truly enjoy it.

    2. Grass Fed burger at New World Bistro is one of my favorites, and used to be my go to burger when I was able to eat during normal dinner hours. The truffle frites are a treat too.

    3. The Kobe burger at Le Provence in Stuyvesant can be a great burger, if they don’t over cook it. I always request bacon, and they accommodate. The strength in black pepper in the burger is welcome! The fried manchego is good there too.

  2. May 4, 2015 10:09 am

    The grass fed burger at Garden Bistro 24 in Colonie is outstanding!!! Best ever.

  3. Debra permalink
    May 4, 2015 10:26 am

    Juicy Burger in Guilderland. Although I want to try that burger you talk about from Swifty’s.

  4. Randy K permalink
    May 4, 2015 11:19 am

    The Point burger at The Point on Madison Ave!

  5. enough already! permalink
    May 4, 2015 12:58 pm

    I’ll second both new world and gb24. Hard to chose a favorite between them.

  6. May 4, 2015 1:01 pm

    The burger at 15 Church is now the Brady Burger, after chef Brady Duhane, and it is superb. I also had Jason Baker’s version and it would be hard to fault either one. Also hard to imagine a better burger so the tour de fancy burger is a moot point.

    I am totally down for the tour de Italian sandwich though it better include Saratoga since the Italian Mix at Roma Imports is by far the best sub of many I’ve had in the region. (Since cold subs travel well, I’d be happy to bring one or two down to a central location for tasting. Maybe the American Italian Museum on Central?)

  7. Jessica R W permalink
    May 4, 2015 1:33 pm

    Assuming good weather, I love the idea of a Roadside Burger tour. I think it would be more fun than a “Fancy Burger Tour”, and also more emblematic of the region. Plus the burgers are smaller, so you could eat half of one at each stop.

  8. May 4, 2015 1:38 pm

    I am a big fan of the greasy spoon type of burger. I sort of think a patty more than about 1/2″ is peculiar. Those big, fat, “juicy” monstrosities that are the current thing I consider an ill-advised modern American affectation. That being said, I don’t know who has the best greasy burger around. I remember getting sacks of good smushy bunned beauties at Jack’s Diner way back when, but those days are gone. I’d actually be very interested in finding a good steamed bun, griddle fried, thin patty burger. If anyone knows of one, please advise.

    • Jessica R W permalink
      May 6, 2015 11:50 am

      Have you tried Jack’s Drive In in Wynatskill? That describes their burgers, but add yummy caramelized onions.

  9. May 4, 2015 7:30 pm

    I’m with Mister Dave on this. Burgers should be thin, preferably cooked on a searing hot flat top, which allows the patty to wallow in it’s own fat, and create a dark flavorful crust.

    There’s one burger joint that has masted that type of burger. Five Guys.

    If I had to pick a favorite local burger, I’d go with Comfort Kitchen in Saratoga. Every time I have a burger there I’m amazed at how tender and juicy they are. Plus you get to eat it with those yummy house made tater tots.

  10. Chantelle permalink
    May 4, 2015 9:09 pm

    I have two favorite burgers in the area. I also love Comfort Kitchen, the breakfast burger was my favorite. It had bacon, melty cheese, Sriracha mayo, and a fried egg. When you bit into it, it was a juicy, delicious mess. It’s no longer on the menu but they will still make you something similar. My other favorite burger is from Dave’s (formerly Burger Centric). The kobe beef burger, chef’s style. I don’t know what he does to it, but it’s good. Honorable mention goes to Prime Bar and Grill in Clifton Park. Every time I’ve gotten one it’s cooked perfectly but the meat is not quite as flavorful as some other places.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: