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Tour de Burger: Nominations

March 7, 2017

Winter may still be trying to make a stand, but it’s a losing proposition at this point. No, it’s not quite spring. But we are firmly in the unlocking. So yes, we may still get a day in the single digits, or some mornings that are below freezing. But we’re in the home stretch.

That wasn’t so bad, was it?

In the past, spring has been the time for the Tour de Soft Serve, or some other frozen-confection-themed FUSSYlittleTOUR. We did FroYo, gelato, and homemade hard ice cream over the years as well. The logic behind the spring ice cream tours was that it could inform all your ice cream eating decisions for the entire summer. And that made a certain amount of sense.

The downside was that in the heat of summer, I was venturing out to eat some kind of savory dish just dripping in sweat. It takes the hardest of the hardcore to tackle a tour of Italian subs in 90-plus degree heat.

So this year, we’ve learned our lesson. Winter and Spring will be our savory tours. Summer and Fall will be the seasons for sweets, ice cream and cider donuts respectively.

And now, we’re launching the planning phase of the tour that I never thought would happen.

I still remember when the idea was first floated. At the end of the Tour de Egg Sandwich, someone suggested a Tour de Burger. Despite all the passion for the idea, I wrote it off almost immediately for all the right reasons.

A good burger is a sizeable thing in its own right, so eating five of them seemed unwise. They are also difficult to share. Plus it would be weird to bring six people into a restaurant, and order three burgers for the table.

What I realize now is that I was thinking about this tour all wrong.

As it turns out, we absolutely have some very special burgers in this region that aren’t found in sit-down restaurants. Plus, given their smaller size, these are totally workable in a tour framework.

For those who are not familiar with how the FUSSYlittleTOURS operate, a bunch of volunteers treks out into the wilderness, and we eat five ostensibly similar items, at five different places, in search of our favorites. In an attempt to rise above mere subjective preferences, we score each sample against a set of fixed criteria, trying to keep as much consistent sample to sample as possible.

Not only is there a tremendous range of difference in cider donuts, but also in fish fry, mini hot dogs, mozzarella and melba, disco fries, and more.

But before we even schedule the outing, there’s always a call for nominations. We do this for two reasons:
1) At the end of every tour summary, some commenter asks, why didn’t you go to place X?
2) Despite my best efforts, there continue to be places in the region that are off my radar.

So what are these special burgers of which I speak? They are found at our seasonal roadside stands. And as I see it, these three are the musts:

– Jack’s Drive-In in Wynantskill is all about the caramelized onions.
– Jumpin’ Jack’s Drive-in uses coleslaw on its signature burger.
– Country Drive-in puts pickle slices on top of the bun for some reason.

But we have room for five stops on this tour. Part of me thinks:

Mac’s Drive-in should get a spot despite its multi-season interior.
Gus’s has the same issue, but is also home to the greekburger.
Middleburgers in Schoharie sounds great, but it’s a bit far out there.
Then there are ice cream places like On The Farm, which also have burgers.

It’s more than a little sad that Pirate’s Lakeside Grill is no longer with us, because that place would have been a fantastic stop on this tour.

So, what say you? Where should we go? And what have I left out?

As suggestions come in and a tour starts to take shape, I’ll look at opening dates for the top spots, and cross-reference those with my calendar. And at some point down the road, we’ll announce the date and the itinerary.

But now is the time to speak up or forever hold your peace.

12 Comments leave one →
  1. llcwine permalink
    March 7, 2017 11:14 am

    IMHO, I don’t see how you can do an honest comparison unless the same burger and fixings is ordered at all places visited. Perhaps there needs to be two burgers sampled at each location…the standard for all places visited, and the specialty burger that made it the place you wanted to stop at…for instance Jack’s for the carmelized onions, or Gus’ for the greek burger…

    • March 7, 2017 11:19 am

      I like that. I also wonder if seasonal stands is too fine a qualifier, especially if you are already thinking of including year-round places like Gus’s. I would also like to have a tour which permitted me a bite of the Swifty’s deep fried buffalo burger, which my cardiologist would not allow me to order on my own.

  2. March 7, 2017 12:27 pm

    Crave in Albany! Locally owned, pretty sure the owners actually work there all the time so you know everything they make is going to be made well. almost everything is house made, and some of the best burgers I have ever eaten. Plus they’re open year round which I think is key.

  3. Chantelle permalink
    March 7, 2017 1:37 pm

    YES!!!! I definitely support the country drive-in burger.

  4. Pam C. permalink
    March 7, 2017 2:33 pm

    The burgers at Ted’s Fish Fry are similar to those at Jack’s. Will you also be sampling the french fries?

  5. Colleen permalink
    March 7, 2017 3:40 pm

    The Ruck has some of the best burgers in the region.

  6. March 7, 2017 8:26 pm

    I did some sleuthing. I wrote a review of Gus’s in mid-December and as I recall the takeout window was open at that time, frequented by a couple of local cops or firefighters. So the seasonal take-out thing is shaky. I think you have Jumping Jack’s, Jacks and Country and that’s it for pure seasonal burger places. I recommend you add Mac’s, which is convenient, and then as llcwine suggests we try a control burger and their signature burger at each. It’s 4 places rather than 5, but we will be challenged to get through it all.

    • March 7, 2017 9:19 pm

      Let’s not get too wrapped up in semantics here. Sure, Gus’s sells food from the walk up window all year long. But the place was clearly made for outdoor eating. And more than anything, it’s the celebration of the outdoors that makes these places extra special.

  7. albanylandlord permalink
    March 8, 2017 2:12 am

    i’m totally going on this tour… Though I admit I am a bit confused about this category of burgers and why it is special. I think Jack’s is the only one I have had and I wasn’t impressed.
    I do think we should have their signature/most popular burger and somehow we need to account for the specialness of the place in the score because, under my theory, that’s what makes the burger special.

  8. March 8, 2017 3:28 pm

    I totally agree with albanylandlord, and I know Daniel knows all this, but it needs to be repeated.

    Drive-ins simply don’t have great burgers. I wish it weren’t so, but it is. And to judge those burgers on the merits of the burger itself alone is not fair. Drive-in burgers are inextricably linked to the place in which they are sold and eaten. A Jumpin’ Jack’s Jack Burger sold anywhere other than in between Collins park, and the Mohawk is not a Jack Burger. The burger itself is not necessarily special, it’s the whole experience that makes it special.

    Having said all that, I think Mac’s in Watervliet must be on the list. Their burger is one of the better drive-in burgers. And of course, there’s no way I’d miss a burger tour. Unless I have some other event that day that I can’t back out of, I’ll be there.

  9. Rob permalink
    March 8, 2017 5:11 pm

    My favorite burger I had in town is the Gastro-Burger at the Capital City Gastro Pub. This thing was unreal. Description from the menu:
    Aged Cheddar, BBQ Crispy Pork Belly, Fried Egg, House Pickles, Lettuce, Roasted Garlic Aioli, Hand Cut Fries

    • albanylandlord permalink
      March 10, 2017 1:57 am

      I agree on the burgers at the Gastropub, that one is my favorite in the capital region. Although City Beer Hall and New World Bistro are also right up there… BUT we are only talking about non-sit-down place burgers for the tour.

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