I’ve been hearing quite a few great things about Crave, a new Burger and Frozen Yogurt spot in Albany (217 Western Ave), the most prominent great thing being the glowing review from Times Union restaurant critic, Susie Davidson Powell. Barring the fact that she refers to one of the things she tried as a specimen (side note: don’t do this), her review contained enough information for me to decide I wanted to try Crave.
The restaurant is co-owned by Chef Devin Ziemann (who you’ll probably remember was chef at Central Steak during one of my visits). Enough time has passed to forgive all past missteps, and the sinking ship that was Central Steak is but an empty barn.
There are a lot of things on the menu. I count 22 “burgers” not including the build-your-own option, 11 sandiwches, a handful of salads, snacks, wings, hot dogs, fries with various toppings. One can do a lot of damage there.
That night, I just wanted a burger and fries. A few of the more elaborate burgers sounded awesome, but I went for the simple bacon cheese burger (lettuce, tomato, onion, pickle, bacon, American cheese, Crave sauce) [this may not sound simple, but when an option for a burger has a sausage patty, Utica greens, prosciutto, banana peppers, etc, it’s about as classic as you get.]. The young lady at the counter asked me if a medium cook on the burger would be ok, and I responded, “please” unironically. Then she made me sign for my credit card transaction with my pointer finger on a cracked up iPad, but I didn’t get cut.
The only bad thing I have to say about the burger is that there was too much Crave sauce, making the burger difficult to manage by hand. It was cooked perfectly, had a good amount of melty American cheese, bacony bacon, and even the bun was outstanding. Even the sauce was really great, very much like
McDonalds secret sauce Thousand Island, only more interesting and full of pickle flavor.
The fries were standard issue, and, knowing this ahead, I ordered something that would show a little more of the kitchen skill, the loaded sweet potato fries (BBQ dry rub, bacon, spiced pecans, honey sage aioli).
These were amazing, and it’s because all of the adornments play off of the distinct properties of the sweet potato to make them taste even better. The ability to combine flavors and textures in this way is one of the things that makes a chef a chef. With bites containing everything, they were like flavor bombs. The sage aroma started strong but dissipated through the bites; this made the dish reminiscent of a good Thanksgiving plate. The pecans played along bringing some crunch; with the honey, this reminded me of a good holiday pie. The bacon was the smoky seasoning that tied everything together. This dish almost ate like a dessert, but it was also a great compliment to the burger. A big complaint I have about this was the manner in which it was served. This is a dish that begs to be eaten with a fork, and the wire basket and paper base made that difficult.
For a good measure, we also ordered some fried pickles which were served with chipotle aioli. The pickles themselves were familiar, but the aioli had the texture and assertive taste of freshly crushed chipotle peppers, which was great because the factory-made chipotle flavored sauces never seem to cut it for me. [Cassie did think it was a little too spicy.]
Although I would like to try it some time, we didn’t get any froyo that night. They do the same make-it-your-own model (like TCBY or Sweet Frog), but their price per ounce is a few pennies more than the chains, which is fine; I’m ok throwing a few bucks at an independently owned place if the stuff is good. They have 8 rotating flavors, and, aside from chocolate and vanilla, I can’t for the life in me recall the other 6 that night. Just go get a burger and check it out yourself. They’ll probably have different flavors when you go anyway.