The one thing I love about writing this blog and filling in the official derryX Dines Map is that “I go wherever I want…whenever I want.” Having an experience and then turning it into words is something that I have fun doing, and most times, I can’t even scratch the surface on what makes a place good or great.
Followers of the blog know that I’ve tried with Mingle, and, even with two visits (Part 1, Part 2), some little and not so little issues made their way into my experiences. Through the wonders of networking, I recently connected with one of the owners of Mingle, Jose, and he and I sat down to talk about Mingle. It turns out I recognized him from Siena College (We were there during the same years), so our conversations quickly devolved into chats about who we knew and what we did while at college. We also have a lot of common interests, so that detracted a bit too. But, in the midst of all that, Jose (whom I am coining “The Jake LaMotta of Albany” due to the fact that, no matter when you go, he’s there “mingling” with customers) was able to walk me through the vision at Mingle, and it really starts at the Korean Tacos that are on the appetizer menu.
When I first tried these, I knew what was inside was special, but the corn tortillas (which admittedly are problematic pretty much everywhere) detracted from what was inside for me.
The heart of Mingle is comprised of dedication to serving superior ingredients and bridging the gap between something familiar and something exotic. The tacos really symbolize this.
It took some help from Jose, but I think I’ve finally found my niche there. And it relates to what I’m saying is the heart of the place.
There are some pretty damn great burgers in the area. You can go to City Beer Hall and enjoy a nicely executed grass fed burger. You can also go to New World Bistro, or dP, or The Capital City Gastropub, or you can go see Dave, and any of these places will satisfy any urge you’d have for a classic American pub-style burger or maybe even something a little more luxurious or exotic.
Or you can go to Mingle and have something a little different yet familiar.
From the description of their “Asian Burger,” (Our burger is made from seasoned & marinated Angus beef that’s topped with Chef’s cucumber-apple kimchi, red leaf lettuce & a spicy yogurt drizzle) you can see that they’re doing things a little differently than most. The major difference is marinating the beef (grass fed from Tildale Farm). Most of the places in the area let the beef stand on its own and rely on some basic seasoning; Mingle is upping the ante and spiking the beef, with garlic (and lots of it) and other aromatics. The cucumber-apple kimchi is also unique, yet familiar.
Let’s take a look at it and we’ll talk more after.
As always, I give it a cut down the center to check temperature. The server didn’t ask how I prefer it, so I bet that means they’re going safe and doing medium unless otherwise noted.
So let’s break it down.
Right now, the bun is provided by All Good Bakers; it’s their ciabatta. The menu isn’t specific about this, which is a good idea, just in case bread isn’t available from All Good Bakers at any point (you’ll recall that my cheese pate from the second visit was marred by an unannounced substitution which, it turns out, was due to the lack of AGB flatbreads on that given day).
The cucumber apple kimchi adds the crunch that pickles would normally add to a burger when they’re on there. But the kimchi is more like a pickle on steroids. The cucumber and apples are pickled with chile and garlic and other spices and really add some flavor and depth in addition to crunch.
The red leaf lettuce is another nod to their Korean-style bulgokee, and taken with the sauces, the concept of the Asian burger brings the Mingle experience full circle, taking something familiar (a burger) and making it a little more exotic.
The beef is excellent, and the marinade also adds some depth to the grass fed beef. It’s seared with a great crust, and you can see from that last image above that the juices are retained in the meat pretty well (well, except for that little bit that leaked out from me being a brute and cutting it with a butter knife.).
There’s one detail I left out.
$10. (with a side. When I went, they had a carrot and craisin slaw in addition to kettle chips or mixed seasonal vegetables.)
That price pretty much speaks for itself.
There’s a little more to Mingle that you might not get just from eating there. They have a really cool private room in the back with a small bar and some tables. Sure, you can book it for an event and have a fun place to hang out.
Or, you can go to their Speakeasy Wednesdays, a weekly event in this space; it’s co-hosted by the proprietors of The Albany Distilling Company, who make some pretty damn good “Coal Yard” Whiskey, which, let’s face it, is pretty much legal moonshine.
Korean tacos, Asian burgers, and cocktails…sounds like an amazing night!