Revisited: Burger Centric – Albany, NY
Few experiences, in my opinion, are worth revisiting in blog posts. Once I find a place I love, I’ll just eat there and not worry about writing about it. If I’m confused about a place, I’ll usually give it a second post because, chances are, others are confused about it as well.
On my first visit to Burger Centric, I wasn’t confused so much as I felt there was so much more of the menu to explore. I always intended on sharing my second visit to Burger Centric.
In my head, I wanted the second visit to be much more grand. To keep certain variables constant, MetalFrog would be there. We also would have Cassie and a few friends join us, to get a gauge for how things worked when the group was bigger. As far as ordering, rather than put much thought into it, I was going to leave it up to Dave. You’ll recall on my last visit, “he said he’d get ‘Dave’s Fave’ (sauteed mushrooms, onions, peppers, cheeses), but that he would have it with bison meat.”
For a mid-week, post-work dinner, Cassie, MetalFrog, John Jordan, and Christa met up for some burgers.
Although the street in front was totally clear, I wanted to try out the parking lot.
The lot is pretty far behind the building and across from some pretty sketchy storage units (hey, the neighborhood isn’t exactly perfect), so it would have been more convenient to park on the street. You live and learn.
When we entered the restaurant, the whole back was dark, and when Dave saw us, he excitedly went around and turned everything on, including the TV across from our table, which, conveniently was set to Food Network; Guy Fieri’s Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives was on. He also fired up the grill in the kitchen.
Dave was happy to see us, and even remembered that I was the guy he insisted couldn’t afford bigger Kobe burgers, which MetalFrog and I really appreciated (too much). He was excited that I brought some more people. As we ordered, everyone stuck to the menu pretty closely, but I decided to take Dave’s advice and order Dave’s Fave with a bison burger. He was even more excited about this, and even offered to fry me up some Japanese yams instead of the sweet potato fries that I requested. We had a bit of a back and forth when I asked what kind of cheese he recommended. I missed the fact that there was a special chef blend of cheeses.
So, ultimately, I ordered Dave’s Fave with chef’s cheeses, chef’s touch, and bison burger. (I think it was like $14.99 after all was said and done.)
While Dave worked on our burgers, my friends and I chatted, laughed, and exchanged stories, like friends do. I did a little looking around and noticed that he moved the choices of sodas to the back of the restaurant. This was a great idea because it makes it so the diners don’t have to get up and walk to the front of the restaurant to see what they can get to drink, because, apparently, Dave has so many choices, even he can’t remember!
MetalFrog ordered a vanilla shake. The vernacular is subtle and distinct. The description doesn’t say it’s a milkshake. It just says vanilla shake. He made a face when he tasted it, so I had to try it. It tasted like a yogurt lassi. That’s not to say it was bad; I would certainly have been surprised if that were served to me and I expected a milkshake, like you normally do with burgers (think diners…). John ordered a chocolate shake and didn’t seem phased. I didn’t try it, so I don’t know what it tasted like, but I never had a chocolate lassi before, so…
It looked like Dave added some new specials to the mirror in the back of the restaurant.
Having eaten here twice now, it’s still a little peculiar to see exotic game on the menu. Maybe because there aren’t many restaurants in the region offering that.
Right after Dave took our order, a customer came in for takeout. Dave did the right thing and prepared his meal first. Ours wasn’t far behind.
When Dave delivered the burger to me, he mentioned it was one of the best burgers he had ever made. I was to be the judge of that! (Actually, who am I to judge that? I haven’t eaten every burger he ever made.)
The burger was very good. He was able to cook the bison nicely to maintain the juiciness and flavor without drying it out. Of course, it helped that I had the chef’s touch, a chutney of ginger, tomatoes, and spices, along with sauteed mushrooms, peppers, and onions, as well as the chef’s mixture of cheeses to add more moisture. Actually, there was so much that this was impossible to keep together. I asked for a fork, and Dave gave me his usual spiel that “everything you need is in the front” before actually bringing me the fork.
Back to the burger.
I generally hate green peppers on things because they have a bright flavor that to me is off-putting and overpowering (notice I didn’t say “cloying”). I don’t know what Dave does, but he was able to saute peppers to a perfect aldente while maintaining a muted pepper flavor in the background. Same thing with the onions.
The chef touch is, in my opinion, the reason Dave’s burgers shine. Something about that chutney just makes Dave’s burgers stand out well beyond any burger I’ve had in the area.
The Japanese Yams were ok. They’re a pretty starchy root vegetable, so one turn in the fryer isn’t going to perfectly crisp and soften them. The first few were nice and crispy, but as they got cold, they got soggy pretty quickly. The flavor was nice, and the spice that Dave adds really helped brighten the flavor.
I reassured Dave that he gave me a beautiful burger, and had some more laughs with him. I actually tried bringing him some good news that, culinarily speaking, great things were happening in his neighborhood. All Good Bakers opened recently, and The Cheese Traveler was moving in right next door to AGB. He didn’t seem too excited until I suggested that he talk to them about creating a special neighborhood burger. My suggestion was to talk to Nick and Britin at All Good Bakers about getting some kind of special bun and to the Cheese Traveler to get a special cheese and make a burger that will appeal to people who patronize those businesses. I may be totally off base, but, by forging that kind of relationship, he could showcase some of the other great things in the neighborhood and expand his audience.
When I mentioned Nick and Britin, he lit up even more. He mentioned that he delivered them burgers the previous week and loves them. I think this type of camaraderie can only be a good thing, and I think it’s great that the business owners in that area get to know each other.
We had some more laughs with Dave, but at a certain point, it was time to go home. We had a second stellar experience at Burger Centric, and that’s not just MetalFrog and I, Cassie, and Christa both enjoyed the burgers they ordered, from what they were saying.
On the way out, I noticed the specials on the board in front. I saw “Burger and Fries – $4.99” and “Gyro Burger – $6.99.” I made the comment to Dave that he’s giving food away, and that he should post that stuff on Facebook. After his sob story about not knowing how to use facebook (including physical pantomime of a man sobbing), Dave actually started posting his specials to Burger Centric’s Facebook page. I suggest you follow his page and stop in to try some of his specials.
After my first post, I heard that a few readers had tried it and had good experiences, so I’m more comfortable giving a positive recommendation for Burger Centric; it doesn’t seem like a fluke that me and my friends enjoy this place so much.
Burger Centric will unfortunately close its doors for good on June 30.