I was recently invited to go on a local burger tour with the past Tournament of Pizza judges from All Over Albany. How can you say no to that?
For the past few years, I have tried to only eat our own beef. For the most part, I've been pretty good. When you get a side of beef, you end up with a lot of ground beef. I'd guess about 100 to 120 pounds of it depending on the year. That's a lot of meatloaf, tacos. nachos....and burgers. I've got to tell you, our beef makes a kick ass burger. I think a Prinzo's hard roll puts it over the top, but that's a minority opinion in the house. If you are looking for a cheap, white bun I'd recommend visiting a Stewart's.
Here's a summary of my thoughts on the four burger joints we visited one fun Saturday. The complete All Over Albany write up of the burger tasting is here and this is a link to the fries and kind of a wrap up.
Bun: I'd never seen a bun branded before. The only think I can think of that compares is a toaster Darth Vader toaster that burns "Star Wars" into the slice. This was a toasted potato bun and had a little sweetness to it.
Meat: The burger was well done, not much beefy flavor to it but it had a nice amount of fat to it.
Toppings: Plenty of nicely melted cheese, there was also a French's style mustard taste that I'd skip if I were ordering for myself and the lettuce and tomato were there but nothing special.
Fry Texture: Nice and crispy on the outside and very soft inside. Kind of like a mashed potato.
Fry Flavor: I really liked these fries. I think I'd try to order them well done to compare.
So while this particular burger wasn't spectacular, it made me think that if I came and ordered a burger specifying my personal burger preferences, I could get a pretty good burger here. And the fries would be hard to stop eating.
Bun: I liked the bun. It was lightly toasted, but the burger removed any toasted texture.
Meat: Well done but still juicy, fatty and very rich. I did a double take on my first bite. There is no mistaking this for lean.
Toppings: There was lettuce and a very good slice of tomato. There was also a lot of yellow mustard, ketchup and mayo that combine into a special sauce. Too much sauce that also took away from the bun.
Fry Texture: These are a McDonalds style fry with not much too them. They're just salt delivery device.
Fry Flavor: I thought they had a little bit of an off after taste.
I get that fat is flavor in a burger. That said, I thought the burger was too fatty and McDonald's does a better version of these fries.
Bun: Toasted, but very soft and didn't hold up
Meat: Good flavor but I didn't notice the crust they they are known for having.
Toppings: Lettuce, decent tomato, good pickle chips, ketchup, mustard and some incredibly strong red onion. With the onion on the burger, that was all you were going to taste. I like onion, but I took it off.
Fry Texture: Thin and very crispy, but a little greasy
Fry Flavor: not much there
I had heard good things about Smashburger. Maybe this was an off day. I liked the beef, but the overall burger was unimpressive. The fries were nothing special.
Bun: light toasting, good flavor, and I liked the sesame seeds. Only bun of the day with seeds.
Meat: Not much crust, but good flavor and juicy
Toppings:A lot of mayo (too much), best lettuce of the day, a decent tomato, ketchup, mustard and some very strong diced onion. Maybe I don't like raw onion as much as I thought.
Fry Texture: crispy but soft on the inside
Fry Flavor: Salt. There was a lot of salt on this batch of fries.
This was the only shop I had visited prior to this tour. I wasn't impressed at that visit and never understood why people liked Five Guys. I can definitely see the appeal of that burger now.
Out of these shops, where would I go back for a burger? BurgerFi would top the list for me. I liked the restaurant and I'd like to see how they build a burger to order instead of right off the menu. And eat more of their fries. Too bad you can't make a Franken-Burger and fries combo with the best aspects of each place.
When the tour was over, I popped into to Whole Foods for a few things - basil and mushrooms for pizza on Sunday plus a bottle of seltzer - then headed home. Once there, I proceeded to fall into a minor salt induced food coma that probably involved some loud snores. When I came to, we had been invited out to diner by another family. After a day of eating burgers, I drove the family to Red Robin.
I just had a small salad. Timing is everything.