The hamburger — often served with french fries, sauteed onions and a slice of tomato — also comes with a side of mystery.
No definitive origin exists for the juicy staple of many American diets.
Some say a recipe from the late 1700s mentioned “Hamburgh sausage” and directions to serve the meat with toasted bread. Others claim “Hamburg steak,” placed between two pieces of bread on the Hamburg American shipping line during the 1800s, gave the hamburger its start. And some believe Danish immigrant Louis Lassen created ground meat patties in 1900 and used the product for his lunch business in New Haven, Connecticut.
One fact may at least pinpoint the time. Hamburgers became a big hit at the St. Louis World’s Fair in 1904, and likely boosted the food’s popularity.
There is no mystery about the hamburger’s popularity in The Daily Gazette’s circulation area. The newspaper recently asked readers via social media for their favorite places to order medium, medium well or well done ground beef. Using their suggestions as a guide, the newspaper visited several restaurants famous for hamburgers.
True hamburger fans know burgers of 2017 are served with more than just tomato, lettuce and cheese. Fried eggs, pulled pork, coleslaw and Cajun seasonings are among the new tastes on hamburger plates.
So pass the ketchup and hold the pickles — here are the favorites, in no particular order:
Maxon’s Grill, 2544 Guilderland Ave., Rotterdam
The “Maxon” burger at Maxon’s Grill in Rotterdam. (Marc Schultz)
The big deal at Maxon’s is the “50/50 Burger, equal parts ground beef and ground bacon. “And there’s more bacon on top of that,” said Laura Loverro, who along with Brian Van Vranken owns the small restaurant formerly known as Sorrento’s. “There’s even a fried egg.”
Van Vranken said he had heard about similar hamburger mixes, and decided to mix his own. The “50/50” also comes with lettuce, tomato, onion and cheese. Other Maxon’s burgers include the “Drunk Burger,” which is topped with a whiskey barbecue sauce, sauteed onions, pulled pork and cheddar and the “Bacon Mack,” a burger topped with layers of bacon and macaroni and cheese.
Van Vranken likes the bacon and beef team-up, which sells for $11.99. “It’s awesome, delicious and tasty,” he said.
Wagon Train BBQ, 671 Mariaville Road, Rotterdam
The “Wagon Train” burger at the Wagon Train BBQ. (Marc Schultz)
The Wagon Train has received heaping helpings of fame for its “Graveyard Burger,” a $36, family-sized Frankenstein of a hamburger that includes fried eggs, bacon, cheese, pulled pork, beef brisket, coleslaw, macaroni and cheese, french fries and and onion rings. Very few pass the restaurant’s challenge to eat the whole thing in one sitting.
More reasonable people decide on the “Wagon Train Burger,” topped with fried onions, jalapenos, cheese and a chipotle aioli. The “Train” comes with french fries, and an $11.95 price tag.
Richard Frederick, who opened the Western-themed restaurant in 2011, said people just love their hamburgers, and love to try the different toppings and combinations. Sometimes people suggest ideas for hamburgers and sometimes, the Wagon Train will put them on the menu.
“Some days, you won’t sell any hamburgers, it will be all barbecue,” Frederick said.
Bailey’s Cafe, 37 Phila St., Saratoga Springs
The Bailey’s Cafe’s “Backyard Picnic” burger at Bailey’s Cafe. (Provided)
Bailey’s received a vote of confidence for an array of hamburgers that includes toppings such as fried eggs, pulled pork, Cajun seasonings and sriracha mayonnaise. The restaurant also offers a veggie burger.
The big seller is the $15 “Backyard Picnic Burger,” a burger with pulled pork, cheese, coleslaw and onion aboard the flavor bandwagon.
“I think it’s quite the sight when you see it, it’s a pretty big burger,” said bartender Erika Diggins.
Diggins also knows why people love hamburgers in general.
“American tradition,” she said.
In June, the Wagon Train sold 588 “Wagon Train Burgers,” followed by 530 “Tombstone” burgers and 529 “Rodeo” burgers. So some days, people are in the mood for hamburgers.
The Factory Eatery and Spirits, Prospect Street, Ballston Spa
The “Trainwreck” burger at The Factory in Ballston Spa. (Marc Schultz)
No railroad tracks near Prospect Street, but there are an awful lot of “Train Wrecks.” That’s the hamburger at the restaurant that opened in 2005, in the building that once housed the Bischoff Chocolate Factory during the early 1920s. The “Wreck’s” hamburger patty is topped with a fried chicken cutlet, bacon, cheddar cheese and Russian dressing. It also comes with fries.
“Some people think of it as an eating challenge,” said Factory owner Cara DeFilippo. “You never leave here hungry.”
The “Train Wreck” is priced at $14.
C.P.’s Family Restaurant, 17 Main St., Hagaman
A bacon-topped cheeseburger at C.P’s Family Restaurant in Hagaman. (Jeff Wilkin)
Vintage gasoline signs and equipment are all over C.P.’s Family Restaurant in Hagaman. If people want to fill up on hamburgers, this is the place.
Chuck Phillips opened the place in 1983, and also filled the place with license plates, model cars and two operating model trains — one for each dining room.
Shannon Phillips, Chuck’s daughter, runs the restaurant with her mother, Carol. The house favorite for hamburgers is the bacon-and-cheese topped six-ounce burger that comes with fries.
Shannon Phillips said most of C.P.’s customers go for the $8.25 bacon cheese, if they’re in the mood for burgers. “I think it’s a comfort food,” Phillips said. “It’s a good, old-fashioned bacon-cheese with french fries, no frills.”
20 North, 20 North Broadway, Schenectady
The “Bruised Allman” burger at 20 North. (Jeff Wilkin)
20 North, in Schenectady’s Broadway and Union Street cluster of restaurants, is popular with both sports and burger fans. Televisions and sports memorabilia are on the walls, and burgers such as the “Black and Blue” and “Gregg Allman” are on the menu.
Chef and co-owner Eric Warde said the “Bruised Allman” hamburger is a combination of the B&B and Allman burgers. The “Black & Blue” is made with blue cheese crumbles and grilled with Cajun seasonings. Lettuce and tomato are in the supporting cast.
The “Gregg Allman,” named for the late keyboardist and vocalist of the Allman Brothers Band, comes with sharp cheddar, lettuce, tomato, bacon and onion rings.
“I think it’s just really good,” Warde said of the combination burger, which goes for $10. He also likes the idea that the “Bruised” burger gives 20 North a new star in the kitchen.
“Everybody thinks we’re a chicken wing place,” he said. “It’s just the reputation we have.”
Druthers, 381 Broadway, Saratoga Springs
The “Ugly Burger” at Druthers. (Provided)
The “Ugly Burger” always gets dates at Druthers.
“It’s crispy bacon on a burger patty, caramelized onions, blue cheese crumbles on onion rings, beer cheese and a fried egg,” said Mike Spain, the restaurant’s executive chef.
“I think it just has the eye appeal,” Spain added. “It’s one of those burgers, you see it and you see everything on there. I think a fried egg is really attractive with a burger.”
The date costs $16.
The Horses Lounge, 912 McClellan St., Schenectady
The burger at the Horses Lounge. (Jeff Wilkin)
This big burger is a big bargain on Monday nights.
The neighborhood restaurant offers $2 burgers, and part of the deal means buying a drink. Toppings are 75 cents each, so a burger with onions and tomato and topped with two beer-battered onion rings, cost just under $6. And that was with a bottle of Coors Light.
Fred Fritzen Jr. — ‘Lil Fred and the son of Horses founder Fred Sr. — likes the special because it introduces new people to his business. It’s a good deal for a pretty good hamburger.
Mark’s Grill, 1051 Curry Road, Rotterdam
The “Mark’s Mess” burger at Mark’s Grill in Rotterdam. (Jeff Wilkin)
There are 13 hamburgers on the menu at Mark’s, which opened in 2003. The king of the crew is the “Mark’s Mess Burger,” beef cooked and served with cheese, onions, tomato, mushrooms and jalapeno peppers. The “Mess” is served with fries and costs $8.95.
“We don’t freeze them,” said bar manager Kim Cary. “People are always looking for a fresh burger.”
Dave’s Gourmet Burgers and More, 2535 Broadway, Schenectady
The “Dave’s Wonderful” burger at Dave’s Gourmet Burgers and More. (Beverly M. Elander/For The Daily Gazette)
Dave’s Gourmet, reviewed in the July 23 edition of The Gazette, has made friends with an eclectic bunch of hamburgers that includes the gigantic $20 Dave’s Wonderful. There are 21 other hamburgers on the menu.
All Dave’s burgers come with lettuce, tomato, onion and a secret sauce.
Reach Gazette reporter Jeff Wilkin at 395-3124, [email protected] or through Facebook.