ALBANY – Vegan burgers might not jump to mind for those thinking of comfort food. The creations at Wizard Burger in Albany could change that.
Both vegans and nonvegans flock to the North Pearl Street restaurant for burgers such as the Green Goblin It Up, an Impossible plant-based burger patty topped with green chilis and jalapeno garlic crema on a potato bun. Other items include the Frito Bandito, an Impossible plant-based patty topped with American cheese, Fritos, pickled jalapenos and barbecue sauce; and “Magic-ano,” an Impossible patty topped with American cheese, Carolina barbecue sauce and pulled “pork” made from jackfruit.
“We like to keep the menu creative and give people more options,” said Alex Berta, who, along with business partner Chris Carpentier, owns Wizard Burger and Burrito Burrito, another vegan restaurant in Troy. “When we were deciding what to do next after Burrito Burrito, burgers were another fun concept we could execute.”
Berta said the community immediately began supporting Wizard Burger when it first opened its doors a year and a half ago at 74 N. Pearl St. in Albany across from B. Lodge & Co., Albany’s oldest department store.
“It’s great when shows are in town at Empire Live and it’s neat being across the street from Lodge’s,” he said. “A lot of people can’t tell that our food is vegan and most people are really into it.”
‘Love at first sight’
Customer Andrew Lynch first met Berta at Burrito Burrito. “I’m a big fan of their burritos, and when I found out they opened Wizard Burger I had to give it a try,” the Troy resident said. “It was love at first sight.”
According to Lynch, a vegan for nearly four years, Wizard Burger offers consistent, fantastic food.
“It’s the best vegan burger around,” he said. “They have such creative burgers — it’s not your standard, run-of-the-mill burger with lettuce, tomato and onion. They have great options.”
Lynch said that frequenting Berta and Carpentier’s restaurants so often has led to him becoming close friends with them. Last year, Lynch decided to hire their company, Meadowlark Catering — which Berta and Carpentier own, along with Heidi Lynn Sicari of Takk House and Beth Mickalonis — for his wedding in 2021.
“We did buffet-style, including vegan burger sliders, a mashed potato bar and chimichurri pasta,” Lynch said. “There was so much food and everyone loved it, and there were no other vegans at the wedding aside from my wife and I.”
Breaking the stereotype
Berta credits the area’s vegan community for the success of his restaurant ventures.
“The Capital District has a huge vegan community and they’re so supportive,” he said.
The Capital Region Vegan Network, which works to connect vegans in the area and provide outreach to encourage more people to choose the vegan lifestyle, also hosts several events throughout the year, including Albany VegFest and Veg Out Fest in Troy.
Executive Director Andrea Shaye said vegan restaurants such as Wizard Burger are a great addition to the community.
“Any time a vegan restaurant opens in our area, especially one that offers hearty meals like burgers, it helps break down the stereotype that vegan food is just salads,” Shaye said. “Also, as a vegan, I like to go somewhere that I know animals were not harmed in the making of the meal I’m about to eat.”
Though Shaye said vegan restaurants are warmly welcomed by the vegan community, they also serve a purpose for nonvegans.
“They help introduce the general public to veganism and help them to increase their consumption of plant-based foods,” she said. “I hope the owners of Wizard Burger continue to be creative about different ways to introduce vegan food to the general public and that they continue to thrive.”
Keeping it interesting
Berta said he makes an effort to change the menu as often as possible so that there’s always something new at Wizard Burger.
“Some weeks we make changes daily — it just depends on how much free time we have,” he said. “We try to keep our menu interesting, and our customers give us a nice challenge to keep up with.”
In the future, Berta said, he and Carpentier’s goal with Wizard Burger is to have several locations throughout the Capital Region.
“Right now we’re looking at Watervliet, where Chris and I grew up, as well as Clifton Park and Saratoga,” Berta said. “Having a franchise is the ultimate goal, but we haven’t started talking about it. We’ll do it when that opportunity presents itself.”
For information, call 518-250-9440 or visit wizardburger.com.