Serendipity seems to be following me around these days. It was Friday evening and sultry. A good burger night.
We had heard about a place in downtown Schenectady and decided to give that a try. Downtown Schenectady had plans which included vendors, information booths, a band, a huge pile of sand and 20,000 people. Schenectady’s SummerNight 2017 celebration descended upon the city the same time we tried to, so we continued driving on Broadway toward Rotterdam.
I had been curious about a small storefront, Dave’s Gourmet Burgers and More, on upper Broadway just before Schenectady blends into Rotterdam. Johnny P and I parked in small lot behind the building, walked to the front and entered a small dining room with four tables spaced on black and white checkered floor. We sat down at a table in the front window and were approached by Dave himself carrying menus. All around us were signs and boards explaining specials for the evening.
Owner/operator Dave Khan was wearing at least six hats that evening: host, chef, sous chef, server, busboy and raconteur. He took our drink orders (bottled diet iced tea and root beer) and returned with a large basket of his “award-winning” complementary black fries, which he describes as being “in a zesty blend of 12 to 17 different seasonings.” These fries were not oily but full of flavor — unlike any we had had before. They arrived piping hot— desirable since cooling fries may become soggy.
John noted that the sparely decorated room and the chef were “heavy with positive attitudes.” John’s favorite sign: “Don’t tell your God you have a big problem, tell the problem you have a big God.”
Both the menu and the assorted signs tacked on the walls boasted a carnival of Dave’s versions of Pakistani, Indian, Chinese, Greek, vegetarian and American dishes. Since John had undergone a dental procedure the previous day, he opted for relatively easy-to-chew Kung Po Chicken Pot Stickers (five Chinese dumplings for $5.99). I was allotted two dumplings covered with a mildly sweet and tangy, almost gravy-like sauce. These Chinese delicacies were composed of homemade minced chicken filling with a tender envelope of melt-in-your mouth dough. Ambrosia!
John’s Pakora Salad ($11.00), handmade patties of chickpea flour, broccoli, potatoes and onions over iceberg lettuce, was dressed with tzatziki sauce and satisfied his appetite without overstuffing him.
Because we were dining at Dave’s Gourmet Burgers and More, I felt it only appropriate to order a burger. The difficulty arose when I tried to choose the variety: approximately 22 different burgers made of kangaroo, venison, alligator, wild boar, rabbit, lamb and ordinary and Kobe beef ($8.99 to $25.00). Vegetarian burgers are also available and all are stacked between oversized, grilled Kaiser rolls. My Dave’s Wonderful ($20.00) seemed to capture the essence of Dave’s philosophy: over the top and designed to delight.
The knife stuck in the middle of the top and down through the layers held the creation together. A mere toothpick would have been woefully inadequate to keep that monster intact. As it turned out, it had to be consumed using a knife and fork. Not even Martha Raye’s mouth could have navigated that burger. Stand aside Whopper — your big brother replaced you.
I found it ironic that when Dave brought the wrapped half of my Wonderful to the table he apologized for omitting the egg and hot dog which apparently were on the new menu, but which he had not yet incorporated into his kitchen routine. I did not miss the omissions.
I was so overwhelmed by the variations in the burgers it never occurred to me to request that mine be prepared medium rare. It didn’t matter. The beef that he purchases is organic and grass fed. Even well done, as mine unintentionally was, the beef patty was tender and juicy.
If I were to register any complaints about Dave’s Wonderful (burger), it would be that it was wonderfully sloppy. And as another reviewer used to remind his readers, “That’s not a bad thing.” In anticipation of secret-sauce-slicked fingers, Dave has positioned paper towel dispensers on each table. With an occasional Sinatra tune crooning from an invisible speaker, the entire experience was — well— wonderful.
Dave’s artisan burgers were voted Best Burgers in 2017 by the readers of the Capital District Living Magazine.
Dave’s Gourmet Burgers and More
WHERE: 2535 Broadway, Schenectady, NY 12306, (518) 377-5700
WHEN: Mon.-Sat. 11 a.m-9 p.m., closed Sunday
HOW MUCH: $43 for two people with soft drinks, without tax and tip
MORE INFO: Accessible (short cement ramp from sidewalk with one step into dining room), takeout, delivery via several local delivery services, street parking and small lot in back, catering, picnic table on side of building, all major credit cards accepted.