SCHENECTADY — The Schenectady area is on a burger binge. Since January, this reviewer has visited three establishments that featured burgers: one in Colonie where you build your own burger, one award-winning restaurant in Rotterdam featuring “gourmet” burgers and today’s offering in downtown Schenectady, Slidin’ Dirty, which offers baby burgers (sliders) made from beef and other ingredients.
According to the Slidin’ Dirty website, sliders are “small burgers and sandwiches featuring anything from ground beef to pulled pork to crab cake to vegetarian black bean.” So it shouldn’t surprise you that the two-page paper Grand Opening Menu features a page of Slidin’ Dirty standards (one for $5, two for $9 or three for $12), plus Munchies (appetizers) Greens 'N Things (salads), Tacos, Mac & Cheese, Shakes & Sundaes and Beverages (soft drinks, all $2 each). Server Sam explained that the food currently offered is temporary until fall, when the permanent menu is established.
Many of the beverages and all of the sundaes are served in traditional Ball jars, the kind in which my Mom used to preserve the summer’s garden bounty. The dozen-plus table tops (mostly high-tops) are sparsely appointed — paper napkins, no condiments, table tents or decorations.
The venue itself is lean — faux plank floor, brick and tile walls, industrial-style ceilings, a couple of street lamps, metal beer signs arranged along the length of the room which includes a long black bar with white tile sides, and about 18 plain black stools also used at the high-top tables. Regular height tables were arranged along the rustic wood and white tile walls and seating was either on a bench or on regular black chairs.
Faithful Companion Johnny P ordered a pink lemonade, Dirty Bird Wings ($5/10 wings) and one each of the three Sliders of the Sea ($15) served on a brioche bun with a side of house-made pickled vegetables ($1).
Of the three wing varieties available (listed in hard-to-read yellow on the menu), John chose the bone-in honey sriracha-sauced wings with cilantro cream. Although sriracha is classified as having moderate heat, the mayo/sour cream dipping sauce nicely cooled his palate, he remarked.
The trio of sliders represented fried shrimp (The Dirty Po’ Boy), crab cake (panko crusted with arugula, tomato, red onion, avocado and horseradish cream) and honey sriracha fried shrimp (Flyin’ Shrimp) with arugula, tomato, red onion with cilantro cream. Although the ingredients were different, neither John nor I could discern much difference in taste among the three.
The pickled vegetable side (cabbage, carrot sticks and hot green peppers for $1), however, sparkled. Made in-house, the sweet-sour slaw was crunchy with a hint of cloves.
I ordered the Classic Mac (with cheddar cheese sauce for $5) as a side to accompany my Dirty Cowboy Duo which included angus beef, cheddar, bacon, arugula, tomato, jalapeno, fried onion and BBQ sauce ($9). The Classic Mac is also available with Buffalo Chicken for $7 or Southwest style (with avocado salsa and chipotle cream for $6).
The neutral mac n’ cheese was a good foil for the spicy wings, while the juicy baby burgers possessed interest and flavor. A disclaimer at the bottom of the menu reminded diners that hamburgers are cooked medium (pink) unless otherwise requested. I requested they be grilled medium rare but Sam explained their small size prohibited anything less than medium. I would have been satisfied with pink, but the result was a medium well brown.
The last page of the menu featured five sundaes ($7 each) which could be converted into shakes, and two floats (root beer and orange for $6 each). John chose the Nut Free PB&J (vanilla ice cream, Sunbutter, raspberry jam, vanilla wafers, whip [sic] cream. Arriving in a ubiquitous Ball jar, the Sunbutter tasted like the real deal.
My Death by Coffee went uneaten. The disappointing concoction was liquid by the time it came to the table. Sam explained there was no cold coffee in the kitchen, so he was forced to resort to hot coffee, which of course melted both the ice cream and the whipped cream. Despite my protests, Sam removed the price of the sundae from the tab, which was the right thing to do. He promised he would make me a proper Death by Coffee the next time we came in.
Other factors: Staff was neatly attired in black shirts boasting the “#get dirty”. Background music was loud but did not prevent normal conversation. While the ambiance and menu were geared to a younger crowd, service was caring and efficient.
Sriracha is a type of hot sauce made from a paste of chili peppers, distilled vinegar, garlic, sugar, and salt named after the coastal city of Si Racha, in eastern Thailand, where it may have been first produced for dishes served at local seafood restaurants.
Sunbutter is the brand name of a nut-free paste made from sunflower seeds.
WHERE: 512 State St., Schenectady, (518) 344-6975, www.slidindirty.com
WHEN: Mon-Tue 11am-11pm, Wed-Thu 11am-12am, Fri-Sat 11am-2am, Sun-11am-10pm (kitchen closes an hour earlier)
HOW MUCH: $51 for two people with soft drinks, appetizers and a dessert but without tax and tip
MORE INFO: Accessible, takeout, street parking, all major credit cards accepted, small open upper level