Burgers served with a side of spicy charisma
Small, clean, quaint and quiet: These are a few ways to describe the Fuller Road restaurant Dave’s Gourmet and Exotic Burgers.
But Dave Kahn, owner and head chef, is the exact opposite, as he bellows out eccentricities and funny jokes. He’s a man without a filter.
One example: if you ask for a burger cooked well done, he’ll bark, “If you order that I’ll have to shoot you!” But it’s all in good fun, and it’s definitely worth putting up with.
Kahn, with his short dark hair and salt-and-pepper goatee, makes the best burgers in town — and his personality is just as spunky and absurd as the items featured on his menu.
Kahn specializes in exotic burgers. You can find rare meats on his menu ranging from antelope to alligator and wild boar to rattlesnake, and everything in between.
At one time, he even had lion on his menu. Yes, you read that right — actual lion meat! The Albany Times Union wrote an article about how the animal conservation demonstrators protested the king-of-the-jungle-burger right off the menu.
The Times Union also profiled Kahn and his restaurant on more than one occasion and each review gave high stars to his cooking and the quality of his burgers.
And it’s true — the man knows how to craft a gourmet burger. Not convinced? See the reviews for yourself. Kahn has earned four and a half stars on Yelp.com.
The restaurant is a hidden gem, easily passable if you are not looking for it, off of Fuller Road. It’s a one-man operation — Kahn manages and cooks everything by himself.
The inside, however, looks brand new, with tan tiled floors that match sponged-painted beige walls. The walls have stenciled animal shapes and names of exotic meats found on the menu, such as camel, armadillo, and lamb, painted on them.
The exotic burgers range in price anywhere from $15 to $30, and they come with bottomless fries. The fries are the best I have ever had, and according to Kahn, the best fries in the world. With each spice carefully balanced to match the perfect combination of seasonings and salts, every mouthful is better than the last. Don’t let the prices scare you away.
If you are not into the $30 gourmet burgers, or perhaps are a little wary of the exotic animals, there are regular burgers on the menu for only $2 (add another dollar for cheese) that are just as tasty. All of Kahn’s burgers come topped with his special sauce, which is unbelievably delicious, but he wouldn’t give you the recipe even if you begged.
I ordered the 100 percent Kobe Beef burger, medium rare. The taste was incredible. I have never had a burger like it. One after another, each bite filled my mouth with an explosion of flavor like a river of juicy goodness gushing over my taste buds.
Kahn has had plenty of time to perfect his delectable recipes and exquisite formulas. Formerly a body-builder, Kahn went into the restaurant business when he was just 18 years old, starting as a cook in his home country of India. He moved to many countries throughout his life, working as either a cook or chef throughout his 42 years.
He’s lived in Pakistan, Turkey, Hong Kong, Dubai, America, Egypt, Sri Lanka, and Singapore, each time taking something out of the cooking traditions and using it to shape his own style of cooking. Singapore, he said, would have to be his favorite. A country so clean, as he claims, one can walk barefoot with dirty feet down the street, to the subway, and it would be like you just showered.
He said his culinary style is also influenced by Greek and Indian cooking. He’s disgusted by Italian food. He said it involves too many tomatoes, which, according to him, were first used in India and weren’t introduced to Italy until 400 years ago.
Kahn isn’t one to base judgments off of race or appearance. In fact, he stated that he went into the exotic meat business because of racial judgments and profiling. He told me a story, as my mouth was watering from my burger, about when he first opened a restaurant that didn’t specialize in exotic meats.
“When I first started as a head chef in America, when people saw my face they asked for chicken curry because I looked Indian,” Kahn explained.
He said when he started selling exotic meats people no longer cared about his face but instead were so interested in the menu items. He also said that Indians who own Indian restaurants are just afraid to leave their comfort zones, and he said the same of Chinese-owned Chinese restaurants.
Kahn has a special license from the New York State Health Department in exotic foods, and sometimes the meats are taxed more than the price he actually serves them for, causing Dave to lose money on certain burgers. He believes it is all worth it. So, if you are a college student looking to have a sit-down meal and eat fantastic meats, I suggest you come to Dave’s Gourmet and Exotic Burgers.
After all, it’s right down the street, and your money gets you much more than appetizing food. Kahn is a show in himself and will always welcome you into his restaurant with a hospitable smile and a sincere, “Hey, how are you doing my friend?!”