Tonawanda News


July 30, 2010

Show some love for locally made burgers

NORTH TONAWANDA — Eddie Murphy’s mother may have been on to something.

The matriarch of the 1980s stand-up comedy king was the inspiration for one of his trademark routines, about how homemade hamburgers didn’t quite stack up in a child’s mind to its fast-food equivalent.

In an adolescent voice, Murphy recalled watching his mother make him a burger: “Green peppers? There ain’t no green peppers in burgers ... what you need eggs for? I want hamburgers. You’re making Egg McMuffins.”

But indeed, while “better burgers” have sprouted up across the nation as the focal point of “gourmet” fast-food eateries, burgers with a softer touch still appeal to many diners.

Take Vizzi’s in Kenmore. The Kenmore Avenue eatery was recently christened the home of Western New York’s best burgers by Buffalo Spree magazine, an honor that co-owner Joe Vizzi didn’t see coming.

“We don’t particularly promote our burger as our leader, but it’s overtaken our roast been in the last three years,” said Vizzi, who noted that Vizzi’s burgers have appeared on other regional best-of lists in that timeframe. “We just happened to have this hit with this burger.”

A key to Vizzi’s latest hit is premium ground beef, Vizzi said — “we pay more than the average person pays,” he said — that is treated using a combination of herbs and spices that he wasn’t keen on revealing. But cooking method also matters, according to the Buffalo Spree judges, as Vizzi’s was lauded for offering the tasty contrast of a crunchy, well-done exterior with a softer, medium-rare inside.

If Vizzi’s adheres to the spirit of Murphy’s mother in terms of making burgers, then Malone’s in Kenmore complies more with the literal method. Kristen Kimmerle, manager of the Delaware Avenue eatery, called Malone’s one-pound burger “a really big, homemade Italian meatball, only much bigger.”

The one-pounder is made fresh on site, she said (smaller burgers are pre-purchased patties that are doctored by Malone’s chefs). Pure ground beef is utilized, she said, with the one-pounder then absorbing a combination of spices (which Kimmerle also declined to divulge, except to say that some of the seasonings were Italian in origin).

Both restaurateurs agreed that, regardless of the shape, burgers have caught on in a big way of late.

“There’s a big burger craze here in Western New York,” Vizzi said. “With the economy the way it is, it’s an inexpensive meal, and you can take your family out for a meal and feed everyone.”

The appeal of having something different should also be considered, Kimmerle said — even if, as Murphy opined, it’s annoying to have to take the excess pieces of square bread off around the edges of the meat to make the homemade burger look more like the “real thing.”

“Usually, people don’t like meat,” Kimmerle said. “But sometimes, you come out for a good, juicy burger and some nice, crisp French fries — something you don’t usually make at home.”

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