The hamburger is the quintessential American sandwich, and no series about State Fair food would be complete without looking at the various types of hamburgers served by the concessions around the fairgrounds. We sampled four different and unique burgers by three different vendors at the Big E:
Alligator Burger and Kangaroo Burger, at Yankee Boy:
Yankee Boy is a catch-all sort of eatery at the east end of the fairgrounds between the Young Building and the Better Living Center, between Gate 7 and Gate 9A. They have a large and varied menu which includes lobster dinners and other seafood, slow-cooked barbecue, burgers, and more. The burgers they offer include alligator and kangaroo, which are the ones we tried.
|Left: Alligator Burger. Right: Kangaroo Burger.|
The alligator burger was only marginally better. It was soft and spongy in texture, and loaded with so many fillers, seasonings, and hot spices that it was impossible to tell whether one was eating alligator or just some elaborately-formulated bread patty. Okay, so I did detect bits of what looked like alligator meat in the mix, but as Maryanne remarked after taking a bite: "I might as well be eating stuffing from a turkey for all the filler here." This was another waste of $9.25 - We had three adults and two kids sitting around our table, and not a single person was willing to choke down anything past a sample bite of either sandwich. We carried most of the two burgers home as dog treats.
The Craz-E Burger
The Craz-E Burger was introduced at the Big E in 2009 to be the "signature burger" of the fair. It is available only at the Big EZ Cafe, outside Door 7 of the Better Living Center, and costs $6.00. The Big EZ Cafe is an easy place to find, because they cover the cafe sign with a "Craz-E Burger" banner.
The Craz-E Burger is a bacon-cheeseburger served on a split glazed donut instead of a standard bun, and is a familiar sight to foodies and fairgoers, since it swept the state fair circuit after its introduction in 2005 at a Decatur, GA bar.
The Big E's version uses a previously-frozen machine-formed burger patty topped with American cheese and two slices of bacon sandwiched between halves of generic glazed donuts (the original called for Krispy Kremes.)
The overall flavor effect of the Craz-E Burger is pretty decent. Everyone already knows how well beef, bacon, and cheese combine - the glazed donut complements and enhances the other flavors, especially that of the bacon. Our biggest problem with the burger was the low quality of the Big E's choice of hamburger puck and the overall greasy, wet, soggy texture of the whole thing. Glazed donuts really aren't the ideal bun for a cheeseburger - they're soft and squishy and fragile and they really haven't got the body to hold up to the job. In addition, the donuts halves are grilled and the heat makes the glaze melt. We wound up being served squishy, greasy, sticky burgers that were admittedly pretty good-tasting, but a disgusting nightmare to eat. A shame, really, because with a little more advance planning, Craz-E Burgers could be really decent: Use a hand-formed patty with lower fat content, a sharper cheese, and a donut with a little more body.
Or, you can just say the hell with the Craz-E burger, and head to the Food Court booth of local burger joint White Hut, where you will find the sandwich that the Craz-E Burger desperately wants to be, but never will:
The White Hut Waffle Burger
The White Hut burger restaurant has been in business on Memorial Drive in West Springfield since the 1930's, and they still make their usual burgers in the 1930's fashion using thin, quickly-grilled patties. Their own signature burger is served loaded with a big pile of lightly caramelized onions, and they're wildly popular - it's impossible to get near the place at lunchtime.
At the Big E, though, White Hut operates a walk-up in the Food Court and the lines to get their food are more orderly and manageable. You can order a standard White Hut burger from them...or you can go for their Waffle Burger.
The Waffle Burger is a double bacon cheeseburger served on two Belgian waffles in place of a bun. There is no syrup or glazing involved, but there is an inherent sweetness baked into the waffles that adds to the flavor without covering your fingers in sticky goo. Although the burger patties are thin, the experienced burgertarians at White Hut know how to not overcook them, so they are juicy and flavorful and provide a good composite patty when topped with cheese and doubled up. They also use bacon strips formed into a round shape to better fit the sandwich.
As it turns out, using waffles instead of a donut is a brilliant idea. The waffles have a donut-like texture and flavor, but hold up so much better under their beef and bacon cargo. White Hut serves them up for the same price as Big EZ's Craz-E Burger - $6.00 - but they are so much better.
- Yankee Boy Alligator Burger - wet patty with more filler than gator. Highway robbery at $9.25
- Yankee Boy Kangaroo Burger - Overcooked, bad texture, save your $9.25 and your appetite for something worth eating.
- Big E's Craz-E Burger - greasy, sticky, squishy, economy-grade beef, $6.00
- White Hut's Waffle Burger - Best of the bunch, $6.00