It Fits in a Tortilla . . .
5th Ave., Troy, 237-1177. Serving 5-9 Mon, 11-9 Tue-Thu, 11-10
Fri, 2-10 Sat. D, MC, V. Satellite operation: Baby Badass,
409 Fulton St., Troy. Serving 11-3 Mon-Fri. D, MC, V.
price range: $2.50 (single taco) to $9.75 (huge nacho
We don’t need no stinkin’ ambiance!
would enjoy a job that required me to answer the phone with
“Badass!” all day. Even after a year and a half in the business,
owner Mike Olekoski still seems to enjoy it. And when chef
Howard Yaeger is near the handset, he seems to put a special
vigor into the salutation.
But this is the same guy who puts pastrami into a burrito.
Smoked pastrami, no less. “Hey, what can I say?” says Yaeger.
“I’m from New York.”
That’s what I reckon to be the Badass secret: passion and
irreverence. With a love of beer. “We got our liquor license
last November,” says Yaeger, “and changed the menu as well—enlarged
it a lot, and added things like the Reuben burrito. The way
I look at it: I’m not Mexican. I’m not going to pretend anything’s
authentic. We just like to see what we can put into a burrito
Among them: a ham-and-cheese club, with bacon, garlic aioli
and tomatoes ($7.50). Grilled chicken breast with salsa in
a spinach tortilla ($8). Blackened catfish with rice and refried
beans ($7.50). And, of course, that unlikely-sounding Reuben
($8.50), which sports pastrami that Yaeger smokes himself,
combined with red cabbage in a crisp lime slaw, refried beans
and chipotle mayo.
This I could not resist, and it proved a worthy lunch adversary.
It’s sizeable, and I was with a very hungry group with whom
I sampled my way through some starters as well.
We visited the main Badass outlet, the one up in Lansingburgh,
that’s most easily accessed via Cohoes. But these were actors
who’d just finished a Romeo and Juliet morning performance
in downtown Troy, so we took the scenic route straight up
through the city.
It’s an unprepossessing side-street-located building that
could be just another bar save for the quirky mannequin in
the window. A handful of tables, some seats at the bar, a
row of TV screens with sports events on display. Romeo and
Juliet cheered a basketball game in which Romeo was invested.
That alone was enough to bond us with the owners and other
patrons. That we also dug the food was icing.
We started with an order of chorizo poppers ($5). Jalapeno
poppers are a great bar-food concept, combining heat and cheese
and deep-fried crunch; the Badass version takes it to a gourmet
level, if there’s such a thing in fast food. The chorizo is
homemade, as all sausage should be. It’s rolled into a swath
of bacon. It’s dipped into beer batter then dropped into oil.
It’s served with chipotle mayo.
awesome,” Romeo exclaimed, fighting Mercutio for another piece.
It’s caloric. “I’m not going to tell you it’s not,” says Yaeger.
“I was running a nutrition program to chart what we’re serving,
and I gave up. If you’re worried about calories, don’t eat
He offers an impressive foundation of from-scratch cookery.
“We don’t make the tortilla shells, but we make everything
else.” And recipes are drawn from a mixture of sources. “I
got my taco beef recipe from a woman at Carmine’s in New York.
They didn’t serve it in the restaurant, but it was part of
the family meal.”
Badass fries ($3) turn out to be thick jicama chips, and you
have to try them. Jicama is also called Mexican turnip, and
the root slices into pieces a bit too soft for frying, so
they get batter-coated first, upping the spiciness and adding
some crunch. The chipotle mayo is an addictive dip.
Burritos are also available a la carte, which is to say that
you can get them stuffed with blackened or beer-battered fish,
pulled pork, grilled tofu, beef or, of course, chicken for
$7 apiece. Add a dollar for pastrami, carne asada or chorizo;
add a half a buck if you want your burrito grilled. Tacos
follow the burrito model and are $2.50 apiece, $3.50 with
the more expensive meat, and an additional three bucks for
rice and beans. A plate of nachos is $6; a mountain of them,
with extra meat, sour cream, olives and more, is $9.75—and
that’s the most expensive item on the menu.
Blackened catfish makes an excellent taco filling, we discovered,
and the pulled pork filling has the right degree of smokiness.
Quesadillas ($5) are a foot in diameter, thick with a molten
interior of mixed cheeses and served with cilantro-flavored
Yes, there are wings ($7), chicken strips ($4.50/$6.50), traditional
fries ($3) and other gringo-friendly fare, but sooner or later
you’re going to hit that Reuben burrito. And there’s no going
here for a list of recently reviewed restaurants.
Ristorante (18 Division
St., Saratoga Springs) celebrates the second anniversary
of its monthly “Twelve” Program, a fundraising
initiative supporting local nonprofits and named
for a bronze panel from the Holy Door at St. Peter’s
Basilica in the Vatican. On the 12th of each month,
you can have 30 percent of your guest check donated
to the featured nonprofit. On April 12, the beneficiary
will be Aspire Programs, a New York State Education
Deptartment-approved preschool for children with
developmental, learning, and emotional disorders.
No reservations are needed, but call 580-0025
for more info. . . . Remember to pass your scraps