ALBANY, NY: A restaurant that serves exclusively vegan meals was welcomed to downtown Albany with a ribbon cutting ceremony today, November 19, 2021. Joining Owners Alex Berta and Chris Carpentier and Downtown Albany Business Improvement District (BID) Executive Director Georgette Steffens in welcoming Wizard Burger to its 74 N Pearl Street location were City of Albany Treasurer Darius Shahinfar, Albany County Senior Policy Analyst Lucas Rogers, and Redburn Development Partners Principal Jeff Buell.
Berta and Carpentier share a background in the region’s restaurant industry, and knew they would open their own restaurant someday and were always on the lookout for the right opportunity. Having had an eye on Albany for a few years, the right moment came when Redburn Development Partners began bringing their Downtown portfolio online. The 1,000-square-foot Wizard Burger opened inside the historic Kenmore Building in mid-March for takeout and delivery, with the dining space opening this fall, and Berta says feedback has been overwhelmingly positive.
Wizard Burger’s name comes from Berta’s recent rewatching of Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter, and what he calls Albany’s “wizardy” architecture, adding that it often feels like something is magical happening just beyond what can be seen. Inside the restaurant, that magic comes in the form of burgers and sides featuring names like Sorcerer Supreme, Magic-ano, Bilbo-Q, Cluckerella, and Mumbo Jumbo, for which Berta credits business partner Beth Mickalonis, calling her “the real creative genius.” Among the most popular items are The Orc Popper, which features an Impossible patty, cream cheese, onion rings, melba, and jalapenos, and The Raptor which features crispy chick’n, ranch, and lettuce. Their recently launched breakfast menu, currently available Wednesday-Friday 7:00-11:00 AM, includes items The Early Ogre, which features Just Egg, shitake mushroom “bacon”, greens, and sriracha aioli on an English muffin, and Second Breakfast, which features Just Egg, an Impossible patty, tater tots, American cheese, maple syrup, and jalapeno garlic crema on a potato bun.
While Berta and Carpentier set the goal to get as many people as possible to try vegan food, Berta notes there was some debate prior to opening of whether to operate a business that was 100 percent vegan. Originally, the plan was a basic burger place, but the duo’s tendency to think and stay outside of the box won, and they ended up with a larger menu than planned, and one he anticipates will continue to grow in the coming years. Plans also include extending their beverage options, which currently includes beer, hard cider, and wine, to include cocktails as well.
With a menu that features meatless protein including Impossible burgers and Chick’n, fresh produce, and potato or pretzel buns, Berta says the restaurant – and interest in vegan meals – has grown in the region, for both those who are vegan and those seeking to expand their food horizons. Crediting new health and environmental information for reasons people are switching to a vegan diet, he says they have many guests who aren’t vegan but are people who want to try new, great food.
Those customers who are picking up orders or dining in, Berta says, are a mix of Downtown residents and employees who’ve become regulars, and those who are attending performances at nearby entertainment venues. The taste of their magical menu extends much farther out, as he notes that delivery requests are coming in from all over the Capital Region.
Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan said “I am thrilled to be officially welcoming Wizard Burgers to downtown Albany although they have been serving up their fantastic exclusively vegan meals for take-out and delivery since March. I want to thank Jeff Buell and Redburn Development and the Downtown BID for another terrific partnership in downtown Albany. Congratulations and welcome to co-owners Alex Berta and Chris Carpentier. I’m looking forward to visiting the dine in space in Albany’s historic Kenmore building this fall.”
Wizard Burger co-owner Alex Berta said “The choice to open in Downtown was an easy one. Redburn is such a great company to work with, and the building is awesome and really speaks to our magical, wizarding ways. The neighborhood has so much going for it with so many great already established restaurants and entertainment. It's super walkable and just a great energy, and we are excited to be a part of it.”
Assemblymember Patricia Fahy said “Yet another great addition to a thriving and growing downtown community here in Albany, I congratulate Wizard Burger on their grand opening at 74 North Pearl Street. We’re witnessing a post-pandemic revival and renaissance that’s drawing on downtown Albany’s historical, cultural, and economic prowess — and the Downtown Albany BID continues to lead the way for new and emerging business owners. Make sure you stop down and grab a bite to eat from Wizard Burger!”
Albany County Executive Daniel P. McCoy said “Whether you’re a vegan or just looking to cut back on your meat and dairy consumption and the impact on the environment, Wizard Burger has a delicious, quality meal waiting for any customer and I couldn’t be more excited to welcome this new business to Albany County. The Downtown Albany neighborhood and the Kenmore building have undergone incredible transformations in such a short span of time thanks to partners like Redburn Development and the Downtown BID, and I commend Alex Berta and Chris Carpentier for investing in the future of this neighborhood and our residents.”
Redburn Development Partners Principal Jeff Buell said “People often ask how do we fill these spaces, and a lot of it is personal relationships. We met Alex, Chris, and Kate in Schenectady years ago, and now to see them on their fourth or fifth concept and to have them do this is a really great value to the region. Congratulations, you guys are the best, and I'm very happy for you."
Georgette Steffens, Downtown Albany BID Executive Director said “We are thrilled to officially welcome Downtown’s first fully vegan restaurant today. The opening of Wizard Burger shows once again that our business owners understand how critical it is for people to be able to dine on a delicious meal regardless of dietary need or choice. Our District is home to eateries with diverse dining selections, where residents, employees, and visitors who seek vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free options are able to find a meal that they will love. Wizard Burger’s success is due in no short part to the vision of Alex and Chris, their incredible product and creative menu, and personally, I highly recommend The Orc Popper and tater tots!”
Located at 74 N Pearl Street, Wizard Burger is open Monday-Tuesday Noon-9:00 PM, Wednesday-Friday 7:00 AM-9:00 PM, Saturday Noon-9:00 PM, and Sunday 11:00 AM-4:00 PM. Orders can be placed at the restaurant or online at wizardburger.com. For more information, follow Wizard Burger on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/TheWizardBurger or Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/TheWizardBurger/.