Sunday

The River Tour - Bruce Springsteen in Albany, NY - 10 February 2016

I wrote the majority of this blog post on the Amtrak train from Albany back to New York.  There are better places to write about Bruce Springsteen, but then there’s no easy place. You see the problem with Bruce is that he’s impossibly hard work. High maintenance. Yep, I love him – his music, his energy, his lyrics. But how can I ever really convey that feeling in a blog post? Are there any words good enough? How can I do him, the band, and their shows justice? I always feel like I can’t.

Luckily I’m writing for an audience that also *gets it*. Sure, there’ll be a few people passing through this space for burger recommendations – and for that there are many. And finding words about burgers is simple enough. But Bruce? Oh man. So hard. And for that reason, and coinciding with a pause in touring, I’ve had a looooong siesta from blogging about Bruce. In one sense it’s been quite nice to not feel that weird pressure, but at the same time it’s been a big old hole in my life. Like Bruce, I love dem  tours.

So when the River tour was announced there was no question that I had to go. I HAD to! Off I went to New York on Friday 5 Feb, spent a couple of nights trotting around the city, eating burgers, drinking beer, kayaking on the Hudson river (try it!). And then to Albany.

A photo posted by Hannah Summers (@burgersandbruce) on

“Why Albany?” people said. They said it might be boring. They said it had no redeeming qualities (their words). It’s certainly no hotbed of cool dive bars and burger joints, but it is the fifth-oldest city in the US and the town that invented perforated toilet paper. Beat that, Philly.

So this was my first time doing the lottery system in the US, which if you aren’t familiar with it, it’s a system where you go to the venue on the day and get a wristband with a number on it, then they pull a random number out a hat/bowl/bucket and the first 300 or so after that number (depending on the size of the pit) are let into the front section. Now, if this all goes your way (and we tried to do a lot of maths, I think there’s a one in fiveish chance it will?!) then you’re laughing all the way back to the Holiday Inn Express. If it doesn’t – well, it’s still brilliant isn’t it. But hopes are often set on the pit. 

Anyway, there I was in Albany with my pal Steve (@GreasyLake on Twitter), his wife Lucie and my friend I’d met in Kilkenny, Anne-Marie. The angst! Knowing that your ‘Bruce fate’ is in the hands of some random number being picked is mega unsettling. BUT if you’re quite along the ‘what will be will be/everything happens for a reason’ mindset – which I try to be because it’s the most positive way of coping with the largely important but still shitty stuff –  then the day is a little easier to stomach. All outcomes are great, that’s what you gotta remember. 

So we queued up to get our wristbands, and I saw that they were purple. Purple! My favourite colour; I’m Bruce-level obsessed. And – call me a hippie – but that’s when I knew we were in. I just knew. We came back at 5pm (snowy, chilly, pizza-filled) and they picked out number 148. I was number 240, so we were within the first 100 people into the pit. Lucky, lucky purple. Lucky people, too.

With Steve @GreasyLake on Twitter

I don’t think I need to give you the song-by-song account – we all know what this tour is about: The River. In the run up I wasn’t sure how I felt about this. I love Bruce for his spontaneity, for the highs and lows that his carefully curated setlists – dotted with random curve balls – provide. And when people ask why I go to his concerts so much, I can tell them that I never know what I’m going to hear. Well this year I do. But I’m OK with it. And I think, although some fans have reservations, we’re all ultimately united in the fact that the band is still touring. I’ll take everything I can.  

Meet me in the City is a blinding opener, and I love it we’re getting to hear it like that. We're all familiar with that feeling you get when Bruce walks out and you just KNOW what you’re about to experience; how you’ll strut out that concert with clarity, believing you can achieve anything, and with a greater understand of your, er, 'life direction'. It did that. I did that! Then The River – Sherry Darling (a song that I’ll admit I really haven’t liked on the album, but live it’s so fun and energy-packed) and the intro to Point Blank – I mean COME ON!

Hungry Heart came with crowdsurfing, obvs.




Fade Away, Stolen Car, Crush on You I LOVED (I’d read that that’s when people went off to get hotdogs, but I didn’t see any of that). And of course, Drive All Night. Pow!

I did feel a big song was needed and it was Badlands (Loose Ends was dropped). Now I’ve heard Badlands tonnes of times, but I can honestly say I really do love it more each time. It’s the song I stick on when I need a mega pick me up – the song that taught me to keep on dreaming. Yeah yeah, mock me! But seeing that song performed live, and the things it does to my health and head? I don’t think there’s anything better for me.

I think the crowd felt the same way, and assuming quite a few in the arena crowd wouldn't have been familiar with The River in its entirety, it just worked. Combined with Wrecking Ball, Backstreets, Be True (big love), Because the Night, The Rising etc, it kept the 18,000-strong stadium mega happy and engaged. Detroit Medley (the sign request) was THE NUTS, and considering signs have been largely ignored to date, I really didn’t see them pulling that out the bag (nor did Stevie by the look on his face). I’d love to see more outtakes in this point, but maybe it’s just not time yet. I really hope they'll come.

Then of course Born to Run… the song that started this whole thing for me via my dad, and Rosalita. Shout, which still remains one of my fav ways to end the concert, I don’t think I’ll tire of it.













Now Bruce of course was on point – the band, particularly Stevie, were loving it. But Jake. Jake was the one that was a massive WOW. He completely nailed every solo, and this tour, and album, is giving him a chance for his talent to really shine through.


Albany was a night I’ll never forget. It was a weekend I’ll never forget. I say this all the time, but Springsteen for me isn’t just about the music, it’s about the friends I’ve made along the way. I spent this weekend getting to know some truly awesome people even better, and met new ones, too – people from Twitter, couples who were travelling all over the US for shows, a couple of guys from England who add songs to their spreadsheet after each concert.

We all geek-out over Bruce in one way or another, and he rewards us for it.

The River tour 2016 – I'm coming for ya.

A photo posted by Hannah Summers (@burgersandbruce) on


Thank you Lucie and Steve, aka Greasy Lake, for the good times, and for sharing a couple of your pics for this post! 

Tuesday

The burger at the Outpost pub, Lake Louise, Canada

Lake Louise, Canada, is one of those one-horse town kinda places. Except calling it a town is quite generous – the 'town' consists of a car park with a post office (closed), supermarket (tiny) and a pub (more on the pub later). That's not a town, it's not even a village. It's just a car park. And there are no horses.

Anyway, people don't go to Lake Louise for the car park, they go for the lake (pictured below, it's real nice).

I was in Lake Louise and I needed somewhere to eat. I'm new to this hiking thing, and it makes me hungry! Finding somewhere to eat in a one-horse town is pretty hard, and I ended up in the only pub Lake Louise has: the Outpost.

In the pub there was a dude working behind the bar, and he was great – really kind and enthusiastic. I asked what he recommended and he said the burger at the pub was one of the best he'd ever eaten.

Now call me a burger snob, but I just didn't believe him. Not because I thought he was a liar, but because I thought that he obviously a) didn't eat many burgers, which would probably make this one amazing b) was trying to do a hard sell (why? I dunno) c) had a tendency to exaggerate. "Yeah yeah," I thought, looking around me at the pub. "The burger is blatantly dry and butters."

As I waited for my burger to arrive, I ate some seriously sexy chips, with cheese curds and gravy. This got my excited, because these chips were fit.


And then the burger. I mean – *wow*. I know it doesn't look like much (it was darkish in there), but it was exactly what I wanted my burger to be at that point in time. A hug in a bun. Just siiiiiimmple, saucy, warming, cheesed-up. No cutting corners with gritty frozen patties or old, wilting lettuce. Someone in that kitchen really loved making it. You know when you can tell that a burger has been loved?


This burger in Lake Louise *is* one of the best that the bar dude has eaten, because it's one of the best that I've eaten, too.

As for the lake and the hiking? They aren't so bad either.


A photo posted by Hannah Summers (@burgersandbruce) on


Sunday

Four of the best burgers in Puerto Rico – yum time

I have burgered! I have blogged! 

For the last two weeks I've been sunning it in Puerto Rico. Why? Because I'm not sure about Christmas. Now that Santa's not bringing me toys Xmas just makes me feel claustrophobic. It makes me feel lethargic. It makes me feel like I don't know what day it is, even more so than when I normally don't know what day it is. 

Christmas, for me, is better when the sun is blazing; when you don't have Cadbury Celebrations chocolates for breakfast, because you're having a beer. Or two. It's Christmas!

14 days, four burgers, hundreds of deep-fried snacks. The Puerto Ricans love calorie-laden snackettes  cheese balls, corn sticks, fish nuggets and other unidentifiable crispy, oily, golden goodies served with a pinky mayo and a can of Medalla light beer. That's just for starters.

Burger one: Villa Cofresi, Rincon

Rincon is a surf town where everyone says "what's up, dude?"; where 60-year-old surfers have a better bod than you'll ever have (I mean me); where you'll hear a lot of Guns N' Roses and Bon Jovi. At Villa Cofresi (sounds really grand but it's just nice and normal) the tourists and locals mingle over coquitos – coconuts filled with rum, coconut water and cinnamon. And they eat burgers. These burgers:

burger Rincon Puerto Rico

Beautifully simple. Grilled patties topped with 'shit cheese', slithers of pickle and white lettuce that's trying to be green. You add your own smears of ketchup. At five dollars with chips, this was one of the cheapest, and the best cheeseburgers in PR. I think about it and it makes me smile. Because who needs fuss? Not me, not Bruce. (You read this blog, right?) 

Here are some more, in no particular order.

Burger two: Annie's Place, El Combate

El Combate is a town that has been fiercely fought over because of the salt plains that back onto the beach  neon-pink pools of water with white mounds of salt at the side. Back in the day, everyone wanted a piece of that sexy salt.

The beach looks like this. It's stupidly good.

El Combate beach Puerto Rico

Annie's Place is the village's best 'restaurant'  jammed with tables and chairs (sticky, plastic, groaning), it's a place where they play the music's so loud that you have to shout at your dining companion: "WHY DO THEY ONLY HAVE LIGHT BEER IN PUERTO RICO?/DO YOU WANT A COORS LIGHT OR MEDALLA LIGHT?/CAN I EAT THAT LAST CHEESE BALL?", etc.

Here's the burger:

Annie's Place burger El Combate Puerto Rico

It comes with two patties  thick, lightly seasoned, largely fuss-free patties topped with American cheese, a ring of raw onion and chips that  in a good way  taste like Burger King chips. Hundreds of them. It was huuuuuuge; so huge we had to split it in half  mental. I never share food.

Burger three: Bili, Vieques Island

Vieques is a little island off the coast of Puerto Rico, where wild horses roam free, standing in the middle of the road munching on a bit of leaf or something. This was the swankiest burger of my trip, but even then, it's not swanky. It's a beaut though  a 3cm-tall patty, dolloped with a sweet plantain chutney (yeah, chutney!), lettuce and blue cheese sauce. It's then protected by a barrier of sweet potato fries.

burger Esperanza Vieques island Puerto Rico

Burger four: Hortas BBA, Vieques Island

I had this burger at a BBQ place serving some of the best local food we had on the trip (we tried local stuff too, I don't only eat burgers). I LOVED this burger. It was biiiig, and I liked the Caribbean vibes with the sweet, fried plantain, which, combined with the salty beef, crispy bacon, cheese slices (two types) and tangy pickles, was a proper game changer for me. Should I eat banana in a burger back home? Hmmm. It came with tostades  crunchy, fried discs of plantain (the less ripe variety, so it tastes more savoury). I dipped it in the runny guava-BBQ sauce. Oh my!


Christmas + burgers + Puerto Rico = big fat yes.


I always try to write about the food I eat, but sometimes that's just not poss. That would be A LOT of words. You can follow my food- and Bruce-based escapades over on Instagram and Twitter


Thursday

New book: Bruce Springsteen and The E Street Band by Barbara Pyle and Snap Galleries Springsteen exhibition

WARNING. This blog post comes with the risk of dropping a couple of hundred beans on Springsteen prints. The good news is you can also buy a book for far less.

As you may have seen, a book of fiiiiine Springsteen and the E Street Band pics is due to be published by Reel Art Press at the beginning of November. The book's the work of Barbara Pyle and captures photos of the band during the recording, rehearsing and touring of Born to Run. It's all behind-the-scenes stuff and Barbara was one of the only photographers at the time to get inside access to the band.

Along with photos of the band on tour, it includes pages of their first ever passport photos. 

I know right, it's gonna be a corker. 

Below you can see a couple of images from the book (I've seen more, and they are aces).

Along with this, there's an exhibition taking place at Snap Galleries in London until 28 November where you can buy some of Eric Meola's Springsteen photographs taken in 1977. Eric is pals with Barbara, and Snap Galleries is running an exhibition of his work to coincide with 40 years of Born to Run and the launch of Barbara's book (which you can also buy there).

The prints are a bit spenny, but as with all money spent on Springsteen, it's best to consider it an investment piece. Plus, it's better than a print of Van Gogh's Sunflowers. If that's on your wall, you need to replace it, quick.

Thinking of buying the book? Course you are. Details are here (it's usually £40 but looks like it's less sometimes) and some of the pics below.  Details on the Snap Galleries exhibition can be found here

Contain yourself, it's exciting stuff:

BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN & THE E STREET BAND 1975
Photographs by Barbara Pyle

Barbara Pyle Bruce Springsteen book

Blatantly just polished off a burger

Oh!






No one can rock those sandals, not even Bruce



I love this pic but he ain't gonna get a shot without a ball







All images © Barbara Pyle/Reel Art Press.

Tuesday

Where to eat in NEW YORK – the best breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks in Manhattan and beyond

I've been emailing people loads of tips about where to eat in New York, and then I realised I really should just stick them up on the old blog. 

Along with this list, I'd also check out this feature I wrote for the Guardian's travel section where I use Instagram to make food-based decisions in the city. I list my fav NYC food accounts to follow and you can see where they eat.

I've tried to divide this into meal types, and listed the locations. When I go to NY I have to annotate maps to make sure I get to everywhere I want to eat. You should do the same, obviously.

Hokay!

First things first, BURGERS:
  
Genuine Roadside, Gotham West Market (and now downtown, too)
This is hands down one of the best burgers in New York, if not IN THE WORLD. It's a little bit out of the way in Gotham West Market but really worth it for lunch – good tunes (Tom Petty, the Clash and Springsteen when I was there) and a retro-inspired interior. Burgers are along the same lines as Shake Shack in that they aren't gourmet, or expensive – try the buttermilk chicken burger and the standard cheeseburger. GO GO GO. And then send me pictures, please.

Genuine Roadside burgers
Genuine Roadside

Genuine Roadside cheeseburger
Doink!

Shake Shack, various locations (off Times Square handy for late nights)
Yep we have several in London, but these are some of the best most accessible burgers in NYC. If you haven't heard me bang on about it before, Shake Shack helped inspire this blog – I was munching one of the restaurant's burgers before a Springsteen concert in NY in 2012, and thought I loved both burgers and Bruce, A LOT. And voila. There are queues, but it's worth it. I'd recommend going around 11pm if you're hungry after a few beers. Also check out the Grand Central Station one for breakfast.

Ramen Co burger
Ramen Co

Ramen Co, various locations
Yeah, it's a bit trendy, but it *does* taste good. Boiled noodles are squidged into a disc shape and then fried to make the 'bun'. Stick them with some beef and you have a slightly more healthy take on a burger. Sort of. It has a fast food vibe so don't go and expect to sit down for a long, leisurely lunch.

BREAKFAST/COFFEE

Summers Cafe, 155 S 4th Street, Brooklyn
Well it IS my name! Local Brooklyn-based coffee shop, good if you're staying in the area and need some caffeine in the morning.

Oslo Coffee, 133, Roebling Street, Williamsburg, Brooklyn
Hipster coffee shop in the burg, they have their own roasters and it's a handy place to have a coffee sitting down.

Joe Coffee, various locations
One of my fav coffee shops in NY, consistently good, chilled vibe. If you see one def go in!

Sweet Chick, 164 Bedford Avenue, Williamsburg, Brooklyn
Could pass as a breakfast and lunch place – I went for the fried chicken and waffles (with three different types of butter) and shiiiit loads of maple syrup. It's on Bedford Avenue in Brooklyn, where there are loads of nice restaurants, vintage shops and little bars (try the Gibson, they were playing the Toots and the Maytals when I went).

Sweet Chick waffles and fried chicken
With THREE different butters

Black Seed Bagel, 170 Elizabeth Street, Manhattan
It's a bit pricier than your average bagel place in NY, but that's because they have more elaborate creations. Below is a baked egg, cheddar and bacon on an everything bagel, and a maple ham, gruyere cheese and sour pickles on a normal bagel. It's small and busy, but arrive early and you should be able to get a stool to eat in. Or just eat and walk.

Black Seed bagels

Black Seed bagels

Murray's Bagels, various locations
More of a 'normal' NY bagel place, people go on the way to work. Loads of cream cheese varieties and different types of bagels – functional and good!

Nom Wah Tea Parlor, 13 Doyer Street, Chinatown, Manhattan
Great place in Manhattan's Chinatown for huuuuuuuge portions of dim sum in a vintage tea room setting. Loads of food for your dollar. Go hungry! Leave defeated.

Nom Wah Tea Parlor

Little Collins, 667 Lexington Avenue (near Central Park)
This is the place to come for avocado smash – avocado with feta, chilli, lime and seeds, with a coffee on the side. It's crazily popular but one of the best places for it. 

Little Collins avocado smash
Smash

SNACKS

Joe's Pizza, 7 Carmine Street, Greenwich Village, Manhattan
There are loads of dollar slice pizza places in New York – many are good, but this institution's worth the extra dollar (around $2 a go). Standing room only, nip in for a slice and listen to some tunes on the radio (Dylan and Springsteen when I was there). Food tastes better with good music, and that's a fact.

Joe's Pizza
Dollar(ish) pizza

Mei Lai Wah Bakery, 64 Bayard Street, Chinatown, Manhattan
Come here for soft, pillowy dollar pork buns when you fancy a snack! Grab and go kind of place.

Dollar pork buns

New World Mall Food Court, Flushing, Queens
This place in Flushing, Queens, is a bit of a mission if you're on your first NYC trip (you may not make it out to Queens), BUT Flushing is known as the real Chinatown, so if you get the chance, head to this food court for noodles and dumplings.

Arepa Lady, Jackson Heights, Queens
Again, maybe a bit out of town if it's your first visit, but Jackson Heights is a good area to explore if you're looking for loads of different foods, from Colombian to Tibetan. Go to the Arepa Lady's little cafe for arepas with condensed milk or savoury options. 

Blue Stove, Brooklyn
Sooooooo many delicious pie creations – I loved the apple, rosemary, blueberry and blackberry pie with an oat and brown sugar crumb.

Blue Stove pies
PIE!

Lunch/ Dinner

Bronx Beer Hall, Arthur Avenue Market, The Bronx
If you have time, definitely get out of Manhattan and head to the Bronx. The Bronx Beer Hall in the historic Arthur Avenue Market is surrounded by old-school food stalls – try Mike's Deli for parmigiana and cafe el mercarto for grandma's pie. They'll also bring you burgers and garlic bread knots while you drink loads of beer (anything from a blood orange pale ale, to more normal stuff). It's a great, unpretentious place for a local neighbourhood vibe and food made with love. Over the road is an Italian restaurant that serves killer espresso martinis. 

Bronx Beer Hall
Garlic knots

Bronx Beer Hall
Grandma's pie


Paulie Gee's, 60 Greenpoint Avenue, Brooklyn
Loads of guidebooks will send you to Grimaldi's in Brooklyn for pizza. It IS good, but Paulie Gee's is also flipping marvellous, and doesn't come with the same queues (although sometimes there are some, be warned). It's hidden behind some big, wooden barn doors, and there are extensive vegan and vegetarian options, too. The Cherry Jones was my fav: fresh mozzarella, gorgonzola, prosciutto, dried bing cherries and orange blossom honey. Down the road is a nice neighbourhood bar/pub called the Achilles Heel, good to swing by for a drink before/after.

The Meatball Shop, Greenwich and Brooklyn
Really popular restaurant with a few locations, focusing on, you guessed it, meatballs. Loads of different meat varieties and sauces to choose from.

The Meatball Shop New York

Xi'an Famous Foods, various locations
A1 (Liang Pi cold-skin noodles) is the famous dish here. It's cold, fresh, fragrant and tangy (vinegar, garlic, chilli and beansprouts mixed with noodles). Really worth going for properly good noodle dishes, with lots of veggie options, too.

Xi'an Famous Foods

DRINKS

If you don't go out drinking, then you're doing New York wrong. Here's a whole other post about the best places to go drinking. 

This will be a growing list, I'm sure.

Eat well people! 


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