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Is Albany NY a Chow Free Zone?

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Help! Is there anything in Albany that is chowish? Are there regional specialities? I've been to Albany twice and yet to have a meal that i would say was delicous. I've been to Pearl, Nichole's, Taste of Greece (the best of the lot), Hot Dog Heaven and a couple of nondescript Thai and Indian takeouts. Have I just been unluckyor is finding tasty food a local problem?

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  1. Try Bob and Ron's Fish Fry on Central Ave (near the Everett Road exit from I-90). Albany-style fish fry is about as close to a regional specialty as we have. Also try Gus's Hot Dogs in Watervliet. For more international flavors try Yono's Indonesian restaurant in Armory Center, or Restaurant Saigon Vietnamese on Central Ave, or El Mariachi Mexican near the Empire State Plaza.

    6 Replies
    1. re: Amy

      The dim sum at Ocean Palace, I believe that's the name, were decent although limited. I'd return.

      1. re: Bud

        Ocean Palace has great Cantonese seafood as well as dim sum; highly recommended for authentic cooking; great selection of Chinese greens, too.

        1. re: PZ

          Another great place for authentic Hong Kong style Chinese is Emperor's at the bottom of Wolf Road. They have an excellent vegetarian menu, too.

      2. re: Amy

        Thanks for the replies. I will definitely try Bob and Ron's fish fry place next time. I also read about Famous Lunch in Troy for hot dogs. Have you been and is it good?

        1. re: gourmaniac

          Sorry, I've not been to Famous Lunch. But if you're in Troy, try Ali Baba's for great Turkish food. It's right near the RPI campus.

          1. re: gourmaniac
            s
            Studebaker_Hawk

            I never pass through Troy without stopping at Famous Lunch for at least a couple of their miniature hot dogs with zippy sauce. The place is timeless.

        2. My favorite is My Linh (Vietnamese) on Delaware Ave. - see link below. I think it's much better than Saigon (though also quite a bit more expensive - My Linh is "fine dining" while Saigon is much more informal). Bangkok Thai on Wolf Rd. is good, and if you like BBQ try Mo's in South Troy (phone number is 2MOSBBQ).

          Link: http://www.mylinhrestaurant.com

          2 Replies
          1. re: John Kent

            I agree, My Linh is my current favorite. I also agree with the first posting that Nicole's is not very good. It is very expensive, Jack's is a better restaurant for that type of menu.

            A few of my favorites:

            BFS and Barefoot Gypsy are great for soups, sandwiches, and salads.

            El Mariachi and El Loco Mexican for mexican.

            Peking for Thai, Dumpling House for dumplings.

            Sitar for upscale Indian food, Ghandi for lunch buffet Indian food.

            Uncle Milty's in Glenmont for diner breakfast and lunch with an occasional Greek special.

            Glenn Sanders for fine dining if you're going to Proctor's for a show.

            Bayou Cafe for beer and bar food.

            Roy's for Jamaican.

            That's just a few thoughts. I left out Italian, I haven't had many good Italian and pizza experiences here.

            1. re: John Kent

              Love BBQ and have eaten at Mo's (good, not great) but on recent passes in this area it seems to be closed or maybe moved from the original location. Any follow up?

            2. j
              Jose Rosario

              Sutters is a bar with the BEST BUFFALO WINGS IN ALL OF THE WORLD! Even better than buffalo!

              2 Replies
              1. re: Jose Rosario

                My favorite wings are from the Hill Street Cafe on lower Madison Ave., below the Empire State Plaza. All their food is top notch bar fare (burgers, wings, wraps, fries, chili) and they serve food past midnight, which is very rare here. Also, consistently excellent service. Only drawback is, why does anyone need six televisions in the dining room?

                1. re: Jose Rosario

                  I'd give Washington Tavern's wings the nod over Sutters. Both are very good.

                2. I have plenty of local Albany area favorites. In the interest of fairness, I must state we eat lots of seafood and vegetable/grain based dishes, no meat or chicken. It's always a joy to have breakfast or lunch at the Four Corners Luncheonette in Delmar, sassy older women waitresses, inventive creative food combos always changing and unique. For $6.95 the mountain of stacked salad with homemade hummus over grilled flatbread could feed two. Also, the Madison End's Cafe in Albany is a wonderful breakfast and lunch spot. Sushiwise, Saso's on Central Ave in Albany supremely rules, Saso is the owner and sushi chef and his wife Kathy waitresses, sweet friendly people putting out some wonderfully creative sushi and rolls, the cooked dishes are excellent as well. Pizzawise, one must try the Orchard Tavern in Albany at least once if coming through town, they've been there over 100 years! The pizza is unique in it's small rectangular shape cut into ten pieces, I think $4.75? There is something just right about the buttery crust, the atmosphere, the Paulaner Hefeweizen on tap, killer. Other good pizza spots are the Fountain on New Scotland in Albany and Mercato's in Delmar. For fine dining, I am always blown away by the River Street Cafe in Troy. From the complimentary chilled noodles and fabulously creamy horseradish mashed potatoes to the perfectly sauced boldly seasoned seasonally changing entress, this place exudes quality, charm and confidence. To fry fish in oil, one looks for a light tempuraesque coating to carry the delicate flavor and yes, Bob and Ron's is excellent. I took a Japanese friend there years ago and upon laying our fish frys in front of him, he grinned with excitement and said "Oh Maxwell, eel?" Huge. Combo's Fish Fry on Crane St in Schenectady is reknowned (by four of us at least) for the most amazingly light battering, super fresh oil, great fish and artisnal rolls, I guess Schenectady does bread well with Perecca's and whoever makes the rolls for Combo's. Ocean Blue in Halfmoon is our most "kind of like Cape Cod" place, strangely always filled with seniors everytime we go, and their warm lobster roll is out of this world. I still have warm memories of Hacienda, which was on Madison close to the Madison Ends Cafe, but El Mariachi will do just fine for quality Mexican food. And the bbq tofu burrito at Bomber's on Lark St has been my most craved food this summer, go figure. When I feel the need to bring my mother chopped chicken livers, I am headed to Schenectady to visit Gershon's, best deli type place in the area. Our friend has been recovering from surgery and has been craving chicken noodle soup, so I've brought her many different local attempts, and Gershon's reigns supreme! I get the "triple fish" ($9.75) with bagel, cream cheese, onions, tomato, cucumber, lettuce, whitefish salad and creamed herring, superb. When it's time for a beer, Mahar's on Madison is the best beer bar by far and the Albany Pump Station the best brewpub, amazingly great beer and the food is excellent as well. Veggiewise, Shades of Green is the "typical veggie joint" winner, great sandwiches and salads and their dinners are monstrous and super flavorful. Antipasto's is the "weird veggie place" winner with it's seemingly Italian dark wood fern bar strip mall vibe, and yes, the pizza and pasta dishes are great but the unique and inventive vegetarian dishes are mindblowingly delicious, the kitchen has quite a deft hand with tofu, tempeh and seitan. Their wine list is bookish in size and the beer cooler is filled with Orval, Duvel, Chimay and more quality brews. As always, "your mileage may vary", but there's a lot to look for in and around Albany.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: Maxwell

                    thanks for your long and heartfelt reply. i will certainly try soe of your excellent suggestions.

                    1. re: Maxwell

                      Hi - I just read about the Wine Bar and Bistro on Lark. Is that any good?

                      1. re: mveill1

                        Yes! Chef Jason Baker prepares fantastic meals. Look for my 4/6/11 description of a tasting dinner we had there at this link.
                        http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/7734...

                        -----
                        Wine Bar & Bistro
                        200 Lark, Albany, NY 12202

                    2. I concur. Albany is not a chowhound's fantasy. Having moved here from Mass recently, I too have yet to find anything to write home about. Taking a cue from someone who recommended 'El Mariachi' located near Lark st, we tried it; I cannot recommend it. The only part of the meal we enjoyed was the complimentary crispy fried tortilla chips served with 3 dips. My wife and I almost finished the whole platter.
                      We then opted for a taste of the tamale-pollo, this came with the corn-husk visible, the tamale steaming hot. It had the requisite smoky, savory delectable flavor. well worth trying. Our entree's left much to be desired. The service was almost laughable; first my wife was served a casserole-looking dish, suspicious since she did not order it. After tasting it, the waitress came apologized and took it away. "sorry wrong dish." Later both our entree's arrived. But mine was also the wrong dish. I had ordered steak fajita, instead chicken arrived. I was too hungry to complain and so kept my dish. I sampled my wife's pollo in mole sauce, and found a bland tastless chicken breast that clearly had been boiled then covered with the requisite mole sauce. My chicken fajita dish came steaming hot, but only average tasting, not unlike a dish that 'Chili
                      restaurants' could make, or any other franchise restaurant in the mainstream. So nothing unique about
                      El Mariachi, buyer beware of the cutsey decor;food was
                      below average.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: towchuy

                        oh my gosh, THANK YOU SO MUCH!Finally someone who agrees with me about El Mariachi. I have unfortunately been to El Mariachi's twice and both times it was awful. The quality of the food is poor and the selection completely unimaginative. Everything tastes like it's from a can and I could detect no spices of any sort in the food. Even the guacamole wasn't fresh. Though this restaurant has only 2 locations, it tastes like a big chain like a Chili's or something. I always hear/read people recommending it and I have no idea why. AVOID!

                      2. Café 333, 333 Delaware ave, Delmar NY. 12054 . MORE IMAGE THAN SUBSTANCE.

                        This restaurant was recommended by some folks on Chowhound. I had moved to Albany NY recently and wanted to find a restaurant that served NY- bistro-style food. Located on busy Delaware ave, you can easily drive by and miss the non-descript storefront a few miles west of Albany. Inside, there were at least ten to twelve tables, the kitchen is an open affair, off to the side, manned by two chefs. The owners were multi-tasking, acting as greeters and all-around help. We were greeted warmly by our waitress. The menu featured dishes that featured something for everyone. There was chicken, fish, scallops, beef, and duck breast. Only four appetizers were offered. Our dishes came with a light salad. The salad was not distinctive although the vinaigrette was freshly made. The bread was only average in crust and flavor, with no butter or olive oil at the table. My dish was touted as ‘cumin-crusted pork loin’ so I asked for mine to be cooked slightly pink. I was surprised when my entrée arrived as thinly slices of pork.(Probaly sliced from one large loin prepared for the evening.) The parts of my meal surpassed the ‘whole’, it was presented handsomely, slices of sautéed carrots and red cabbage provided color. The best part of the dish really was hidden under the pork; succulent slices of warm potato a la ‘pommes anna.’The sauce: a tasty dark
                        Demi-glace sauce with hints of cumin. All in all, I would rate ‘333’ as a two star restaurant. There are some wonderful touches; the almost burning’ hot’ plates heated before serving, the not too pricey small wine list, and entrees ranging from $20-25. There is genuine care in food preparation and presentation, but the experience was not stunning, just competent. A crustier, tastier bread would be a welcome addition. JT(Delmar)

                        Link: http://home.nycap.rr.com/joge/

                        1. I've never (that I know of) actually been insude Albany city limits much less eaten at El Mariachi, but the thread caught my eye and then so did this:

                          "sampled my wife's pollo in mole sauce, and found a bland tastless chicken breast that clearly had been boiled then covered with the requisite mole sauce."

                          Strange as it is, that is actually how dried chile moles are supposed to be prepared, more or less. The meat should ideally be simmered briefly in the sauce, but the meat is always fully cooked separately. If the chicken was badly overcooked, that would be a legitimate gripe. Traditional dishes would not use separate breast, too, which is a bit of a problem in terms of them drying out, but most Americans seem to expect/want "white meat chicken" when they eat in restaurants, so it's kind of a Catch22 for them. No one's mentioned prices, but at an inexpensive place, one would be surprised to see them going far enough to simmer it that way, any more than neighborhood Italian joints would carefully cook pasta together with the sauce before plating...

                          1. My parents live in Latham, outside Albany, and I live in the Pacific NW. When I visit them I'm usually cooking at home, but seek to satisfy that deli itch that just doesn't quite get scratched in Washington State. Gershon's in Schenectady is a wonderful Jewish style deli run by Greeks. The reuben is a thing of glory and splendor, though it requires a lie-down to get over the fat content after.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: rcallner

                              As a transplanted NYC-er I was pleased as could be to find Gershon's. Brisket w/ chopped liver on rye and a pickle: heaven.

                            2. One of my favorite places in Albany for a quick bite is Pepper Jacks on Western.

                              Their cheese steak is better than those in Philedelphia. They have delicious wraps and soups.

                              ~Fred19
                              http://www.pepperjacksalbany.com/

                              1. Being a former resident of the Albany area, I can attest to more than one visit to Gershon's and all were excellent. Additionally, a fish fry from Bob and Ron's or Ted's, a pizza from Marino's Flying Pizza, a pastry or doughnut from Bella Napopli, a loaf or two of Perrecca's bread, a trip to Cappiello's for some sausage/olives/cheese, a slab of beef at Cliff's, an overtsuffed sandwich from Capri Deli, or dinner at Cornell's are all on par with any city in the US. In ALbany, you just have to know where to look.........

                                1. For the namesake capitol of NY State, Albany is shamefully lacking in decent bistro-type places to eat. We don't dine out very much for this very reason. We occasionally go for great paninis at Ave A. Can't comment on dinner there. I've heard both + and -. We live right around the corner from Cafe 333 in Delmar and wouldn't go there for a free meal. We've lived in the area for over 30 years and dine in Saratoga Springs and the Berkshires a lot more than in Albany. Vin Santo, tapas and wine, in Latham interests us and will try that after the holidays. Will report back.

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: Marco

                                    I wanted to like Ave A. Tried it 4 times. I hate it. Absolutely awful. Meat you can't cut w/ a knife.

                                      1. re: lukeydog

                                        Forgot about it. We've been meaning to go to MaGuires since it opened. All reports have been very positive.

                                      2. I absolutely LOVE Jack's Oyster House...it's an institution and not to be missed.

                                        I have also heard great things about MaGuires and look forward to trying it...

                                        2 Replies
                                        1. re: netmover

                                          I like Jack's Oyster House also. The food is good and reliable. It is not fusion or Thai, just good meat and seafood. It is a nice place for a Saturday night dinner, although I heard that lunches are good there also.

                                          ~Fred19

                                          1. re: Fred19

                                            Have you been to Jack's since the new chef started?

                                        2. For Italian I like Cafe Capriccio and Lombardo's. Sutter's not only has awesome wings but great burgers also. Albany Pump Station had very good beer(microbrewery) and ok to good food in an intersting location. I concur on Jack's as always solid and very good. I have always loved the pizza at The Fountain, although nothing else. And Sainato's subs are the best.

                                          1. Cafe Capriccio is one of my all time favs that I have returned to time and time again. The food is consistantly wonderful, the atmosphere welcoming, cozy, and one does not feel rushed. the wine list is above average. The wait staff are informed.

                                            Jack's is classic--from the waitstaff in starched long aprons (before it was chi-chi)--and classic Albany politico--note the lobbyists and state legislators who lunch there during session...

                                            I used to love the Unlimited Feast for lunch or dinner, or take out, but alas the 2 Peters who owned and worked there burnt out, and the place closed a few years back. There is an upscale foodie shop with take out there now I believe...

                                            ciao, Maggie

                                            2 Replies
                                            1. re: maggiekismet

                                              The Unlimited Feast location is now Mezze, which has take-out or take-in, with beer and wine. It's actually very nice.

                                              1. re: maggiekismet

                                                Yes, Unlimited Feast was great.
                                                Can't agree about Cafe Capriccio -- horridly mediocre meal last time I was there a couple months ago. Confit horridly dry, burnt even. Wait staff couldn't care less. The charm is gone in my book.

                                              2. Thanks for the name of Mezze. I had take out in the courtyard when it was warmer. My only compliant was that they close early.
                                                Someone else mentioned that Cafe Capriccio was uneven the last time they were there. I have not had that experience. But I wonder what is happening there...
                                                To have a good restaurant one needs a good (and consistent) kitchen, informed and patient waitstaff,and a snippet of atmosphere/charm. IMHO

                                                ciao,Maggie

                                                1. I've had consistently good meals at Capriccio; I see no sign at all that they're going downhill. It's my go-to place when I'm looking for the perfect combination of good servers and a good kitchen. There are more cutting-edge places in the area, but no place more predictably excellent.

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: PSZaas

                                                    We just went recently and had another very good experience. Satisfying, not cutting edge.

                                                    1. Cafe 333 in Delmar has excellent appetizers, good entrees, and a tasty wine list. The atmosphere is cozy and well suited for long meals with friends. Highly recommended.

                                                      1. You are right: there's not much Chow-ish in Albany (there are a couple of great places, e.g., Ali Baba's , in Troy). My Linh is bland, Yono's ditto (worst rijstafel anywhere). Saratoga's better.

                                                        1 Reply
                                                        1. re: gerchak

                                                          Am surprised that you found My Linh bland. Have eaten most of what's on their menu, and find the spicy food very well seasoned. It's Vietnamese, not Thai food. A wonderful fusion of french and native influences, much V. cuisine isn't terribly hot. But I think, if you're willing to pay the price, that My Linh is the best in the Albany area, or the Berkshires. I travel there as a destination.

                                                          And if you want hot, try their fusion margarita. I'm a displaced Texan, feel I can talk about hot, and it took a meal for me to finish one of those babies!

                                                        2. gourmaniac, you might want to check out the thread (it's a long one) started in Dec. 2006: "TOP NY Capital Region-Albany, Schenectady, Saratoga, Troy."
                                                          Maybe a hound will post the link. Based on my experience Saratoga Springs has the best dining. As already mentioned, Yono's (upscale), Cafe Capriccio and Jack's (have not been since the new chef started) in Albany are all options. Glen Sanders (upscale), Aperitivo and Cella Bistro a restaurant/wine bar near Ellis Hospital in Schenectady are also good. Bloomer's (American cuisine) had no parking spaces and we didn't have a reservation so we went to the wine bar in Latham this weekend. It was good but I liked Aperitivo and Cella Bistro better. I've heard good things about Nicole's but have not been. Try Tosca in Troy (music hall atmosphere). NYC is only a 2 1/2 hour train ride from Albany. :)

                                                          2 Replies
                                                            1. re: financialdistrictresident

                                                              Note: The wine bar (Vin Santo) in Latham is now closed. Tosca is now closed.

                                                            2. this is timely that i happened to spot this thread.i'm new on this forum so i might have missed it.we live on long island and my wife works for the state.there's a chance she could get promoted to work in albany so we'll be on the hunt for good places to go if we end up moving.

                                                              1 Reply
                                                              1. re: davmar77

                                                                If you are out by the airport - I really like Koba's for both sushi and grill.

                                                              2. Thinking Jack's?? Read the user view on the www.timesunion.com web site. It has changed for the worse IMHO. For lunch, I'll still try it and in fact we are going tomorrrow (Wed. 4-16-08) to take a friend. But that is just because I really enjoy liver and onions and they still serve that old menu item. Our last dinner there early last year was problematic and they agreed enough to give me a coupon toward another try. At least their heart was in the right place. We'll see......

                                                                2 Replies
                                                                1. re: feelinpeckish

                                                                  How was it? I have not been since the new chef started circa January 2008.

                                                                  1. re: financialdistrictresident

                                                                    I took my mother there last week for her 86th birthday... She heard about the new chef and was excited about the liver and onions. It was like shoe leather... she ordered it pink (medium rare).

                                                                2. Gourmaniac, hopefully by now you have found some delicious food in the Capital Region. A lot has happened on the food scene since 2004! These long threads might help:

                                                                  http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/509653

                                                                  http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/349608

                                                                  http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/349608

                                                                  Happy eating

                                                                  FDR

                                                                  PS IMHO, ethnic choices remain limited. Also, bagels/bialys, Greek food and fine dining are not this area's forte . . .Montreal, NYC and Boston are only a few hours a way.