FOOD & DRINK
beauty: Lake Ridge.
35 Burlington Ave., Round Lake
There was madness
in those Methodists, with their weeklong retreats; now Round Lake
is a quiet museum of Victorian architecture thats also home
to Scott Ringwoods elegant, satisfying restaurant that features
fresh ingredients and imaginative menus. Try the pecan pork chop.
Best Italian (Northern)
49 Grand St., Albany
A perennial winner because Jim Ruas long-running show continues
to delight, with excellent food (thanks to chef Jennifer Hewes)
and a dining room with exceptional personality (see Best Service).
This place was all about Tuscan well before it started to become
Best Italian (Family)
124TH Street and Fourth Avenue, North Troy
It may seem like the sort of joint where youd get funny looks
if youre not from the neighborhood, but you dont have
to live in Lansingburgh to eat at Testos; hell, people cross
rivers to come here. Seriously, the food is dependable and damn
good, and modestly priced, and the staff are equally welcoming whether
you live a block or a county away. To coin a new phrase for Italian
restaurants, were all family here.
Olde Shaker Inn
1171 Troy Schenectady Road, Latham
Tom Wallace does the impossible here: maintains a standard established
15 years ago, one that includes the quality of food and service
and the elegant ambiance of the charming structure that houses the
restaurant. Try the chicken Wellington for an unusual combo.
534 Broadway, Saratoga Springs
Weve been hearing about the challenges this superb restaurant
faced in moving to the Saratoga Hotel. But now Chez Sophie is where
it needs to be, right downtown, offering not only the finest French
food but also one of the finest all-around dining experiences in
Route 7, Duanesburg
For almost 40 years, the Payne family has served the areas
best steaks in their living room, in a restaurant that has never
advertised and books weekend reservations well in advance. Given
that theyre out in Duanesburg, it suggests theyre doing
missed you: Yonos.
Hampton Inn and Suites, 25 Chapel St., Albany
survived its experiment as a car-dealership adjunct, and Yonos
is now handsomely installed as part of a newly built hotel. The
restaurant is unfailingly elegant, service is second to none, and
the food . . . is Yonos, which means its superior fine
dining with an Indonesian touch.
Best New Restaurant
The Beekman Street Bistro
62 Beekman St., Saratoga Springs
Tim Meaney and Dan Spitz, formerly of the Flying Fish in Lake George,
are in the forefront of the Beekman Street revitalization. Their
fine-dining bistro features the innovative fare of Chef Spitz, served
in a charming art-gallery setting.
451 Fulton St., Troy
Youll return again and again for the jerk chicken, but dont
forget to try the curries, callaloo and ackee. The lunch buffet
is the areas best bargain, and you dine in a casually appointed
shrine to Bob Marley.
10 Wolf Road, Colonie
The competition is fast being absorbed by Chinese buffets, which
have diluted the splendor of good Asian cookery. Fortunately, Emperors
holds forth, undimmed, at its Wolf Road outpost, offering not only
some of the best seafood preparations in the area but also a superb
198 First St., Troy
Strictly speaking, its only intermittently Cuban, with breakfast
and lunch menus that also offer diner fare. But it comes out of
a scratch kitchen, and this bustling, sunlit dining room is also
becoming something of an arts salon. The Cuban sandwich is a killer.
Bangkok Thai Bistro
268 State St., Schenectady
The unlikely combo of Thai food in a century-old building in downtown
Schenectady continues to thrive as both an outpost of this accessible,
exotic cuisine and as a martini bar. As you read this, remember
that theres nothing as satisfying on a hot day as a good red
Sasos Noodle House
218 Central Ave., Albany
Saso himself is behind the sushi bar, and he purveys not only exceptional
food but also the artistry behind it. We were going to add a paean
to noodle soup, but in the course of this discussion, we decided
just to go there and have some. Join us.
54 Philip St., Albany
Francisco Vazquez cooked for Fresnos for many years; perhaps
thats why he decided to bring authentic Mexican fare to Albany,
cuisine with an Oaxacan focus. Amazingly low-priced lunch and dinner
is served in a small and humble eatery thats very much, as
the name suggests, about the family.
Best Middle Eastern
544 Delaware Ave., Albany
Dont expect just bagels when you dine at Bagel Bite. For example,
the falafel is the regions most delicious, and most importantly,
consistently delicious, served with warmed pita bread, hummus, chopped
tomato and onion. Bagel bite has many tasty Middle Eastern deli
choices, and of course, baklava!
184 River St., Troy
Paul and Simone Chedrawee have been improving upon and expanding
their little Antiques Row eatery even as the food remains uncommonly
terrific, with the usual fare (hummus, tabouli) as well as wafer-crust
pizzas and a variety of meatful and meatless dishes. Dont
forget to try Pauls signature garlic paste.
2243 15th St., Troy
The prices have edged up but we dont mind paying as long as
the quality remains the same. Start with an appetizer platter, which
also gets you a puffy loaf of lavash, and then try a wrapped durum
kabob, which is known elsewhere as a gyro and is the real, carved-from-a-loaf
Stuyvesant Plaza, Albany
We find this a passionate topic. We want to steer you away from
the chains whose burger meat is so lousy that they have to cook
it medium-well. The Peaches Café Stuyvesant burger is a half-pounder
that reminds what this all-
American dish should be, with good fresh meat and succulent sides.
Runner-up: Olivers in Glenville.
181 Freemans Bridge Road, Glenville
Not a chrome railroad car or a gleaming dineraunt, but Olivers
does the breakfast-and-lunch thing as it should be done, cooking
from scratch, offering reliable staples, and supplementing the menu
with specials, including variations on their famous burgers and
9B Johnson Road, Latham
About 18 months ago, Karavalli quietly opened in a Latham strip
mall and took the area by storm. It has upped the ante for Indian
dining, offering not only the foodstuffs youve grown to love
but also some fascinating alternatives, like dosai, an enormous,
whisper-light lentil-and-rice confection from southern India.
The first one to open here
Ah, yum. A big round plate of spongy, sourdough injera. Dollops
of spicy lentils, tasty greens, savory meat. Having no idea what
youre eating. Getting way too full because the injera is your
utensil. Honey wine. What? Doesnt sound familiar? Thats
because an Ethiopian restaurant is one of the very few international
cuisines the region lacks. Why not make a good scene better? Anyone?
Well go, we promise.
Jackie Baldwins occasional Tapas Dinner at Carmens Café
198 First St., Troy
Her last high-profile gig was as chef at LEcole Encore; now
shes doing food at RPI. But every so often she takes over
Carmens Café to offer tapas, and its an event
not to be missed. Stop by and get on Carmens e-mail list.
Chameleon on the Lake
251 Stafford Bridge Road, Saratoga
Perched in an unlikely spot at the northern inlet to Saratoga Lake,
Richard Rodriguezs superb restaurant is a fun, cheerful, bustling
place that offers a gamut from silly drinks to excellent fine dining,
with a menu that knows no boundaries.
2490 Western Ave., Guilderland
It doesnt hurt that owner Adrian Chico Arceci
is a biker; hogs and smoked pig go together, and Chico slow-smokes
pork and beef and chicken and more in an imposing structure behind
his small, friendly eatery. Good bargains, too.
Best Restaurant Worth a Drive (South)
New World Home Cooking Co.
1411 Route 212, Saugerties
We keep begging chef-owner Ric Orlando to open an Albany branch;
meanwhile, we make regular pilgrimages to his freewheeling, spice-friendly,
hippies-welcome restaurant-cum-lifestyle, where youll expand
your palate without any need for dentistry.
Best Restaurant Worth a Drive (West)
123 Old State Rd., Little Falls
Once the home of an industrial magnate, this (putatively haunted)
mansion is now host to fine dining and fun events. Dont forget
to check out the downstairs pub, appropriately named The Dungeon.
Best Restaurant When Someone Else Is Paying
353 State St., Albany
Chef Andrew Plummer produces dishes that are indescribably good,
and this favorite-of-the-suit-and-tie-crowd place is priced accordingly.
So tell your in-laws that this is the destination for that birthday
meal, and order recklessly.
Best Late-Night Dining
301 Lark St., Albany
A perennial winner, and not just because its the only place
where you can get moremuch morethan a slice of pizza
at 10 minutes to one. The café menu has everything from blackened-chicken
Caesar salad to crab cakes to ropa vieja to one of the best pulled
pork sandwiches youll find anywhere. Justins serves
by far the most interestingand deliciousfood youll
find after 11 PM.
1108 Madison Ave., Albany
Tuscan omelets, oatmeal-raspberry pancakes, variations on eggs Benedict
variations with grilled zucchini slices, tomatoes, portabellas.
. . . Were getting delirious just thinking about it, and we
havent even mentioned the several varieties of home-baked
toast and the recently improved home fries. Or the fact that this
longtime Pine Hills staple has had a gorgeous facelift and is now
serving dinner as well. Have we given you enough reasons to go check
Best Wine Bar (Wine)
200 Lark St., Albany
If you cant find a glass of wine you like here, then you probably
just dont like wine (and you can always order beer). Owner
Mark Smith travels the world to (among other things) get wine and
music and décor ideas for his café, and there are
always new bottles being added to an already extensive list. With
staff who know their wine and are happy to share that knowledge
with you, a delightful clientele who never cease to spark up witty
conversation, and an intimate, Euro-accented ambience, this is the
place to play at being a café intellectualor just enjoy
an outstanding glass of wine.
Best Wine Bar (Food)
The Wine Bar
417 Broadway, Saratoga Springs
The portions are designed not only to complement the many wines
this elegant eatery offers, but also to arrive in the size of your
choice, so that you can enjoy anything from a snack to a full-blown
meal at your own pace, with wine you select or that comes well-recommended.
Best Outdoor Dining
Nicoles Bistro at Quackenbush Square
25 Quackenbush Square, Albany
Patios and decks and sidewalk cafes are popping up everywhere these
days, but theres still no place that does it quite as elegantly
and romantically as Nicoles Bistro. All the more remarkable
is that the lovely garden patio is tucked between downtown parking
lots and highway overpasses you hardly even notice. All this might
be for naught but for the fact that the French/Continental food
here is exceptional.
Best Outdoor Drinking
365 Broadway, Saratoga Springs
Give us something tasty, in lead crystal, with a flower in it, and
were sold. The Victorian hotels courtyard is a haven
in the middle of Saratogas Broadway. An abundance of greenery
gives you the sense of privacy, while you enjoy your pisco sour
or daiquiri. A little decadent? Maybe. But we wont judge you.
Best Restaurant to Hit the Chain-Restaurant Epicenter of Clifton
54 Clifton Country Road, Clifton Park
Oh, my God, theyre moving in like Birnham Wood, chain restaurant
after chain restaurant, neon aglow. . . . Fortunately, Park 54 is
here, too, Mike and Deena Pietrocolas wonderful refurbishment
of a handsome building thats now conversation friendly and
serves great food. And boasts a great outdoor deck.
266 4th St., Troy
What can we say about this Capital Region institution that hasnt
been said? The pizza at DeFazios is legendary. Brick-oven
baked, homemade sweet sausage that is perfection, and a zesty sauce
that has survived through generations. This is the place, nestled
in Troys Little Italy district, where you take visitors when
you want to show off just how charming the Capital Region can beand
just how tasty its gastronomic offerings.
112 Maple Ave., Voorheesville
No matter where you are coming from, Smiths Tavern is well
worth the drive. In fact, the drive itself is well worth it. But
the pizza is what you want. It is the kind of thick-crust pizza
with thick toppings and a thick layer of cheese that puts meat on
your bones and washes down splendidly with a pitcher of cheap beer.
And the taverns wait staff is as friendly as can be.
1178 Western Ave., Albany
Besides their salads, sandwiches and Italian cuisine, Bello Pranzo
offers a variety of tasty pizzas, Sicilian or traditional. Sink
your teeth into a golden crust with fresh mozzarella and delicious
tomato sauce. Try the veggie pizza with thin strips of fried eggplant
and fresh mushrooms or the white broccoli if youre feeling
63 N. Lake St., Albany
Ask five people what their favorite pizza is and youll get
five different answers, but mention Sovrana and they will all nod
their heads approvingly. This family-owned business thrives in a
rapidly deteriorating part of town. Tradition is the key to these
pies, fresh dough that plumps up like a new feather pillow, fresh
sauce made from farm fresh tomatoes direct from the owners
garden, spices so fresh you can identify each by its aroma, and
an abundance of fresh toppings, nothing from a can. And last but
not least, cheesecheese so thick and gooey it stretches longer
than your arm can reach. Enough said, thats pizza.
1631 Eastern Parkway, Schenectady
Theres a full-blown, Italian-items menu here, but its
the pizza youll return for. An exceptionally crisp, flavorful
crust underlies a rich, homemade sauce upon which you build the
pie of your choice. Or choices.
Best Brew Pub (Food)
Browns Brewing Company
425 River St., Troy
Theres something amazing about beer-battered fries done right
(Crispy. Crunchy. Wonderful.). Add one of Browns tasty burgers,
bratwurst or a variety of tasty sandwiches, for the perfect pre-beer
cushion. Grab some calamari (with honey-hop and chili sauce!) or
wings (Jamaican rum and butter!) and you wont be disappointed.
Best Brew Pub (Beer)
The Albany Pump Station
19 Quackenbush Square, Albany
Whether its the Quackenbush Blonde, the Kick-Ass Brown, or
Old Musty, C.H. Evans Brewery Co. offers some of the finest beers,
barley wines and ales around. The brewery, guided by the incomparable
brewer George de Piro, is impressively nestled in two adjoining
19th Century buildings. The architecture is magnificent, and the
bar is oh so inviting. The Pump Station also offers a mean turkey
Best Pub Fare
The Ale House
680 River St., Troy
Run the bar-patron gauntlet to get to the dining room, where youll
enjoy homemade soups, great burgers, a variety of well-made daily
specials, and some of the best chicken wings in the area. With a
great selection of beer.
Best Pub Fare (Nantucket Style)
Black Cat Ale House
25 White St., Cohoes
Theres a restaurant in Hyannis called The Black Cat; owner
Terry Frederick combined that inspiration with the feel of a Manhattan
pub to offer a dining experience as friendly as can be, with excellent
seafood (try the chowder) and great prices on steaks.
Best Cheap Eats
Hot Dog Heaven
216 Lark St., Albany
Its quick. Its reliable. Its tasty. And its
cheap. Hot Dog Heaven provides a mini diner in the middle of Lark
Street, where you can get a great breakfast, a tasty sandwich, even
a tofu hot dog, for under $5. The daily special is usually a hefty
serving of rib-sticking comfort food that will stretch your stomach,
and your dollar.
Best Cheap Eats
6 ½ Caroline St., Saratoga Springs
Year after year they snag this category because no matter how mad
or deserted downtown Saratoga may be, its the place you can
rely on for a quick slice of pizza. Or a doughboy. Or a bowl of
curry. Or a burrito. Or whatever struck the genius fancy of the
chefs that day.
Iron Gate Cafe
182 Washington Ave., Albany
This sweet lunch spot is tucked into a nook on Washington Avenue,
separated from the sidewalk by a tea garden andyou guessed
itan iron gate. The guys at the Iron Gate make fresh, wholesome
foods their biggest priority. They make all their soups from scratch,
serve locally made bread, and boast inventive creations, but keep
their prices in check. You can even e-mail in your lunch order for
pickup or delivery at their Web site via an interactive menu.
154 Jay St., Schenectady
A Schenectady favorite for years. Packed with ambiance and attitude,
complete with old-school Madonna memorabilia, revolving art by local
artists and just a good plain-old vibe. Sandwiches: The Famous Crabby
Marcs, a tribute to one of its proprietors, is served with
a salad and pita. Try the Gigi, which is not only delicious (with
grilled ham, sautéed apples and brie cheese served on grilled
sourdough bread) but also fun to say in your best French accent.
50 North Pearl St., Albany
Walk in the door and the decor is as clean and fresh as the ingredients.
That integrity holds true within their salads, soups, and our favorite,
wraps. Whether youre a wrap purist whos interested in
creating your own, or youre into the many imaginative choices
made for you on the menu, the greenhouse assembly-line staff is
ready and eager to fulfill your salad-wrap wishes. I recommend the
Mexicali. . . . sublime!
Andy & Sons
256 Delaware Ave., Albany
This Italian market/deli has been a long-standing institution in
the area. Vinnie and Carmen are the owners; they were once the sons,
and now their sons are the sons, and were sure the tradition
will continue. Specialty subs and sandwiches made with the freshest
ingredients served on the best rolls and breads around. Huge selection
of imported cheeses, homemade meatballs and sausage; Vinnies
pasta fagioli is to die for. They also have a full compliment of
sides. Is it lunch yet?
on rye: Gershons.
1600 Union St., Schenectady
For more than
four decades this institution has served more pastramis on rye than
you can imagine. A true seat-yourself-when-you-can, waitress-calling-you-
Hun-NYC-style deli. All salads and sides made fresh
daily on the premises. This is a gem in the electric city.
Best Vendor Truck
The Big Fat Greek Truck
washington avenue, albany
There is something about ordering a gyro on a nice summer day, while
simultaneously debating how to pronounce gyro with all your coworkers.
Its geeeero not giiiiiro! The experience is heightened
by the authenticity of having your gyro cooked by a true-to-life
big fat Greek. Oh, and the food. . . . Its so good, and we
eat there so often, that we are considering changing our title to
Ye Olde Big Fat Metrolander.
544 Delaware Ave., Albany
New York City has somehow cornered the market for correct bagel
preparation; signs hang from supermarkets around the area proclaiming
New York Style Bagels. They arent bagels, they
are life preservers with no flavor. The folks at Bagel Bite do bagels
their way, and their way is best. Prepared fresh daily, the correct
size and texture, chewy and full of flavor. They also do a unique
twist on the bagelthe bialybaked not boiled, with a
different dough, and the whole is filled with a combination of chopped
onion, garlic, poppy seeds and spicesa must-try.
Best Italian Bread
33 N. Jay st., Schenectady
Bread is bread, right? WRONG, this bread is something created by
the gods and sent to us by angels. Well it tastes that way, but
truth be told its made in a tucked-away building in Schenectady
in a brick oven that is more than a century old by bakers with a
passion and a dough recipe that has never been duplicated. You can
cut this bread into perfect slices, but its best to tear off
a hunk and dip into a pot of simmering sauce. You can get it in
few retail locations, but its best right at the bakery.
1225 Western Ave., Albany; 402 Broadway, Saratoga Springs
They roast their ownWestern Avenue just got its own roaster,
which is a necessary start, and offer enough variety that even the
decaf, staple beverage of the hypertensive artist, comes in rock-em-sock-em
flavors. Good coffee means even the silly derivative drinks taste
good, and the espresso is excellent.
home in the coffeehouse: the Daily Grind.
The Daily Grind
46 3rd St., Troy
The Daily Grind
in Troy really is everything a coffeehouse should be: The atmosphere
is spacious, warm and inviting. They serve food and coffee, and
now a selection of beer and wine as well. The Grind also serves
as an art gallery, plays host to live music, and is an apt all-around
Best Iced Coffee
452 Madison Ave., Albany
Their regular blend is tasty, but what makes Scratchs iced
coffee special are the ice cubes. See, theyre coffee ice cubes.
Villa Italia Pasticceria
226 Broadway, Schenectady
Recently relocating to downtowns entertainment district, this
longtime icon bakery hasnt lost a step. The cakes and pastries
are still the areas best. If you get a piece of rum cake at
a party, wedding or special occasion, chances are it was created
by the artists at Villa Italia. Now the new digs allow them to really
show the goods as well serve panini sandwiches, a full coffee bar
and other liquors. Mmmmmm.
comfort: Eugenios Café Gelato.
Eugenios Cafe Gelato
419 Broadway, Saratoga Springs
ago, Eugene Bizzarro opened this little gem with the belief that
his family recipes needed to be shared. Were grateful he did.
Customers are encouraged to try a little bit of various flavors
before committing, but we highly recommend the gianduia (chocolate,
with hints of hazelnut and almonds).
Best Ice Cream
The Ice Cream Man
417 State Route 29, Easton
A repeat winner. Can you say creamy and delicious? On a lonely road
east of Schuylerville, people come literally from miles around for
this ice cream. Fortunately, the lines move quickly.
Best Ice Cream (Soft Serve)
133 Fenn St., Pittsfield, Mass.
For our money, in the world of soft-serve, taller is better. And
King Kone serves em up rill tall. Like this tall. (Look: were
holding our hands about a foot and a half apart.) For rilly rill,
1028 Route 146, Clifton Park
From the moment you walk into Antipastos, you know youre
in a restaurant that people love. Everyone seems like family; owner
Steve Zumbo knows everyone at the bar by their first names. In a
community that has established itself as a chain-restaurant bastion,
Antipastos is like a beacon in the night. Amazing and ample
vegetarian and vegan Italian entrees, salads, vegetarian sausage
and meatballs, and mouth-watering pizzas; good for the body and
soul. Ask Steve for his recommendation on the excellent wine list.