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Best Mayor Who Looks Like an Anchorman

Brian Stratton

They say politics is show biz for ugly people. Occasionally, that’s not true. Albany Mayor Emeritus (Deceased Division) Erastus Corning III was as dapper as a matinee idol. Former Albany alderwoman Sharon Ward was no slouch in the looks department, either. Which brings us to Schenectady Mayor Brian Stratton, whose TV-quality hair can be spotted from across a crowded arena. Good thing he wants to be mayor, not anchorman; some of the local Ron Burgundy types would be out of a job.

Best Mayor Who Looks Like a Lumberjack

Richard Tracy

Some people have compared Hudson’s new, lovable mayor to Santa Claus or Jerry Garcia. We like to think of him in more rugged terms. Sing with us: “He’s a lumberjack and he’s OK . . . ”

Best Mayor Who Looks Like an Orange

Jerry Jennings

You didn’t think we’d leave him out, did you?

Best Political Upheaval

Saratoga Springs

Last November the Spa City, traditionally a GOP stronghold, gave way dramatically to the Democrat opposition: Every Republican running against a Democrat lost. Valerie Keehn took the mayor’s seat away from Republican Michael Lenz, despite the incumbent’s $500-a-plate fundraisers. Was it the water issue, the development issue, backlash against national GOP corruption, the war? Who knows; probably all of the above. What is for certain is that it pissed a lot of people off. The conservative Saratogian, which endorsed many of the losing Republicans, referred to the Democrat victory as a “bloodless coup.” Just goes to show you what Democrats can do when the elections aren’t rigged.

Best Bobblehead

Joe Bruno

There is nothing more American than a good ol’ bobblehead. Judging by the rate this award has been given in the past, we think it is fair to say that a good bobblehead is hard to find. But when you come across a deserving bobblehead, it is important to give it its due. The Joe Bruno bobblehead handed out at ValleyCats games has made a greater impact than any other bobblehead in recent memory. We have heard stories of local media luminaries basing their important decisions of the day on the response of their miniature Bruno. Funny, we do the same thing.

Best Park (Urban)

Central Park


Sprawling and welcoming, Central Park has something for everyone: tennis courts (Venus Williams just stopped by), swimming pools, sports facilities, meadows for walking and lounging, and the Agnes MacDonald Music Haven, one of the premiere outdoor performance venues in the region.

Best Park (Rural)

John Boyd Thacher State Park


With its vast views, its location along the Helderberg Escarpment, its year-round programs and tours, its pools, trails, picnic areas and ball fields, Thacher Park wins this category easily.

Suburban thrall: the Crossings in Colonie.

Best Park (Suburban)

The Crossings

Albany Shaker Road, Colonie

Once farmland, the Crossings is a gorgeous park that is not only conveniently located near a confluence of major roadways, but once inside makes you feel like you’re in the country. There are six miles of new trails for biking, running, in-line skating and walking. The park is beautifully landscaped with marshlands, a manmade pond, wooded trails, a cow farm bordering to the east, and panoramic views of the Helderbergs. It is becoming a community centerpiece for group walks and benefit events. In the winter when the pond freezes, strap on the skates; and you can go inside to warm up. This is a gem of a park.

Carless bliss: Schenectady’s Jay Street.

Best Urban Oasis

Jay Street, Schenectady

This is one of those instances when closing off a street to vehicular traffic worked. Jay Street, which begins just across State Street from Proctor’s Theatre, is a haven of restaurants, shops and bookstores, creating a small-neighborhood feeling in the middle of downtown Schenectady. Go there after work some evening and you’ll see what we mean.


Best Shantytown

Hudson’s town along the tracks

There are a number of instances on the Amtrak line along the Hudson where the scenery is simply unreal, where it is hard to relate what you’re seeing to its place in reality. The best example of this is the shantytown at the edge of the City of Hudson that looks like something out of the Great Depression.

We fit right in: the St. Rose College campus.

Best College Campus (Urban)

The College of Saint Rose

Madison Avenue, Albany

The Saint Rose campus looks and acts like a neighborhood, with trimmed lawns and clean sidewalks, nestled among old Victorians along a stretch of Madison Avenue in Albany. We love that the college has made great use of some existing Victorians as well, converting them into dorms and administrative offices. What we can’t figure out is why they excommunicated the art students to downtown’s Picotte Hall. Art students are people too!

Best College Campus (Rural)

Williams College

Williamstown, Mass.

Built in 1925 as the set for a movie about life at a prestigious liberal-arts college amid the pastoral splendor of rural western New England . . . OK, maybe Williams really was established as a college for its own sake, back in 1793 with funds from the estate of Col. Ephriam Williams, who had died years earlier in the battle of Lake George (and whose intentions for the property were much more modest, for a small free school, but that’s another story). But it could be a movie set, if the movie called for a postcard-perfect college campus against a backdrop of lush countryside and majestic mountains. It really is a treat just to walk around the campus—and we hear it’s a pretty good school, too.

Best Campus to Wander Into the Wrong Dorm When Drunk

University at Albany

There is something to be said for a campus designed with all the charm of a prison block. And that is: At least if you are too wasted to find your way back to the dorm you will likely stumble into a dorm that looks exactly like yours. Sure, that can lead to some awkward moments, but sources tell us it can also lead to some interesting hookups. So, party on, SUNYA, and think of us the next time you are drunkenly swiping your student ID through a reader in the wee hours of a Monday morning.

Best Mall with No Floors

Colonie Center

Colonie Center will soon be ultra ritzy and feature a cinema. Being the trail-mix hippies that we are, we have rather enjoyed the laid-back, no-frills attitude the mall enjoyed during its renovations earlier this year. No floors, no hassle!

Best Mall with No Stores

Latham Circle Mall


At Latham Circle Mall, you can deposit your paycheck at the gigantic Pioneer Savings Bank, get your hair done across the way, and wash those activities down with a cold one at Malt River Brewing Company—wait, they don’t even brew their own beer anymore. Wanna catch a movie? Latham Circle still has a decent multiplex. But shopping? P’shaw. Not here. While the mall is home to the only Burlington Coat Factory within 50 miles, that’s about all that’s left.

Best Place to Speak Truth to Power


When Albany County D.A. David Soares ripped into the Rockefeller Drug Laws and the narco-industrial complex at an international conference north of the border, it didn’t take long for the backlash to kick in. Mayor Jennings and Chief Tuffey—both acting like they were running for some as yet undeclared-for higher office—were shocked, shocked to hear someone, even if at long distance, rip into the scam that is much of the so-called War on Drugs. Maybe our politicians should take more Canadian vacations.

Best Place to See Martha Stewart


Damn, Hudson’s getting swanky. Our spies have spotted the Empress of the Appropriate and Queen of Domestic Tastefulness on Warren Street more than once. So, if you want to see Martha—and we’re not saying you do—don’t loiter around Troy. Head south.

Best Place to Hang Out with State Troopers


We are told state troopers know how to party! What better way to find out than to truck on out to Freehold? We’re told it shouldn’t take long before you have a friendly trooper at your beck and call, waiting to protect and serve you.

Best Place to Find Employment for a Disgraced Judge

Troy Corporation Counsel’s Office

Are you an able-bodied, recently-out-of-work judge who has been found guilty of Judicial Ethics Code violations? If you are in the area, odds are you will be able to find gainful employment in the office of the Troy Corporation Counsel. While one blogger suggested the Counsel’s Office should be leveled due to the city’s zero-tolerance-for-code-violations policy, we feel the counsel’s office is performing a public service by keeping these nogoodnicks off the streets during their most desperate times.

Best Place to Find a Troy Cop’s House

Anywhere but Troy

If you think that policing a community ought to involve living in said community, you’d be wrong. At least that’s what a few cops in Troy apparently believe. It was reported at the beginning of June, that five members of Troy’s police department don’t even live within the city limits, in alleged violation of the city’s residency requirements. So we gotta ask: What’s wrong with Troy?

Best Place to Drink With Your Congressman

Alpha Delta Phi

Union College

Keg stands, body shots, alleged election heist in Florida: What can we say? John Sweeney (R-Clifton Park) is always up for raisin’ hell. For those of you who missed the end of April, the Congressman was spotted at a Union College registered kegger April 22, apparently after leaving Geppetto’s Bar. He was described as drunken and engaging, posing for photos and chatting it up with a bunch of frat guys. While the pictures online sure are funny, we only hope the joke will continue to be on him come Nov. 4.

Best Place to Put a Dump

The Pine Bush Preserve

If the mayor says the best place to put our (and everyone else’s) garbage is in a nature preserve, then he is right. If people can live in piles of trash, so can endangered butterflies! When has the mayor ever been wrong? He has told us Albany doesn’t have a gang problem. He says the convention center will make money, and we all know that to be true. And look who he has raised money for or endorsed in the past: George Pataki and John Sweeney! And we all know how hard those guys rock!

Best Place to Find the Next Bill Gates

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute


This rapidly evolving technological university brings some of the brightest minds in science, computer science, engineering, architecture and electronic arts to the Capital Region from all over the world. The school’s hackneyed slogan, “Why not change the world?” is a legitimate question for these super-bright college kids. Many of them will undoubtedly go on to change the face of science and culture. And, if we are destined to become Tech Valley, you can bet that RPI and its grads will be playing an integral role.

Best County to Smoke In


One would think, after a night of drinking in Rensselaer County, that the Legislature never passed the statewide smoking ban. At many bars in this county, you’ll still find ashtrays readily available and smokers happily puffing away. But we aren’t complaining. Even if you don’t smoke, you’ve got to admit it: A bar is a bar. And sometimes, the more drunken, lewd, rowdy, and smoky the gin joint is, the better. Plus, actively ignoring a standard-of-living law gives us subversives a cheap thrill.

Best Place to Get Hit by a Car While Walking

Madison Avenue, between Lark and Willet streets


Really, do you have to speed through the perilous intersection at Lark and Madison and race to the light at Willett? What the hell’s the rush? There are two rather busy bars directly across the street from each other on that block, not to mention a Mobil and a Dunkin Donuts, with people crossing from side to side all day and all of the night. Slow the fuck down, already. Stop hitting people with your cars! Stop the madness!

Best Road to Dodge Bicyclists

Route 32

It has been a long day at work and you have an hourlong drive to look forward to. The evening sun goes from blinding to hazy. You squint and shield your eyes. The cars ahead of you are bunched up in packs of 12 and no one seems to be doing more than 40 MPH on what is normally an empty country road. What could be the trouble? Oh, why, it’s that charming mass of bicyclists stretched out as far as the eye can see, three to a row, chatting with each other, distracted by their helmets, their water bottles or that icky, chaffing spandex. A bicyclist who is staring at the ground swerves into the road straight towards your car, you dodge and he finally looks up only to give you that “This is our road too!” stare. Ah, rush hour in the country.

Best Confusing Town Name

North East, New York

It’s about 10 miles south of Copake, near the Taconic State Park. We can only imagine the frustrating conversations residents there must have (with non-residents) on a daily basis.

Best Fireworks

Saratoga Harness Track

342 Jefferson St., Saratoga

Saratoga blew the competition away this July 4th week—and that is saying a lot. We’re always mesmerized by large displays of colored sparks, but something about Saratoga’s show was extraordinary. Maybe it was that lengthy ground display of golden powder shooting up for 10 minutes as multiple fountains; maybe the extra-large bursts captivated the spectators. The crowd could not stop clapping and wooing—which normally isn’t a pleasant experience—but this enthusiasm was felt by all those in attendance. All throughout the parking lot you could hear, “It was the best display I’ve ever seen, I mean ever!”

Best D.M.V. Experience


224 S. Pearl St., Albany

No one enjoys going to the DMV; however, if you’ve tried reaching them by phone, you know you might as well drive down and get in line. If there is a pleasurable experience to be had, it is when you have had your number called, and are being assisted by an attendant named Dan. You’ll know who Dan is, and it isn’t just the likely Hawaiian shirt or excellent mustache, it’s the whole experience. Thanks Dan, for helping the majority of your customers forget that they’d much rather be somewhere else!

Best Cell-Phone Service Hole

Route 20

between Nassau and Pittsfield, Mass.

“So I’ll be home around 7 for dinner and . . . hello? Mom?” Expect this as you drive east on 20 through the speed-trappiest of speed traps, Nassau. Come out the other side and–well, nothing. Right on through Columbia County, up the side of Mount Lebanon and down the other side, past Hancock Shaker Village. It’s a half-hour of total disconnection–from those on your speed-dial list, at least. You shouldn’t have been on the phone anyway.

Best Urban Fur Trapper

Fur Guy


You’ve seen him walking down Lark and Madison, that tall guy who walks around carrying what seems to be the harvest of a dozen-or-so jaw traps. We have no idea of his name, his story or his skinning techniques, but be warned: If you find out how he does it, he may have to kill you.


Best License Plate


The little Lady Liberty situated uncomfortably between these two cringeworthy acronyms says more about the sad state of our great nation than we care to admit. If only the DMV would allow emoticons on license plates.



Best Bar (Upscale)


895 Broadway, Albany

Owner Matt Baumgartner outdid himself when he converted an old fire station in the warehouse district of Albany into a chic, high-class downtown lounge and tapas bar. Since its opening, Noche has played host to fashion shows, meetings, benefits and parties, maintaining a great sense of class and service through each event. They have drink specials, too, but instead of two-for-one Buds, they, for example, boast two-for-one mojitos. The leather sofas, bottle service and velvet-rope entrance all make you remember that when you’re at Noche, you’re not in any ordinary bar.

Best Dive Bar

Iffy’s Place

224 washington ave. albany

One or more Metrolanders may have had their first drink in Iffy’s, and for that we are grateful. Readers of are grateful for other things the bar has to offer: cheap drinks, grizzled old men, bathroom with appropriate graffiti, and a few, er . . . a lot of other things we can’t mention here.

Best Hookup Bar

All of them

Come on, we’re tired of giving up the easy answers. Any bar is a hookup bar if you know what you’re doing, namsain?

Best Bartender

Robert ‘Booie’ Denio

The Ale House, 680 River St., Troy

Nothing rounds out the appeal of a neighborhood bar quite like a good bartender. And as anyone who has spent a quiet evening watching tennis, or a raucous one listening to Rocky Velvet, at this down-to-earth watering hole knows: Booie is the man. He is exactly what a good bartender is supposed to be—wise, funny, attentive. And when catching a stupid mistake on the fake IDs of a group of teens, he is able to mess with them, saying in earnest, “That’s fucked up. Your mom named you the same name,” before kicking them out. This is a bar for easygoing adults, and Booie keeps it easygoing. No one really knows for sure where the nickname ‘Booie’ comes from. It depends, we’re told, on who you ask.

Best Service (Team Effort)

Café Capriccio

49 Grand St., Albany

If you want to be doted upon, Café Capriccio is the place to go. The theory behind Capriccio’s vision of service involves everyone on the floor serving every table. And yet, communication among the staff remains stellar: No one asks you the same thing twice, no one spends too much time at your table, and no one gets anything wrong. Special nod to Billy Karabin, who gave the floor its unique identity, offering unhurried attention, an extensive knowledge of the food and wine, the ability to sell anything to anyone, and a sartorial style that subverted server elegance into something wonderfully anarchic. We love the service at Capriccio, almost as much as we love the food.

Best Scenic Drive (North)

I-87 North and Route 73 to Lake Placid

Somewhere around Lake George, the Northway starts to get really scenic—and that’s nothing compared to the breathtaking vistas you get as Route 73 climbs up into Lake Placid, with occasional glimpses of the Au Sable River (which looks particularly lovely in snow) and the majesty of the high peaks towering all around you.

Best Scenic Drive (East)

Route 22

Route 22 runs from the Bronx all the way to the Canadian border, the third longest of all New York state highways. (File that away, you may need it someday.) It takes a bit longer, with small towns popping up every several miles, but it’s a much more relaxing drive than the Taconic. We recommend hopping on somewhere in southern Columbia County and following 22 north to Hoosick. From there you can take Route 7 east into Vermont—if you get an early enough start and a full tank of gas.

Best Scenic Drive (Detour)

Route 7, off I-88

Unadilla and Surrounding Areas, New York

Since that stretch of I-88 sunk into the abyss near Sidney at the end of June, the DOT had to figure out a way to for us Capital Region peeps to get to Binghamton. (Don’t ask us why we need to go there—we just do.) “Voilá!” the DOT said. “We shall funnel them through Unadilla!” And Unadilla said, “Oh no! Our picturesque town will be ravaged by 18-wheelers and exhaust and speeding highway drivers!” Thus, the detour onto Route 7 from I-88 was born. The detour lasts a couple of exits, and it winds through a few miles of road lined with produce and ice cream stands, trimmed lawns and pretty houses—and big makeshift signs of plywood and spray-paint, reminding outsiders that THIS IS A TOWN and REMEMBER TO GO 45!!!

Best Swimming Pool (Bring the Family)

Peerless Pool

Saratoga Spa State Park

What’s not to like? There’s a kiddie pool for the little kids, water slides for the older kids, and a main pool so huge that adults can swim laps unimpeded at one end while children wade into the other (yes, there’s an entire end that slopes up to the edge so you can walk in, just like a beach). There is something to the name.

Best Swimming Pool (Leave the Family)

Victoria Pool

Saratoga Spa State Park

The park’s other, more elegant pool is where area folks have gone for years to sunbathe, loll in the pool or just cool their feet at the edge, sip cocktails poolside and gaze with sunglasses-shaded eyes at all the pretty people (legend has it that this once was a fave spot for NYCB dancers; we don’t know whether it still is). Actually, it’s perfectly OK to bring kids here too, but Victoria Pool is just way more serene and cosmopolitan than its counterpart across the park.

Best Golf Course (Public)

Capitol Hills

Par Avenue, Albany

This course is a jewel just on the outskirts of the city limits. The name is apropos since it is in the city of the Capitol, and boy-oh-boy does it have hills. The front nine is a bit more open and plays a little easier, the back nine is tighter with interesting doglegs and bunkers. The 17th signature hole is one of the best holes in the region. Constant upgrades make this course a nice, inexpensive course especially for Albany residents.

Best Golf Course (Private)

Mohawk Country Club

1849 Union St., Schenectady

Private golf courses are supposed to be beautifully maintained, play with a certain degree of difficulty, and have the occasional hobnobbing Biff and Muffy in plaid pants and lime green shorts. The private golf courses in this area are very good, but year after year this course is a notch above the rest. From the moment you head up the drive toward the stately clubhouse, you know you have entered a real hardcore golf palace. Tee boxes that are so perfect they look fake, tight narrow fairways, hazards that will make you pull your hair out and the greens—oh, those greens! Do your best to get out and play this masterpiece.

Best Golf Course (When the boss is paying)

Saratoga National Golf Course

458 Union Ave., Saratoga Springs

What’s a round of golf worth to you? How much is too much? Can the novice appreciate a $185 round of golf? The answer to these questions is at Saratoga National. This course came on the scene three years ago and has received acclaim from the locals and the pros that come through town. Get out and play it now because, after next week, this track will also be packed and you’ll have to wait ’til September. Wetlands and water hazards in play on all 18 holes, strategically placed sand traps, and greens that roll true with very difficult pin placement. This course is a must-play for any avid golfer.

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