Goods & ServicesFood & DrinkArts & EntertainmentPeople & PlacesMedia
 

 

FOOD & DRINK

 

 

Best Restaurant

Café Capriccio

49 Grand St., Albany

The second generation is in, with new chef Franco Rua alongside his father, founder Jim, continuing a quarter-century tradition of offering extraordinary Italian-inspired fare using fresh, local ingredients when possible. Dinner here is always elegant and amiable, like dinner with the family you dreamed about having.


Best New Restaurant, Best Brunch: Tosca Grille.

PHOTO: Shannon DeCelle

Best New Restaurant

Tosca Grille

200 Broadway, Troy

Chef Larry Schepici is back, in a posh Troy storefront serving dynamic, Italian-inspired fare. Try the Dover sole when it’s available, and the rack of lamb rubbed with honey, porcini, pistachios and herbs. Live jazz and a lavish Sunday brunch keep the place hopping, as Tosca herself keeps watch from a large wall mural.

 

 

Best American (Contemporary)

McGuire’s

353 State St., Albany

Andrew Plummer looks at a bunch of ingredients and imagines—and then prepares—a dinner you never imagined could have emerged from such a simple-seeming combo. At McGuire’s, he offers his food in a setting that’s equal parts Old World Albany and New American bistro. Dine by the bar (if you want to find your Assembly rep) or in the more formal room just beyond.

Best American (Traditional)

Kirker’s Steak & Seafood House

959 New Loudon Road, Latham

Don’t snicker, you snobby foodies. Sure, you can get a $40 boutique steak at any number of upscale joints now, but for the basics of American steakhouse cooking the way you remember it from dinners out with your parents (or grandparents), Kirker’s has it down. And the ambience and service couldn’t be more friendly and unpretentious. Remember that the next time you’re craving a juicy steak and baked potato, maybe with a couple of stuffed shrimp on the side—and you don’t mind that your fellow diners aren’t part of the trendy downtown scene.

Best Continental

Beekman Street Bistro

62 Beekman St., Saratoga Springs

A recurring theme of these awards is the use of local produce. That’s because the better restaurants know to offer the better food, and Beekman Street Bistro has been in the forefront of tailoring its menu accordingly. Original delicious approaches to traditional meat and fish have won a devoted local following.

Best French

Chez Sophie

534 Broadway, Saratoga Springs

Owners Paul Parker (who is also the chef) and Cheryl Clark moved the restaurant to the Saratoga Hotel last year and now enjoy all the elegance of ambiance that their superior cuisine warrants. Following in his mother Sophie’s footsteps, Paul pushes traditional French techniques and recipes into unexpected, exciting directions. The French have always been culinary trailblazers, so it’s not surprising that this is a restaurant like no other, and absolutely first-rate.

Best International

Chameleon on the Lake

251 Stafford Bridge Road, Saratoga Springs

Take a drive to the north end of Saratoga Lake and enjoy cuisine that borrows a recipe from Morocco, from Italy, from the Deep South—from wherever owner Richard Rodriguez and his talented kitchen crew want to explore. It’s all about choices: great drinks, a couple of different dining rooms, and even an outdoor deck for your enjoyment.

Best Restaurant When Someone Else is Paying

Yono’s

Hampton Inn and Suites, 25 Chapel St., Albany

You want the five-course rijstafel, and your envious dining companions will want to keep pace, perhaps with osso buco or ostrich. And wine, and a round of Donna’s unbeatable desserts. . . . Is it any wonder that this excellent restaurant, with beautiful appointments and top-notch service, is tops on your list of places to which you hustle your well-to-do patrons?

Best Restaurant When It Doesn’t Matter Who’s Paying

South End Tavern

757 Burden Ave., Troy

Dinner specials all are priced under 10 bucks, and when that includes items like Thursday’s corned beef and cabbage and Monday’s baked ham, you’ve got a deal. The tavern has been slinging its particular brand of hash for nearly 75 years, so they’ve got it down. Slip into a well-worn booth and enjoy the show.

Best Italian Neighborhood Restaurant (Schenectady)

Ferrari’s Ristorante

1254 Congress St., Schenectady

Come on in, come on in. Whew, it’s hot out there. Let me find you a table. You want something to drink? Sure you do. Here, get him a menu. We got some specials tonight. You look hungry. Let’s get some bread over here. You want a nice braciole? It’s on special, we still got a few left. ’Scuse me—I gotta say goodbye to some people. I’ll be right back.

Best Italian Neighborhood Restaurant (Troy)

Testo’s Italian Restaurant and Pizza Parlor

853 4th Ave. , Troy

Testo’s Restaurant is as synonymous with North Troy as Uncle Sam Wilson. Meet anyone from Troy for the first time, and talk of Testo’s soon enters the conversation. Testo’s is a culinary landmark managed and run by the whole Testo family. Inexpensive daily dinner and lunch specials, homemade meatballs, outstanding pizza, yummy entrees—the menu is reminiscent of a bygone era. Testo’s continues to set the standard for a family Italian restaurant.

Best Italian Neighborhood Restaurant (Albany)

Bongiorno’s Italian Restaurant

23 Dove St., Albany

For more than 30 years, Bongiorno’s has served its traditional Italian fare to the residents of downtown Albany. Long a favorite of state politicians, Bongiorno’s is an experience like dining in someone’s home. Not much has changed over the years, and that’s a good thing. Owners Roseanna and Felix Bongiorno serve up hearty homemade Italian food—the kind of food that always makes you feel satisfied. Whether it’s a Bongiorno’s family member or one of the other great wait staff serving you, you always feel the warmth that Roseanna projects from her kitchen. Try her amazing veal saltimbocca, chicken picante or zuppa di pesce. She also makes the best pesto pasta around. We can only hope Bongiorno’s will be around for another 30 years.

Best Steakhouse

The Bear’s

Route 7, Duanesburg

The Payne family’s Duanesburg outpost has been going strong for nearly 40 years. Make sure you have a reservation (if you can even find the phone number), and then enjoy a steak dinner of legendary flavor and proportion. We have many excellent steakhouses in the area, but the Bear’s still tops them all.

Best Restaurant Worth a Drive

The Rose & Kettle

4 Lancaster St., Cherry Valley

Your waitress is a 2006 National Book Award finalist? And she owns the place with her husband, who’s the chef? But, ah: This is Cherry Valley, a tiny town with a big history and an artistic presence that’s making it the Taos of the east. Not surprisingly, then, this restaurant offers amazing meals from locally sourced products in a handsome, century-old house.

Best Kept Secret

The Hidden Cafe

Delaware Plaza, Delaware Ave., Delmar

Maybe it’s not so secret anymore. We visited on a recent weeknight and the place was packed. That’s because chef-owner Joseph Soliman has transformed this from casual Middle Eastern dining into a more finished and formal restaurant where his entrees never fail to impress. The staff has grown into a polished, attentive crew, and the dining experience is wholly satisfying.

Best Barbecue

Chico’s BBQ

2490 Western Ave., Guilderland

That giant smoker, just around the back of the restaurant, puts out rib racks and pork butts and beef briskets and whatever else Chico is inspired to slow-cook in that mouth-watering way. It’s the real thing here, where the pulled pork is pink from its many hours on the smoke and the sauces are piquant with spiciness.

Best Pizza

Fireside Pizzeria

1631 Eastern Parkway, Schenectady

We like the sausage and tortellini soup, and the ravioli, and especially the chicken wings, but when that pizza emerges, steam still rising from the rivulets of mozzarella, its crisp crust begging to be bitten, we are goners. We push aside everything else and dig in. Downstairs you dine by the fireplace; upstairs is a big bar with frequent pizza-buffet nights.

Sparky’s Pizza and Ice Cream Cafe

5 New Karner Road, Guilderland

For some of us, it’s the toppings. For others, it’s the cheese or the crust. For others, however, it’s the tomato sauce. And Sparky’s delicious sauce is the foundation of their excellent pizza. That’s not to say the cheese or the toppings or the crust aren’t first rate, too, because they are. But that sauce . . .

DeFazio’s Pizzeria

266 4th St., Troy

It really shouldn’t surprise anyone that this Troy institution would be honored again this year. And we could sit here and labor over suitable language to describe the consistently amazing pizza that has sustained us for oh-so-many years, but we’d rather just say: If you’ve never been to DeFazio’s, you are playing a dangerous game of self-denial, my friend. One that could end up with you never knowing what it means to fall in love with a sausage pizza.

Smith’s Tavern

112 Maple Ave., Voorheesville

It is a drive for us city dwellers, sure, but it is well worth notching up that carbon footprint to sink your teeth into Smith’s thick, saucy revelation of pizza-pie artistry. Go. Now. Carpool if you must. The pitchers are flowing, and the staff will be happy to see you. And once you’ve experienced this quaint restaurant’s signature stick-to-your-ribs goodness, you’ll find yourself jonesing for it at all sorts of crazy times (like when you are up at 2 in the morning rushing to meet a deadline).

Best Power Lunch

677 Prime

677 Broadway, Albany

Really, is there anyone who isn’t anyone here? There’s Mayor Jennings, with Police Chief Tuffey, along with any number of lobbyists, lawyers, bankers, architects, insurance types and any of their associates lucky enough to be in on the day’s expense account. The room’s big enough to allow for rolling up shirtsleeves and getting down to brass tacks, not to mention the gargantuan Prime burger and the insanely addictive fries. And it’s loud enough to ensure that the table next to you can’t overhear your machinations.

Best Lunch (Subs Division)

Andy’s & Sons Importing Company

256 Delaware Ave., Albany

Those cheeses hanging from the ceiling aren’t just for show. Order a sandwich—try the Carm’s colossal if your appetite is up for it—and you may well see one of them cut open for your sub, that mossy provolone aroma filling a storefront that has absorbed many layers of such aroma during its half-century here.

Best Deli

Gershon’s Deli & Caterers

1600 Union Ave., Schenectady

Longevity counts for a lot in this business. Gershon’s has grown and adapted even as it has persevered here for decades. The sandwich list is unrivalled (the sliced turkey with chopped liver is sinfully good), and they offer their own baked ham, their own pastrami, and Dr. Brown’s sodas! Plenty of salads and other prepared items to go, but you might want to dine inside or, when the weather’s nice, on the patio.

Best Chinese

Emperor’s

10 Wolf Road, Colonie

A consistent winner for its more-exotic-than-usual menu, fresh seafood, extensive list of vegetarian items, good pricing, and an astonishing ability to hold its own on Wolf Road, Colonie’s prefab epicenter. Emperor’s is the classic take-out-or-eat-here Chinese restaurant, but it goes that extra distance.

Best Afghan

Afghan Grill

952 Troy Schenectady Road, Latham

It was once a pizza joint, and then new owners snuck a few kebabs onto the menu. Now, with a new name and complete redecoration, there’s a full-blown Afghan menu with standard and some unexpected Middle Eastern fare. It’s tucked into the eastern end of the Peter Harris Plaza, so keep an eye peeled. An economical lunch buffet is a great way to introduce yourself to the cuisine.

Best Indian

Karavalli

9B Johnson Road, Latham; 2788 Hamburg St., Rotterdam; 47 Caroline St., Saratoga Springs

It slipped into a Latham strip mall, and has proven successful enough that two other branches opened in recent months. Enjoy the Indian fare you’ve already gotten to know, as well as dishes from other parts of that country that don’t typically appear on restaurant menus. Dosai, a thin pastry of rice flour served with tasty dipping sauces, is a good place to start.


Best Mexican: Mexican Radio.

PHOTO: Chris Shields

Best Mexican

Mexican Radio

537 Warren St. Hudson

Mexican Radio does Mexican like no other restaurant in the area. Yes, it is worth a drive from Albany, Troy, or even Saratoga to enjoy a maragarita and a Radio Roll-Up or an order of Tostada Magnifica. Heck, we sometimes stop by their other location, in New York City, if we need a fix.

 

 

 

 

Best Lebanese

Al-Baraki

184 River St., Troy

We’re hoping that the success of this restaurant might inspire a move to larger quarters, but if you’re lucky enough to snag one of the half-dozen tables, you’ll revel in a meal of hummus or falafel or grilled meat or tangy salad—or whatever chef-owner Paul is inspired to present on a particular day. Make sure you add his garlic dipping sauce to your order.

Best Mediterranean

Ali Baba

2243 15th St., Troy

The place gets busier and busier as more people discover that there’s no better durum (the Turkish version of a gyro) in the area, and that the lamb kebab has just the right grilled flavor about it. Get a mixed appetizer plate (hummus, carrot salad, baba ganouj and more) with a puffy loaf of lavash; try the beyti sarma for a wild combo of ground meat and seasoning.

Best Philippine

The Philippine Connection

Central Ave., Albany

It’s a no-frills restaurant, practically anonymous among the many storefronts on Central Avenue, but the Philippine Connection boasts a selection of mouth-watering traditional Philippine delicacies. The rich, savory sauces, flavored with liver and other unique ingredients, are the perfect accompaniments for sautéed goat or beef. The guys behind the counter will remember you, and what you ate. They’ll explain what it is you’re actually eating, and they’ll appreciate your business very much. Go pay them a visit.

Best Peruvian

The Hot Spot

122 4th St., Troy

You’d never guess that this café-type venue would be the place to find authentic Peruvian fare, but ’tis the case. Taste homemade ceviche de pescado, a fresh fish salad served with peeled baked potato, or lomo saltado, seared sirloin strips served with chopped onion, tomato and cilantro, rice and fries. Order some flavored tea, and you have yourself a genuine Peruvian meal. Also on the menu are delicious sandwiches, salads and pizza, but do yourself a favor and try the Peruvian dishes. You won’t be sorry.

Best Vietnamese

My Linh

272 Delaware Ave., Albany

An Albany staple, now in its 14th year, My Linh marries the class and sophistication that owner Linh Diep and family possess with culinary prowess. The friendly staff are always more then willing to help with any questions you may have regarding the menu, so if you’re in the mood for exotic and understated tastes and surroundings, My Linh won’t disappoint. The restaurant boasts many elegant rooms to choose from, as well as a beautifully bamboo-lined patio—perfect for taking in exotic drinks, great weather and conversation. Catch a movie next door at the Spectrum, and you have the classic Albany date night.

Best Greek

A Taste of Greece

63 N. Lake St., Albany

Since its inception, this place has had its share of owners, and because of that, the quality of cuisine has gone through some ups and downs, but now the quality is up—way up. The cuisine runs the Greek-fare gamut—spanakopita, souvlaki, moussaka and many other authentically prepared traditional dishes. The atmosphere is simple, the service is good, but the cuisine is top-shelf.

Best Japanese

Mari’s Japanese Cuisine

2049 Van Vranken Ave, Schenectady

Mari’s has been a little-known Schenectady treasure for 22 years. The family and staff of Jiro and Mari Omiya continue to deliver the highest in quality Japanese food and sushi. Japanese aesthetic flows freely here through presentation and décor. Loyal customers have come year after year to indulge in their favorite traditional meals of tempura, teriyaki, sukiyaki, don, udon and nabes. If you feel like indulging, try the homemade chocolate mousse or tempura-fried ice cream. Don’t forget to order some sake and phenomenal sushi from Jiro at the sushi bar. Whether you’re a loyal customer or a new one, you’ll return again and again for your very own piece of Japanese heaven.

Best Sushi

Sushi House

6 New Scotland Ave., Albany

There’s basic sushi, you know crab roll, tuna roll, California roll, and then there is new-world sushi, and that is what sets this little place apart form the others. The chef’s special rolls are works of art. For example, his Volcano roll (salmon, tuna, yellowtail, massago, scallions, spicy mayo, all deep-fried and served with eel sauce) is to die for. The Fantasy roll is various fresh fish delicately wrapped with cucumber, his spicy crabmeat roll is a California roll wrapped with spicy crabmeat sashimi. Fresh, unique presentation in a tiny bistro setting.

Best Thai

Bangkok Thai Bistro

268 State St., Schenectady

OK, here’s the scene: champagne martinis, an old crooner doing his best Frank Sinatra, and vibrant feasts of red and green curry, steamed vegetables, and pineapple rice. This intimate setting can take place almost any Friday night at Schenectady’s downtown treasure. Not only does this bistro boast a full, exciting Thai and martini menu, a sushi bar and karaoke weekend nights, it also has a friendly, attentive staff and great ambiance.

Best Cuban

Carmen’s Cafe

198 1st St., Troy

Stopping into Carmen’s Cafe in Troy is like indulging in a quick vacation. This bright neighborhood cafe has an atmosphere is so unassuming, that you feel like you’ve wandered into a friend’s dining room. And Carmen’s picadillo empanadas are the perfect food for the morning after those hard Saturday nights.

Best Vegetarian

Antipasto’s

1028 Route 146, Clifton Park

For 11 years, Anitpasto’s has been the area’s premiere Italian, vegetarian-friendly restaurant and wine-and-beer bar. With their outstanding wine list, incredible vegetarian appetizers, entrees, pastas, gourmet pizzas, creative salads and friendly staff, Antipasto’s is a culinary oasis in a community of cookie-cutter chain restaurants. Sit with owner and (sometimes) bartender Steve Zumbo and talk about legendary blues artists, great wine or current events, and you’ll immediately feel like part of the Antipasto’s family. Also, for non-vegetarians, there are meatballs, pepperoni and anchovies, all kept separate from the vegetarian items. (Of course, the vegetarian counterparts to these items are also available.)

Best Southern

Hattie’s

45 Phila St., Saratoga Springs

You may already know that owner-chef Jasper Alexander took down Bobby Flay in a fried-chicken cook-off that aired on the Food Network in January. Here are a few things you may not know about this historic joint, known by most for its fried chicken: The “good ’n’ evil” chicken wings may be the best wings you’ll find anywhere, and the chef’s fresh-fish-of-the-day special gives the chicken a run for its money as the best item on the menu.


Best Outdoor Dining: Park 54.

PHOTO: Martin Benjamin

Best Outdoor Dining

Park 54

54 Clifton Country Road, Clifton Park

This may be the only view of nature in Clifton Park, but it’s a great view and almost makes you forget that so many malls perch so close beyond. And the food here—under the guidance of chef-owner Mike Pietrocola and chef Mark Graham—is creatively inspired and thoughtfully prepared. They have a way with meats and fish, but don’t mind adding the right Italian touches as well.

 

 

Best Outdoor Drinking

The Adelphi Hotel

365 Broadway, Saratoga Springs

The lush green ferns of the garden are an oasis; the slant-backed Adirondack chairs a reminder of (real or imagined) vacations spent playing backyard croquet. Once ballet season hits, the garden patio of this Saratoga landmark fills with polo-shirted patrons sipping Pisco Sours. For fans of sweeter delights, the daiquiris, made with in-season fresh fruits and no mixes, are where it’s at.

Best Burger

Oliver’s

181 Freeman’s Bridge Road, Glenville

You have to make it fresh for the customers. Oliver’s does this. You need to spruce it up a bit. Oliver’s offers different takes on the burger concept on different days, dressing it with Cajun spices, or blue cheese, or whatever else may be the inspiration. Serve it with hand-cut fries in a friendly eatery where everything else is homemade, too, and you’ve got the best.

Best Ice Cream

Soco Creamery

10 Railroad St., Great Barrington, Mass.; 26 Housatonic St., Lenox, Mass.

Creamy and delicious, with a nice selection of homemade ice-cream flavors (the espresso cookie is to die for) complemented by sorbets, frozen yogurts and kickass smoothies. The two locations are within easy striking distance if you’re in southern or central Berkshire County.

Best Ice Cream Parlor

Fariello’s Confectionary

43 Lincoln Ave., Amsterdam

New owner Theresa Dufel is running the place just as it’s always been, with your choice of ice cream (Washburn’s, Perry’s or Ben & Jerry’s) and homemade topping, which you can enjoy at the old-fashioned counter or a booth. That’s if you can get past the incredible candy display at the front of the store. She’s also returned to another old tradition, and offers lunch as well.

Best Crepes

Ravenous

21 Phila St., Saratoga Springs

Savory or sweet? That is the only question worth asking yourself at this perfect-for-breakfast-brunch-or-lunch spot. Would I like asparagus and goat cheese in a savory crepe, or delicious Nutella hazelnut spread and strawberries in a sweet crepe? If I ordered both, could I possibly eat it all?

Best Desserts

Mrs. London’s

464 Broadway, Saratoga Springs

Rachael Ray’s favorite patisserie (don’t let that keep you away) may be a construction site right now, with work underway next door on Max London’s, a restaurant opening in the fall to feature the culinary élan of the bakery owners’ son. But step right around any construction detritus and elbow the pesky Saveur-reading tourists (who must have seen the eatery featured in a recent spread) out of the way. You’ve got tartlettes, and chocolate-mousse cake, and éclairs, and napoleons, and broiche and croissants to eat.

Best Desserts for Under $5

Tess’ Lark Tavern

453 Madison Ave., Albany

In addition to the tavern’s all-round menu of Irish-influenced pub food are some of the finest desserts to be had without a white tablecloth and an expense account. Home made by a personal friend of the owner, the molten chocolate cake and tiramisu will make you think you’re at Ma Maison rather than the corner of Madison.

Best Brunch

Tosca Grille

200 Broadway, Troy

It’s a spread fit for royalty: gourmet omelet station, carving station, Belgian waffle station, gourmet pasta station, with a half-dozen or so additional hot entrees (seafood in a garlic-basil-chardonnay sauce, beef tenderloin in a red wine sauce), plus an array of breads, pastries and fruit. At $22.95, it’s not cheap, but it’s well worth it—and the pricing for children is very reasonable. You’ll want to try a little bit of everything, and if you plan on settling in with the Sunday Times, you just might.

Best Breakfast (Contemporary)

Café Madison

1108 Madison Ave., Albany

When we gave Café Madison this same distinction a year ago, little did we know that a fire would close the place down for much of the time in-between Best Of issues. We’re grateful that they’re back up and running, and back to the old form, which means the tastiest, most creative breakfast fare around.

Best Breakfast (Traditional)

Duncan Dairy Bar

890 Hoosick Rd, Troy

The best way to spot Duncan’s is by the many cars that encircle it any given morning . . . and the infamous cow picture attached to the roof. Yet once you step inside you know where you are: that home-cooked, country-diner breakfast joint hasn’t changed since you were a kid. But whether it’s after that late night out or your Sunday treat after church, even the smell can warm your insides. The freshly baked homemade bread melts in your mouth, the smell of sweet maple syrup runs across your nose as you pour it on there scrumptious blueberry pancakes. The locals still gather here to drink coffee, read the morning papers and discuss politics (this is Rensselaer County, after all), but “outsiders” are equally welcome. And the best part is a good meal at Duncan’s doesn’t cost you much at all. Oh, and don‘t forget to try the pie.

Best Breakfast Burger

Justin’s

301 lark St., Albany

The recently updated brunch menu at Justin’s sports an item that initially made us do a double-take: a 4-ounce burger with apple-cured ham, cheddar cheese, and a fried egg, all on a potato roll. After sampling the mouth-watering concoction, we now hope that this signals the beginning of a trend—viva la 2,000-calorie breakfast!


Best Smoothie: Shake Shake Mamas.

PHOTO: Shannon DeCelle

Best Smoothie

Shake Shake Mamas

258 Broadway, Troy

Where do we begin? The food is bomb-diggity, the ambiance lovely, and the Mamas are divine. But those smoothies. Oh, those smoothies: Four Berry, Peach Pear, Peanut Butter Banana. The Hans Solo has the sweet, roguish charm of a blaster-strapped Harrison Ford, and the Ooh La Lublin is so scrumptious, so satisfying with the sweetness, that it’s sure to tame even the most beastly programmer. Come for the smoothies, and stay for everything else.

Best Diner

Arnet’s

464 Broadway, Troy

This family-run diner has everything you want in a neighborhood diner: great breakfasts, satisfying sandwiches, piping coffee, and a familiar staff that is as friendly as they are attentive. And the vibe is all about enjoying yourself and your food. So pull up a stool at the counter at this intimate and cozy establishment and prepare to make some new friends. And you should probably have a slice of homemade cake, too.

Best Reinvention of the Diner

Tops American Grill

351 Duanesburg Road, Rotterdam

Palm trees in the dining room? In Rotterdam? Somehow it works, even as the new menu, which seems to touch on everything your palate might desire, works, too. Tops has been around since well before you and I achieved consciousness, but this new building and new menu make it the must-visit alternative to the sterile chain eateries.


Best Gourmet Takeout: Mezzo Marketplace & Eatery.

Photo: Joe Putrock

Best Gourmet Takeout

Mezzo Marketplace & Eatery

34 Hamilton St., Albany

A little slice of Europe tucked into a quiet corner of Center Square. Oh, and there are a few tables for eating in—the patio is lovely when weather permits—but if you’re grabbing lunch or dinner on the fly, you can’t do much better than this. Gourmet sandwiches are prepared in the morning (and often are gone by early afternoon), and there is a sumptuous array of prepared foods to choose from—grilled salmon, crab cakes, sesame chicken, black bean salad, pasta pesto, roasted vegetables, and so on. To start your day, the pressure-brewed coffee is delicious, and the egg-and-cheese sandwich (try it on a croissant) has no peer.

 

 

 

Best Italian Takeout

Via Fresca

1166 Western Ave., Albany

Drive slowly once you pass Crossgates, or else you’ll miss the bright-blue sign that is really the only indicator that you’re near anything special, let alone the best Italian takeout spot in the Capital Region. Via Fresca’s door is in the back, past a curtained stair to the basement, but once you get past this incongruous welcome, you are easily sated by gleaming cases containing bowls of roasted peppers, baby artichokes, olives and any number of pastas, salads, and seafood delicacies. In addition, there’s a generous selection of cold and hot sandwiches and paninis, lasagna, parmigianas, Italian sodas, and cheeses. You can shop for your own kitchen while the always cheerful and accommodating staff make your order.

Best Salad

Greenhouse

50 N. Pearl St., Albany

In a downtown full of delis, pizza joints and pub food, Greenhouse stands out as a healthy alternative—and a fresh, delicious one at that. Choose a salad or wrap from one of the house specialties, or build your own. Chop, chop, toss, toss. It doesn’t get any fresher than this.

Best Late-Night Dining

Justin’s

301 Lark St., Albany

A perennial winner, because there’s just nowhere else where you can order real restaurant food (everything on the appetizer and café pages of the menu, including soups, sandwiches, appetizers like corn fritters and café plates like ropa vieja) at 12:55 AM (see if you can guess when the kitchen does close). And it’s real good, too.

Best Coffeehouse (Urban)

Uncommon Grounds

402 Broadway, Saratoga Springs

“Urban” may be a slight stretch for modest little Saratoga Springs, but Uncommon Grounds does spill out onto Broadway, where you can sip your latte and enjoy some of the best people-watching of any downtown in this region. Besides serving some of the best brew (coffee and tea) the area has to offer—and offering enough varieties each day to please any palate—this Uncommon Grounds recently doubled its size and now boasts one of the coziest lounging areas around. Laptop-couch-potato heaven.

Best Coffeehouse (Suburban)

The Perfect Blend

376 Delaware Ave., Delmar

A slice of quiche, a salad, and thou. Thou being a big, frothy cappuccino, which you can enjoy while huddled over your computer (alongside the other huddlers) in a room where each table has its own outlet. Owner Roberta Bastow and her amiable staff quickly get to know you and know what you like, so it’s easy to settle in. A few more coffee varieties would be welcomed.

Best Espresso

Villa Italia

226 Broadway, Schenectady

The best, most authentic espresso is served up by Villa Italia on Broadway in Schenectady. You can stand at the marble counter within arm’s reach of the espresso machine and feel like you are in Rivoire Cafe at Piazza Signoria in Florence or some other la pasticceria—if you don’t turn around and look outside. And if you choose to take a seat and relax for a while with a great panino, pastry or gelato they won’t charge you twice as much as is the practice in the old country. It’s the capital region espresso which most yields the flavor and richness like that in Italy, it’s the real deal. Molto buono!

Best Pub Food

The Ale House

680 River St., Troy

It’s not a complicated menu—burgers, sandwiches, salads, wings—but the food is bargain-priced and delicious, with some of the region’s best chicken wings as well as a toothsome variety of fries. It’s a lively Troy mainstay, with a good selection of beer and nightly specials (try those ribs when they appear).

Best Wine Bar

Antica Enoteca

200 Lark St., Albany

Good wine, good conversation in a European-style grotto. Weather permitting, the back patio is the place to be.

Best Margaritas

Jose Malone’s Mexican Irish Restaurant

405 River St., Troy

For real, peoples, put down the sour mash—it’s an abomination! (Why the hell is it that color?) What you’re drinking ain’t a margarita, cause tequila sloshed into a pitcher of sickly sweetness does not a margarita make. When you are ready to have your mind blown with the properly made signature Mexican libation, make your way over to Troy’s Irish-Mexican upstart. Mmmmm. You’ll probably see us there.


Back to Metroland Online