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Jim Rua

Photo: Alicia Solsman

The Capital Region’s 10 best eateries of the past 30 years

It’s hard enough for a restaurant to stay in business for 30 years, let alone offer a consistently excellent dining experience. Café Capriccio has been on its corner of Albany’s Grand Street since 1982, serving a captivating interpretation of northern Italian fare in a charmingly idiosyncratic space. Owner Jim Rua continues to share his creativity and charm, and his son Franco now helms the kitchen to maintain the family traditions.

Our next-in-line winner, Jack’s Oyster House, has thrived in Albany’s downtown since 1913, passing through three family generations and gently reinventing itself to suit the succession of decades. Oysters remain a specialty, but chef Luc Pasquier offers a menu rich in seafood and quality steaks.

Third and fourth place were tied. New World Home Cooking Co. was created in the Woodstock area by former Justin’s chef Ric Orlando (who will open a new Albany restaurant shortly), and reflects his restless curiosity about combining food and techniques from a variety of cultures.

Hattie’s Chicken Shack is a Saratoga Springs institution that opened in 1938 and for several decades showcased the down-home cooking of Hattie Austin, featuring her second-to-none fried chicken; now chef Jasper Alexander reinterprets that tradition with an expanded, Southern-themed menu.

Speaking of Justin’s: It’s been through a succession of chefs and a pair of owners and, under the guidance of John DeJohn, it continues to offer fine full dinners, light fare, an accommodating bar, live music, and probably someone you know already ensconced within.

You know how a tasty meal persists on your mind’s palate? Joe’s Delicatessen has been gone for many years, but this Madison Avenue eatery is fondly remembered for its overstuffed sandwiches (ah, the chopped liver) and its crusty staff.

Sometimes you have to move around to stay alive. Yono’s made a couple of moves before landing at the downtown Hampton Inn a couple of years ago, and what an excellent location it is, the perfect showcase for our 7th-place winner’s fare. Yono Purnomo combines his native Indonesian cuisine with innovative Continental items for a unique menu.

Another tie for eight, nine and 10. Youngest of the winners is Saratoga’s Beekman Street Bistro, where chef-owner Tim Meaney crafts an inventive menu using as many local ingredients as possible.

Milano, in Latham’s Newton Plaza, provides a charming bistro setting for its northern Italian menu, and encourages your own culinary adventuring with a neighboring retail shop of gourmet items.

Although Vietnamese cuisine has fought for a strong foothold in the area, My Linh opened in Albany over 15 years ago and continues to maintain its impressive reputation as a fine-dining restaurant that happens to serve this most delicious food.

 

Survey respondents ranked up to 10 choices, and points were tallied as follows: 10 for 1st place, 9 for 2nd, and so on.

1. Café Capriccio (97)

2. Jack’s Oyster House (57)

3. Tie: Hattie’s Chicken Shack (31); New World Home Cooking (31)

5. Justin’s (26)

6. Joe’s Delicatessen (25)

7. Yono’s (20)

8. Tie: Beekman Street Bistro (19); Milano (19); My Linh (19)

Honorable mention: Friends Lake Inn (17), Quintessence (17), Caffe Italia (15), Chez Sophie (14), River Street Café (14), Van’s Vietnamese Restaurant (14), McGuire’s (12), Bongiorno’s (11), Ogden’s (11).

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