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Best Restaurant: Café Capriccio.

Photo: Alicia Solsman

Best Restaurant

Café Capriccio

49 Grand St., Albany

As close as you’ll get to a Tuscan trattoria on this side of the pond, and that’s because chef emeritus Jim Rua established a dynamic menu approach and service system early in the eatery’s two decades plus of top-notch dining. Celebrate dolce vita in the downstairs dining room; bring your special-event party to the private room upstairs.

Best New Restaurant

Dale Miller

30 S. Pearl St., Albany

We always knew he’d be back. Award-winning certified master chef Dale Miller plies his craft in an eponymous restaurant in the Omni Plaza, in a restaurant as beautiful to look at as it is elegant (and delicious) to dine in. The Miller touches include inventive recipes and eye-catching plates.

Best Restaurant Worth a Drive

Rose & Kettle

4 Lancaster St., Cherry Valley

Chef Clement Coleman and his wife, manager Dana Spiotta, just returned from a sabbatical in Rome. The restaurant, duly refreshed, caters to the Glimmerglass Opera crowd in summer, but it’s a year-round bastion of excellent fare and artistic sensibility in a village that has long been an artist’s dream.

Best International

Creó

Stuyvesant Plaza, Albany

Chef Andrew Plummer and manager Paul McCullough join forces again in a comfortable, newly built restaurant that sets no limits on its culinary influences. Pan-Asian, Middle Eastern, European and pan-American touches abound. Creó is a striking place that puts you quickly at ease, whether in the bustling bar or the well-appointed dining room.


Best Global Comfort Food: New World Bistro Bar.

Photo: Joe Putrock

Best Global Comfort Food

New World Bistro Bar

300 Delaware Ave., Albany

Ric Orlando’s long-awaited return to Albany arrives in a spectacularly handsome restaurant that brings his Woodstock menu and unique approach to cooking to Delaware Avenue. A full array of meal plates, large and small, in a casual space with a fine-dining sensibility. Welcome back!

Best Continental

Max London’s

466 Broadway, Saratoga Springs

The crazy jumble of tapas, big plates, pizzas and more actually has some method to it. Chef-owner Max London is catering to the customer, making sure that you get the dining experience that makes the most sense to you. The offerings in his well-appointed restaurant run a multinational gamut spiced by the chef’s unique skill.

Best American

Café Madison

1108 Madison Ave., Albany

Chef Jennifer Hewes helms a kitchen that offers the land- and sea-based items you know and love, crafted with the innovative stylings that (at long last) have given American cuisine a unique identity. The restaurant is in a quirky space that’s been dressed to whisk you off the Albany streets and into a (somewhat European) world of comfort.

Best Steakhouse

The Bears’ Steakhouse

Route 7, Duanesburg

High-end steakhouses have been a halting area trend. Dining at them often is more about power than steak. The beef-lover’s true paradise is found at the Payne house in Duanesburg. It starts with the choice of material, and Papa Bear (Bob Payne) has a reputation for accepting only the best—which is why his restaurant has thrived for more than 40 years.

Best French

Chez Sophie

Saratoga Hotel, 534 Broadway, Saratoga Springs

This is a bittersweet award that serves as a tearful goodbye. One of our all-time favorite eateries shutters at the end of September as owners Cheryl Clark and Paul Parker relocate to France to run a posh vineyard, giving their nonpareil French cooking back to the French, the lucky bastards.

Best Fusion

The Hidden Café

Delaware Plaza, Delaware Avenue, Delmar

The fact that the Hidden Café remains a little hard to find daunts none of the ever-growing base of regulars. Chef-owner Joseph Soliman presents a menu inspired by his native Egypt but embracing the cuisines of France, Italy, Greece and many other European and Middle Eastern regions.

Best Vegetarian

Antipasto’s Vegetarian Bistro and Wine Bar

1028 Route 146, Clifton Park

This perennial winner just gets better and better. With delicious vegetarian-friendly Italian fare and one of the superior wine lists in the area, Antipasto’s is a rare gem. Try one of their gourmet pizzas, veggie burgers or pasta pesto. Their Caesar salad is as good as you’ll find anywhere. The food, music and personality will keep you coming back for more.

Best Brew Pub

Brown’s Taproom

417 River St., Troy

Travel the world over, drink its beer, and then come home to Troy and settle into the best IPA or Oatmeal Stout that the beer gods have to offer.

Best Diner

Peter Pause Restaurant

535 Nott St., Schenectady

We’ve promoted Peter Pause from last year’s “Best Breakfast” because this is what a diner should be, notwithstanding the fact that they serve only breakfast and lunch, and only on weekdays. Italian lunch specials change daily, the portions are generous and everything is served with the family’s homemade bread.

Best Barbecue

Capital Q Smokehouse

329 Ontario St., Albany

What’s the recipe for best barbecue? You can do it Troy style, and throw $2.2 million in tax breaks at an incoming barbecue joint, or just follow Sean Custer’s lead and fire up the smoker and put out the area’s best brisket and ribs and pulled pork. Don’t forget the great array of side dishes!

Best Caribbean

First Choice Caribbean American Cuisine

451 Fulton St., Troy

Do not head here expecting a fancy restaurant or silver-platter service. Do head here expecting mouth-watering, authentic Caribbean cuisine that will fill your belly and warm your soul. Visit the lunch buffet for a heaping helping of a little bit of everything.

Best Thai

Capital Thai

997 Central Ave., Albany

We‘re seeing a small efflorescence of Thai restaurants, but Capital Thai remains the favorite for its consistently superior food, like the khao soi that beckons us back so often. Short on ambiance, long on friendliness, offering a menu replete with pan-Asian dishes and a good sushi bar.

Best Japanese

Saso’s Japanese Noodle House

218 Central Ave., Albany

The Japanese dining experience humbly requests you to leave life’s concerns outside, and Saso’s aids this process with a peaceful dining room that impressively contrasts with the oppressiveness of downtown Central Avenue. The menu of traditional Japanese favorites (noodle soup’s a specialty) is enhanced by the toothsome sushi crafted by the master

Best Japanese Steakhouse

Koto

260 Wolf Rd., Colonie

Ah, those knives clang, the shrimp flies, something arcs up into the chef’s tall hat. A plume of flame erupts from a volcano of onion rings. It’s the teppanyake show, and nowhere is it better than in Koto’s magnificently sculpted rooms. Calmer seating also is available for the traditional Japanese menu.

Best Chinese

Emperor’s

10 Wolf Road, Colonie

We continue to marvel at the endurance of this local staple in that chain-restaurant city known as Wolf Road. The menu is as extensive as you could wish, with items you’ll not find otherwise north of Manhattan’s Elizabeth Street. Also a great place for vegetarian items and fresh, inventive seafood specialties.

Best Italian (Northern)

Chianti il Ristorante

18 Division St., Saratoga Springs

David Zecchini has moved his handsome enterprise to a quieter piece of Saratoga, but you still may well hear him crooning to a lucky customer in the new dining room. This style of dining requires fresh ingredients and a menu that’s lively enough to make the best use of them, and Chianti excels on all counts.

Best Neighborhood Italian (Albany)

Sam’s

125 Southern Blvd., Albany

Montemurro native Salvatore (Sam) Rappoccio and his wife Angela parlayed a pizza shop into the restaurant that’s been serving the neighborhood for nearly 40 years. Visit once and you’ll be overwhelmed by the sense of family; visit twice and you’re part of it. Low prices and traditional specials give it the consistency a neighborhood craves.

Best Neighborhood Italian (Schenectady)

John Riccitello

1687 Foster Ave., Schenectady

Schenectady was once the Italian restaurant center of the universe; John Riccitello thrives on a side street as a reminder of how a place like this holds a neighborhood together. Our visits over the past two decades find that little changes—even the prices stay low—and the sense of family endures into the second generation.

Best Neighborhood Italian (Troy)

Testo’s

853 4th Ave., Troy

Staying power is a challenge as a neighborhood changes, but Testo’s has endured for 33 years and now defines the neighborhood. The sauce is good enough to enjoy its own sales on location and in local stores, and the menu covers the gamut of what red-sauce restaurants do best.

Best Pizza: Defazio’s Pizzeria.

Photo: Julia Zave

Best Pizza

DeFazio’s Pizzeria

266 4th St., Troy

It’s a one-stop Italian specialty shop, with pizza the star—everything made fresh and finished in a wood-fired oven—and ancillary items (sauce, sausage, you name it) sold next door. More than 50 years of experience pays off in a pie that makes time stand still.

Elda’s on Lark

205 Lark St., Albany

One of the culinary fixtures of Lark Street, Elda’s recently added a take-out menu and gourmet pizzas. And oh what a pizza it is. Delicious crispy crust and fresh ingredients. Try the Pizza alla Elda if you want to be in heaven. Olive-oil-brushed dough, topped with marinara, eggplant, spinach, sausage, Pecorino and provolone. Delicious!

Fireside Pizzeria

1631 Eastern Parkway, Schenectady

Look upstairs for the pizza-and-wings buffet if your appetite is inextinguishable; otherwise, join the family of regulars in the main dining room for a pie that’s old-school, thick-crusted and delicious. Get it to go, of course, but try the sit-down dinner every once in a while to enjoy that extra measure of conviviality.

Marino’s Flying Pizza and Restaurant

1301 State St., Schenectady

There are a few unspoken litmus tests one must pass in order to consider themselves a true OG Schenectadian, and being in the know about the best pizza in town is certainly one of them. For decades, Marino’s has typified the Schenectady experience: friendly people of all kinds, old school charm and great food! The flying pizza is as perfect as it gets—old-school, thin NYC style, everything you want from a classic slice.

Minissale’s Wine Cellar Café

1 14th St., Troy

We recently discovered this charming little café, tucked into a side street near RPI, and we sure are glad we did. The service is friendly, the atmosphere is homey and romantic, and the pizza is nothing short of perfection. The spicy, lively sauce highlights the crispy tender crust and fresh toppings. Start with the generous antipasto and a bottle of a nice cabernet.

Smith’s Tavern

112 Maple Ave., Voorheesville

This has nothing to do with the fact that they named a pizza after us. Well, it’s symbiotic. We enjoy the excellent pizza; Smith’s enjoys good write-ups. They’re doing more of the work. It’s an out-of-the-way pub if you look from an Albany perspective. To many Vooheesvillians, it’s home.

Best Polish

Muza

1300 15th St., Troy

At the heart of this very European- feeling restaurant is a menu of Polish specialties—the golumbkis, wursts, pierogies and such that make for a rich, tasty meal. Family run, it makes you feel as if you’ve stepped into a large and generous household, and the cheerfulness keeps you smiling long after the meal.

Best Mexican

Casa Oaxaca

54 Philip St., Albany

Don’t look for luxury here. It’s a casual, intimate café on a busy corner where you’ll find a surprising bounty of truly native food, including that most Oaxacan of dishes, the nut- and pepper-based mole. Owner James Santaski and chef Francisco Vazquez, join forces to keep it authentic and delicious.

Best Latin-American

Salsa Latina

315 Central Ave., Albany

When you’ve worked up an appetite, nothing beats the Bandeja Tipica, which gets you a big plate of grilled beef, beans, rice, pork rind, fried plantain, arepa and a fried egg atop it all, but you’ll find the porkchops, stews, chili, burritos, enchiladas are refreshingly unique, all in a festive downtown Albany restaurant row.

Best Tapas

Jose Malone’s Mexican Irish Restaurant

405 River St., Troy

The only restaurant in the region that will serve you bangers and mash with a side of guacamole is notable not only for its bizarre cultural mash-up and stellar margaritas but also for its top-notch once-a-week tapas menu. Chef extraordinaire Ryan Cusack is the mastermind behind these menus of mouth-watering Mexican, Spanish and Latino dishes, and he consistently delivers unique culinary works of art.

Best Indian

Karavalli

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

No other cuisine has spread through the area as fast as Indian restaurants, recklessly propelling Capital Region well into the mid-20th century. There’s a cookie-cutter sameness to many, so we appreciate that Karavalli offers a wider range of the regional cuisines and nicely appointed places in which to dine.

Best Middle Eastern

The Phoenicians

1686 Central Ave., Albany

New, charming, delicious. Need to know more? All right: It’s Lebanese-based fare, long on lamb and that mouth-watering mystery loaf that rotisseries into authentic gyros and other shawarma dishes. Seek the expected—hummus, falafel, baba ganouj—or an array of less- commonly found preparations of veggies and meatstuffs.

Best Mediterranean

Ali Baba

2243 15th St., Troy

During the course of nearly eight years, Ali Baba has redefined its corner of Troy, drawing a huge customer base seeking its consistently excellent menu of Turkish delights, including kebabs, salads and, improbably, pizzas. Start with a mixed appetizer plate, which comes with a puffy loaf of lavash, and travel from there.

Best Falafel

Al-Baraki II

185 Lark St., Albany

We’re tempted to go so far as to call Al-Baraki’s falafel not only the best of its kind, but also the best lunch deal on Lark Street. Sure, you can get all sorts of cheap Lebanese eats from the unassuming little storefront, but the garlic-saucy $3.75 falafel is more than worth the walk. When Paul asks you if you want it hot, say yes please. Just make sure to pack your Tic Tacs.

Best Burger

Oliver’s Cafe

181 Freeman’s Bridge Road, Glenville

When you’re running an everything-from-scratch restaurant, you’re probably not going to stint in the burger department. Warren and Claudia Bush do not disappoint in this respect, and their daily menu of freshly made burgers (along with so much else) makes them perennial Best Of winners.

Best Retro Drive-In Burger Experience

Jumpin’ Jack’s

Collins Park, Scotia

Does it need any more commendation than the fact that it outlasted an upstart McDonald’s? Jumpin’ Jack’s is an institution, a place of mass- produced burgers served in a charming outdoor plaza between the Mohawk River and Collins Park. The line moves quickly—make up your mind well before you hit the window.

Best Little Hot Dogs

Famous Lunch

111 Congress St., Troy

Folks around here are serious about their little hot dogs, and the competition is as competitive in this category as the connoisseurs are dedicated. Famous Lunch remains our favorite spot to pound down a plate of the cute little buggers. This is the pinnacle of greasy-spoon ambiance. And just about everything is better with Zippy Sauce.

Best Fish Fry

Bob & Ron’s Fish Fry

1007 Central Ave., Albany

That huge blinking arrow is beckoning you in. Submit. This place is a Capital Region institution, frying up fish with ’60s flair. The result is a just-right, not-too-greasy platter of deep-fried seafood goodness. We suggest the fish fry platter, clams and onion rings, and—if you’re feeling truly decadent—a chocolate milkshake to wash it all down.

Best Tacos

Bros Tacos

319 Ontario St., Albany

Sometimes an eatery appears on the scene and redefines its category. Bros Tacos, let’s face it, is a hole in the wall, but those tacos are truly terrific. Don’t be thinking Old El Paso here—these are little masterpieces in their wrappers of corn, and the selection is impressively varied.

Best Subs

Andy’s & Sons Importing Co.

265 Delaware Ave., Albany

Rolls that could stand as a meal on their own, piled high with classic and creative combinations of the best meats, cheeses and veggies you can find, plus Italian specialties like eggplant caponata and fresh mozzarella. These guys have been making sandwiches on Delaware for 50 years, and they have definitely mastered the craft.

Best Sandwiches

Debbie’s Kitchen

456 Madison Ave., Albany

If you want your sandwich simple, they’ll make it simple. Or if you like it complex, with a variety of veggies and meats and toppings, they do that too. Debbie’s Kitchen makes delicious sandwiches of all combinations and sizes. We know, because they’re just up the block from Metroland world headquarters.

Best Wings

Ale House

680 River St., Troy

If you are hungry for Buffalo wings, there is no better place in this world or the next than this Trojan institution. The Ale House takes its wings very, very seriously. The sauces range from flavorful mild to mouth-melting spicy, with a seductive tequila-chipotle in the middle. Deep fried until crispy, these plump, juicy wings are second to none.

Best Fries

Red Dot

321 Warren St., Hudson

Not just any fries, but the cone-shaped container of Belgian fries, offered as a starter or the inevitable scene-stealer of a meal. This intimate Hudson destination is also a good place for a burger and a beer, a welcome break after a day of antiquing.

Best Cheap Eats

Applewood BBQ

19 Central Square, Chatham

Located on the Vehicular Nightmare (formerly known as The Circle) in downtown Chatham, Applewood BBQ is quietly providing outstanding barbeque at an affordable price. The meats are smoked on the premises with applewood, and everything from the soups to the coleslaw is homemade. Gnaw on some ribs as you watch bewildered, confused and reckless drivers shred their tires and flirt with death. The best food and the best show in town! (It’s a small town.)

Best Ice Cream

Moxie’s

1344 Spring Ave., Wynantskill

“Get on Spring Avenue, and just keep driving.” Eventually you will run into the gem that is Moxie’s ice cream stand. The business has been around since the 1930s and runs out of an old dairy building, complete with screen windows where you place your order. Chock full of unusual homemade concoctions, they also carry their own illustrious recipe for Blue Moon ice cream, a favorite of many. They are open rain or shine, and it is definitely worth the trip.

Best Soft Ice Cream

Guptill’s Coney Express

1087 New Loudon Road, Latham

Consistently good, it’s creamy and smooth and always looks perfect on the cone. In addition to vanilla and chocolate, black raspberry is always on the menu. You can even have a black raspberry and vanilla twist if you choose, and the only way you can top that is to dip it in chocolate. Yum!

Best Cheesecake

Cheesecake Machismo

219 Hamilton St., Albany

If you’re in the mood to indulge, this is the place to do it. The folks at Cheesecake Machismo do one thing: make cheesecake. And boy, oh boy, do they do it right. Their rotating array of flavors is as surprising as it is delightful, and each is more delicious than the last. Pick up a whole cheesecake to impress at your next schmancy-pants party, or enjoy a slice-and-a-coffee special for five bucks at the kitschy hole-in-the-wall shop. The latter makes for a great cheap date.

Best Desserts: Mrs. London’s.

Photo: Martin Benjamin

Best Desserts

Mrs. London’s

464 Broadway, Saratoga Springs

Want to live that cliché of the kid in a candy store? Stare at the Mrs. London’s counter and try to make up your mind. It’s a cornucopia of tarts, pastries, napoleons, you name it, decorated with fruit, covered with chocolate, spiced with lemon—the possibilities go on and on. Order a coffee, settle at a table, and get to know what sinful means.

Best Wine Bar

The Wine Bar and Bistro

200 Lark St., Albany

Get comfortable in the tastefully designed bar area, side room or lovely courtyard, and enjoy a glass of wine—there are plenty of them to choose from, and the knowledgeable servers will be glad to assist you. The place would stand on its own as a wine bar, but chef-owner Kevin Everleth also offers an eclectic, ever-changing menu of delicious plates both large and small.

Best Coffee

Spillin’ the Beans

13 3rd St., Troy

We love our coffee, need our coffee, and this is gourmet coffee at its best.

Best Coffeehouse

Uncommon Grounds

402 Broadway, Saratoga Springs; 1225 Western Ave., Albany

You need a place to fire up that keyboard while your cappuccino steams nearby. And it doesn’t hurt if there’s a good bagel to help your concentration. And you don’t have to pay for Wi-Fi. Uncommon Grounds remains the premiere such outpost, especially at its large, couch-laden Saratoga store.

Best Breakfast

Café Madison

1108 Madison Ave., Albany

A perennial favorite for creative twists on standard breakfast fare, including a variety of tempting omelet combos, stuffed French toast, raspberry oatmeal pancakes, and eggs benedict featuring layers of grilled vegetables. The breads are baked fresh. On weekends, get there early—or bring something to read.

Best Lunch: Iron Gate Cafe.

Photo: Julia Zave

Best Lunch

Iron Gate café

182 Washington Ave., Albany

A repeat winner for the consistently excellent, freshly made soups, salads, sandwiches, wraps and creative specials. The super-friendly and efficient staff always make you feel welcome, and keep things moving at a brisk pace.

Best Business Lunch

Angelo’s 677 Prime

677 Broadway, Albany

It takes a lot of raps because of the pricier items on its menu, but Angelo’s 677 Prime is worth it. For starters, it’s a beautifully maintained steakhouse, the kind that makes you feel special the minute you walk in. The staff is able and friendly. But it’s really about the food, isn’t it? And Prime is consistently good and fresh. Flash-fried calamari is crisp and light, and offset by the piquancy of banana peppers, watercress, arugula and a chili sauce for dipping. Salads are crisp and well flavored, especially the very satisfying salad of endive, watercress, radicchio, arugula, dired cranberries, candied walnuts, gorgonzola and balsamic glaze. A lot of beef is available, including a just-what-I-needed open-faced steak sandwich. New additions like the grilled swordfish avocado club, the pulled pork adobo dipwich and the New England lobster roll further enhance one’s ability to hold court with business associates while still getting your feedbag on.

Best Late-Night Dining

Justin’s

301 Lark St., Albany

A perennial winner because the food—sandwiches, burgers, salads, and café plates like ropa vieja and meatloaf & mac and cheese—is reliably good; but even more so because the kitchen is always open till 1 AM. You just don’t find that in very many restaurants around here.

Best Way-Late-Night Dining

Café 217

12 1/2 Delaware Ave., Albany

Where else can you get raspberry crêpes, a chili cheeseburger or a salmon filet with dill cream sauce by candlelight at four in the morning? Nowhere. Thank you Café 217.

Best Outdoor Dining

Water’s Edge Lighthouse

2 Freeman’s Bridge Road, Glenville

It’s Glenville’s oldest building, refashioned by Pat and Karen Popolizio into a riverside dining sanctuary that puts you right up close to the Mohawk. The menu has an Italian influence complemented by other Continental favorites, and it’s also an inn should you wish to make a weekend of it.

Best Emerging Dining Matrix

Ballston Spa

Ballston Spa

All of a sudden there’s fine dining at 51 Front, traditional fare at Paul’s, a southwestern menu at the Sunset Café, tea and sandwiches at the Whistling Kettle, bagels and coffee at Coffee Planet, hot dogs, pizza, and more—all crowded into this little village that’s too long lain in the shadow of Saratoga.


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