Back to Metroland's Home Page!
Goods & Services
Food & Drink
Arts& Entertainment
People & Places
Media

BEST OF FOOD & DRINK:

Best Restaurant

Café Capriccio
49 Grand St., Albany

It doesn’t try to be trendy, and the menu doesn’t so much change as evolve slowly. But a tried-and-true approach to food and service has given us a dependable setting with a fun personality. Owner Jim Rua supplies the inspiration; chef Jennifer Hewes does wonders with fare that reflects the many regions of Italy and Spain.

Best International

dine
26 Henry St., Saratoga Springs

Steven Knopf and Ron Farber bring us a small café a couple of blocks from downtown where French and Asian influences swirl through a menu described as “global comfort food”—not surprising, because chef Knopf has cooked in Jamaica, Australia, Micronesia and other exotic ports of call.

Best Continental

Springwater Bistro
139 Union Ave., Saratoga Springs

It tends to cover more than the continent the category suggests; even so, chef David Britton brings a core of classic French training to the wide variety of farm-fresh foods he features. Look for everything from tapas to a table-wide tasting menu.

Best French

Chez Sophie Bistro
2853 Route 9, Malta Ridge

Sophie Parker’s specialty was reinventing classic French fare for contemporary palates, and her legacy is admirably celebrated by Paul Parker and Cheryl Clark, who also maintain the personable elegance of the restaurant.

Best Italian (Gourmet)

Lo Porto Ristorante Caffe
85 Fourth St., Troy

Michael Lo Porto makes it look easy. His unassuming Troy restaurant is home to a style that starts with classic Italian recipes and takes them into rich, new territory. Great sauces, great meatstuffs and an accommodating dining room with nice service.

Best Italian (Vegetarian)

Antipasto’s
1028 Route 146, Clifton Park

A strip-mall treasure, Antipasto’s has been preaching the veggie gospel so shrewdly that some customers don’t even spot the lack of meat. Innovative Italian fare as well as pizzas; among the latter, try the Large One, an eggplant-portobello-and-smoked-mozzarella pie.

Best Italian (Neighborhood)

Testo’s
853 Fourth Ave, Troy

A truly family-owned and operated restaurant; Mom, Dad, the three sons and daughter are all involved and have been since day one. This Lansingburgh neighborhood mainstay has been churning out quality home cookin’ for more than 27 years, and there are no signs that it’s slowing down. Real traditional Italian dishes in a spotless setting served with a smile—and, if you’re a regular, a big hug. We suggest you become a regular.

Best Italian (Family)

Moscatiello’s Italian Family Restaurant
99 North Greenbush Road, Troy

Classic southern Italian fare is the watchword, with perks like homemade bread gracing the table, generously refilled. Bring the kids, and they’ll get hunks of dough to play with, which beats the hell out of crayons any time.

It’s in the pan-Asian: Sushi Thai Garden. Photo by Ellen Descisciolo

Best Thai

Sushi Thai Garden
44 Phila St., Saratoga Springs

It’s a multifaceted restaurant with excellent Japanese fare, but the Thai selections are also second to none, with a range of curries and rice dishes to satisfy devotees of this cuisine as well as newcomers.

Best Chinese

Emperor’s
10 Wolf Road, Colonie

The Chinese restaurant frequented by Asians in the know. We love the whole menu—including extensive vegetarian selections—but you simply must try one of the gourmet seafood entrees or the crispy Hong Kong garlic chicken. To die for.

Best Japanese

Bizen
17 Railroad St., Great Barrington, Mass.

A repeat winner, Bizen never disappoints. Exquisite sushi, mouth-watering tempura, grilled Japanese tapas and an extensive list of estate sakes. The standard for this region.

Best Sushi

Sushi Art Japanese Cuisine
2025 State St., Schenectady

Although you’ll also need to try the Japanese barbecue, a seat at the small sushi bar allows you to work with the chef to choose an array of absolutely fresh fish that he then will present in an imaginatively decorative manner. God is in the details.

Best Indonesian

Yono’s
Armory Center, 64 Colvin Ave., Albany

OK it freaks us out just a tiny bit that upon entering the Armory Center there’s a Jeep four-wheelin’ over a koi pond, a monster spark plug hanging from the ceiling and a service bay just over the wall, but once inside the dining area, we’re beckoned back to the old Yono’s in Robinson Square, and then the food starts to arrive, and everything is good again, real, real good . . . in fact, it’s heaven. Chef Yono Purnomo is one of the region’s premier chefs, and he continues to dazzle us with his exquisite continental cuisine highlighted with his native Asian accents.

Best American

Justin’s
301 Lark St., Albany

Chef Chris Sisinni refined his hand at new American fare at the renowned Zoë in Manhattan’s SoHo district and presents a wonderfully wide-ranging cuisine. Items like the “duck cigar”—shredded duck confit and blue cheese wrapped in a spring roll—are signatures.

Best New Restaurant

McGuire’s
353 State St., Albany

“Heaven” is the word that comes to mind when you taste one of Andy Plummer’s delectable tuna spring rolls or plated with a side of remarkably prepared vegetables and herbs. This is food like you read about in Gourmet, with an emphasis on fresh, seasonal ingredients prepared flawlessly, with care and imagination.

The beautiful sea: chef Serigne Sow of the Larkin. Photo by Joe Putrock

Best Seafood

The Larkin Restaurant
199 Lark St., Albany

Chef Serigne Sow, former owner of Manhattan’s Allora restaurant, is one of the area’s best seafood chefs. He prepares elegant whole red snappers and striped bass, generous cuts of salmon and swordfish, and plenty of shellfish, dedicating the same attentiveness and detail to each individual dish. Each one comes with one of Sow’s homemade sauces, which vary from light white-wine reduction and pink peppercorn sauces to red caviar and marinara sauces. He adds just a touch of currants, pignoli nuts, olives and other accompaniments to make each dish unique. And they’re mouth-watering, to say the least—Sow, keep on doing what you’re doing.

Best Greek

A Taste of Greece
193 Lark Street, Albany

And a great taste it is. From its dinner buffet to its lunch specials, A Taste of Greece offers authentic Greek cuisine at affordable prices. If you’re looking for ideas about what to order, we recommend its Greek salads or any of the Greek dips (skordalia and revitho salata are especially delish). All this and one of the friendliest waitstaffs in Albany.

Best Bistro

Bistro Zinc
56 Church St., Lenox, Mass.

Superb French-inspired comfort food in the bistro tradition, served in a handsomely cozy space on upscale Church Street. Zinc also may be the best restaurant in the region for dining at the bar (a long, curved, elegant affair reflecting the restaurant’s name). The only not-quite-bistro aspect is that it’s a tad pricey—but hey, it’s Lenox. We can only imagine the rent.

Best Restaurant Worth a Drive (North)

Friends Lake Inn
Friends Lake Road, Chestertown

It doesn’t hurt that the accommodations are gorgeous, so your drive can be a weekend turn, with breakfast on the sunlit porch as well. Dinner at the Inn is a toothsome trip through New American cuisine, artfully paired with appropriate wines, and hosts Sharon and Greg Taylor will see to it that you’re satisfied.

Best Restaurant Worth a Drive (South)

New World Home Cooking Co.
1411 Route 212, Saugerties

Old World meets New with an electric edge as chef Ric Orlando presents a bounty of offerings such as Thai green curry stew, bouillabaisse and the Big Plate of Organic Black Beans & Brown Rice with Fresh Vegetables. The New World grill features chemical-free beef flown in from Montana. Out of control or what?

Best Restaurant Worth a Drive (West)

American Hotel
Main Street, Sharon Springs

This elegantly restored hotel on the National Register of Historic Places features charming lodgings and dining room, with a gourmet menu of steaks and chops, pasta and fish prepared with the kind of attention you thought vanished with the 19th century.

Best-Kept Secret

The Hidden Café
Delaware Plaza, Delmar

The finest hummus, the best baba ghanoush in the area—and those are only the beginning. Chef-owner Joseph Soliman does things with falafel and feta that you have to taste to believe, all in this tucked-away storefront in Delmar.

What about kebab? Ali Baba. Photo by Shannon DeCelle

Best Middle Eastern

Ali Baba
2243 15th St., Troy

Before you start, order the mixed appetizer plate. Watch as your serving of lavash bread puffs up in the open oven. Then order the finest gyro north of Manhattan (it’s called a durum-wrapped kebab). Be sure to check out the amazing beyti sarma as well.

Best Steakhouse

The Bears’
Route 7, Duanesburg

Attention Atkins dieters: This is your destination! It’s not about a salad bar; this is where steak is king. Bob Payne doesn’t list his restaurant in the phone book, but it hasn’t stopped a slew of national magazines from discovering and lauding his restaurant.

Best Scandinavian

Helsinki Café
284 Main St., Great Barrington, Mass.

This combo blues café and teahouse features eclectic fare, courtesy of owner Deborah McDowell, whose family is from Finland. There’s borscht, of course, as well as seared shrimp with chipotle and lime, cumin-marinated shrimp tostada, tempeh fries, spiced Finnish herring, jerk chicken, blini with gravlax and more.

Best Mediterranean

BFS
1736 Western Ave., guilderland

Shaw Rabadi’s Western Avenue deli-cum-restaurant grew popular enough to spawn a Newton Plaza satellite, and at both you’ll find an appetizing array of salads and sandwiches and more that make full use of the ingredients of the world’s best diet: Mediterranean cuisine.

Best Vegetarian

Shades of Green
187 Lark St., Albany

Why hasn’t anyone else thought of the grilled cheese and vegetable sandwich? No matter: It’s just one of the excellent meat-free dishes served here, with burritos, salads and several soups among the daily offerings. Don’t forget to try the shakes.

Best Mexican

El Mariachi II
289 Hamilton St., Albany

Don’t think in terms of the Tex-Mex stuff you find elsewhere. This place serves Spanish and Mexican fare, including taquitos el Mariachi, in which corn tortillas sport a filling of cilantro-flavored pork; on the tapas side are garlicky preparations of shrimp and mussels.

Best Southwestern

Jake’s Round-Up
23 Main St., South Glens Falls

Your typical cowboy might not have ordered the stuffed lamb chop envelopes in puff pastry, but this is also a place for ribs, pot roast, chicken-fried steak, fajitas and even pasta. Be sure to try Elliott’s Electric Garlic-Roasted Eggplant.

Best Southern

Hattie’s
45 Phila St., Saratoga Springs

Hattie Austin established a tradition that lives on with owners Jasper Alexander and Elizabeth Monaco-Alexander, who not only serve such terrific Louisiana fare as hoppin’ john, jambalaya and, of course, that Southern-fried chicken but also offer the appropriate Southern hospitality.

Best Cajun

Bayou Cafe
507 Saratoga Rd., Glenville

79 N. Pearl St., Albany

OK, we understand that the Capital Region wasn’t a big settling location for Creoles and Cajuns, and therefore there aren’t many Cajun restaurants in this area, but suffice it to say that this place does Cajun and does it well. The jambalaya is wonderfully flavored, with the proper amount of spices and chock-full of shellfish, sausage and chicken. This is also the only place in the area where you can get a shrimp po’ boy. When your mouth is flaming, quench that thirst with one of the 30 beers on tap.

Best Indian

Shalimar
35 Central Ave., Albany
405 Fulton St., Troy

For quality inexpensive Indian food, you can’t beat the Shalimar buffet. This all-you-can-eat buffet offers a wide range of vegetarian, chicken, beef and lamb dishes with salad, tandoori bread and pudding for dessert. The ingredients are always fresh and mixed with the perfect amount of spices and flavorings. Stop in for dinner and dine in a casual setting with an attentive waitstaff and experience the best that Pakistani-Indian cuisine has to offer.

Best Caribbean

Clayton’s Caribbean American Cuisine
244 Washington Ave., Albany

This place really serves up some truly authentic Caribbean cuisine. Jerk chicken with the proper amount of spice and sweetness, barbecue chicken with Caribbean spices—the meat falls off the bone and melts in your mouth. Large selection of vegetarian items, a variety of seafood dishes. We find the lunch buffet to be an excellent way to experience the flavors of the islands, mon.

Best Wine List

Friends Lake Inn
Friends Lake Road, Chestertown

Recognized repeatedly by major wine magazines, the Friends Lake Inn has put together a list—and a handsome cellar to go with it—that has all your favorites Cabs and Chardonnays and so much more. Lounge in the comfy bar or build a full-fledged dinner around your wine selections in the elegant restaurant.

Best Wine by the Glass

The Ginger Man
234 Western Ave., Albany

With its more than 30 wines available by the glass and nearly 200 by the bottle, it’s almost an afterthought to realize that there’s excellent food available to go with your tasting. Take advantage of the knowledgeable folks who can guide you through your flights.

Best Beer Selection

Mahar’s
1110 Madison Avenue, Albany

This is a real no-frills, beer-swilling joint. Patrons’ mugs adorn the walls along with brewing companies’ paraphernalia; there are even some brass nametags to recognize the “Norm”-like regulars, of whom there are many. There’s a computer on the premises to keep track of your drinking as you trot around the beer globe. If you’re a beer lover, make this a regular stop—but don’t expect a late night, because at midnight the place is shut down tighter than a drum.

Best Best Place to Go When Someone Else Is Paying

Sargo’s
Saratoga National Golf Club, 485 Union Ave., Saratoga Springs

Chef Larry Schepici brings a degree of culinary expertise to Saratoga’s fancy golf-club restaurant that justifies its priciness. It’s almost too comfortable, so let the friends who take you play the links while you relax and dine.

Best Outdoor Dining

Nicole’s Bistro at the Quackenbush House
25 Quackenbush Square

The outdoor gardens at this downtown eatery, a perennial winner in this category, are magnificent. Secluded tables are sprinkled throughout a large patio area adorned with shrubbery, vines, fresh herbs and flowers, creating a romantic, tranquil setting to complement the great food. You’ll forget you’re still in downtown Albany. Honorable mention: Nicole’s Restaurant, 556 Delaware Ave., Albany (no relation).

Best Outdoor Drinking

Adelphi Hotel
365 Broadway, Saratoga Springs

The courtyard is romantic enough for kissing, dark enough for confessing.

Best Power Lunch

Jack’s
42 State St., Albany

Countless pols have championed their causes while chomping down on Jack’s lobsters or raw oysters. Business execs confer quietly while nibbling on dayboat salmon, carefully dabbing their lips while glancing furtively to the side to check out the who’s who of fellow diners. Lobbyists pursue campaigns with potential clients, while the Hawaii-shirted tourist stumbles in with his wife, anxious to sample this venerable establishment. With its woody, club-like interior, expert waitstaff and can’t-miss menu, Jack’s has always been the place to lunch where and when it matters.

Best Lunchtime Vendor

The Healthy Café
Capitol Park, Albany

The crew here at Metroland often venture out of our lush, high-rise office building to commune with the state-worker folk who dwell in and around the Empire State Plaza. We make this journey at lunchtime, when the various vendors surround Capitol Park and offer their wares. The food we choose to munch while watching those funny creatures called politicians comes, more often than not, from the Healthy Café. The truck offers a plethora of salads, cold and hot wraps, and many other options for those of us that want to eat, well, healthy. The inventiveness of the mixture of ingredients is always refreshing, and we just can’t get enough. Yum.

Best Brunch

Stephanie’s on the Park
462 Madison Ave., Albany

We enjoy the brunch at Stephanie’s so much it’s hard not to just list the menu, but for space reasons, we’ll merely mention that it’s incredibly varied, from granola and egg dishes to pasta and salads. Bring a hungry group—there’s something for everyone, and with so many great entrées on the brunch menu to try, there’s always something left for a return visit. It feels as though you’re sitting in a 19th-century drawing room while dining (you are—it’s situated in a Washington Park townhouse), and the live music completes the experience.

Best Breakfast (Mother’s Day)

Madison’s End Cafe
1108 Madison Ave., Albany

But hey, don’t save it for special occasions—any day is a special occasion when you start it with Madison’s End’s eggs-zucchini-tomato benedict or spiced raspberry pancake or potatoes O’Brien omelet or . . . damn, we’re making ourselves hungry. Did we mention that the breads are homemade and reason enough to go there? Oh, and the Belgian waffles and the breakfast burrito and the stuffed French toast and the . . . enough already. Mom? You busy?

Best Breakfast (Everyday)

Country Corner
25 Church St., Saratoga Springs

When you think home-cooked breakfast, you think fresh eggs over easy; thick-sliced, toasted homemade bread; crispy, hearty-cut smoked bacon; fresh jams and jellies; blueberry pancakes with real maple syrup. Yeah, that’s what you get at this cozy little home-style eatery. Bring your appetite and a smile, because everyone there is so damn happy and friendly.

Best Breakfast (The Day After)

Duncan’s Dairy Bar
890 Hoosick Rd., Brunswick

Here’s the scenario: You were out very late, consumed much libation and awoke in unfamiliar surroundings. After you gather your belongings, sneak out the door and get to your car—head pounding, mouth filled with dirty socks, stomach growling with pain—you need home-cooked nourishment. Duncan’s is the cure that will fix what ails: bottomless coffee cup, squeezed juice, eggs, bacon, toast, excellent omelets, fluffy pancakes, homemade muffins, all fresh and prepared with love. See you there Sunday.

Best Coffee Bar

Uncommon Grounds
402 Broadway, Saratoga Springs
1225 Western Ave., Albany

Many varieties of superb coffees and teas and simply the best specialty coffee drinks around. Add the bagels and the ambience—especially in Saratoga, where you can overhear conversations about Brecht and Foucault even if they’re not actually happening, but also at the Western Avenue location, whose comfy interior almost makes you forget you’re in a strip mall—and you’ve got a perfect place to while away that half-hour before class. And if you get to thinking that the class isn’t all that important . . .

Best Diner

Miss Albany Diner
893 Broadway, Albany

Long after the movie Ironweed came and went, the Miss Albany endures, a labor of love for Jane and Clifford Brown. With french fries available in three different states of doneness, homemade hash and, especially, MAD Irish Toast (pecan cream cheese filling and butterscotch-whisky sauce), it’s a one of a kind.

The price is right: Esperanto. Photo by Ellen Descisciolo

Best Cheap Eats

Esperanto
6½ Caroline St., Saratoga Springs

The changing specials may include a burrito, a spicy curry or some other easy-to-eat international dish. Pizza is a mainstay, and try Esperanto’s signature dish, the doughboy, in which calzone meets quesadilla.

Best Pizza

De Fazio’s Pizzeria
266 Fourth St., Troy

The pizza scene in Troy has been heating up lately, but De Fazio’s remains king, with fresh dough and crisp crusts and fillings that reinforce the belief that a pizza is an artist’s palette, needing a skillful mix of colors to make the picture complete.

Pizza spoken here: the Fireside. Photo by Leif Zurmuhlen

Fireside Pizzeria & Sandwich Pub
1631 Eastern Parkway, Schenectady

It’s not just the heady aromas that greet you as you pizza slides to a stop on a tray stand next to your table, soft mozzarella sighing into ready-to-cut submission; it’s the family feeling of the place, where you’re instantly welcome. Try the soups and specials, too.

I Love New York Pizza
Many locations, but Colonie and Troy are the originals

When it comes to unique toppings on pizza, this place takes the cake—er, pie. Eggplant and broccoli, Baked Lasagna, Chicken Marsala, Chicken Parm, Philly Cheese Steak and many others—24 variations altogether, all made with the highest-quality and freshest ingredients. The newest addition: Antipasto, all the ingredients in an antipasto salad served on a cooled cheese pizza. Healthy? Maybe.

Milano
594 New Loudon Road, Latham

Wood-fired, thin-crust pizza in a palate-pleasing array of gourmet toppings. The Margherita (fresh tomato, mozzeralla and basil) is a favorite, if you want just a single recommendation, but we’d advise going back again and again and working your way down the list: the Quattro Stagioni, the Salsicce e Funghi, the Primavera . . .

Best Bagel

Bagel Bite
544 Delaware Ave., Albany

Here one instance in which bigger isn’t necessarily better. Bagels are supposed to be a certain size, density and flavor. They needn’t be the size of a life preserver, nor should they be puffed up with air, and they need to taste like dough. This place has all three variables down, plus it has bialys—a different creature altogether. (Bialys are baked, then filled with onion, garlic and other spices.) There’s also a full complement of homemade cream cheeses, lox and deli meats.

Best Brew Pub

(Tie)

Davidson Brothers Restaurant and Brewery
184 Glen St., Glens Falls

Malt River Brewing Company
Latham Circle Mall, Latham

To quote a very famous cartoon icon: “Mmmmmmmm, beer.” Once again, we just couldn’t pick a single winner this year. Both of these locations are doing incredible things with water, malt, hops and other stuff. If Saratoga is the jewel of the north, Davidson Brothers is the Hope diamond. The quality and craftsmanship in each of its brews is amazing. If you can’t drive north, they’re bottled and shipped to area beverage centers and on tap at bars, but we prefer the drive and the pairing with the good food.

Malt River did a great thing last year: It brought back the Goose. Gary “Goose” Goslin is more passionate about his beers than most parents are about their kids. His signature beer, Olde Albany Pale Ale, is a very traditional English pale with one difference: It finishes very smoothly. The oatmeal stout is creamy and full of flavor, and the other brews are equally good. Also watch for Goose’s seasonal brews, barley wine, Weis’ Wheat, Pumpkin Ale and many others. The owners have also just added a new chef, and the food is really getting good; check out the new menu.

Best Sandwiches (New World)

Debbie’s Kitchen
456 Madison Ave., Albany

Yeah, yeah, you’ve heard it all before. But as long as Debbie Klauber keeps making her unique sandwich concoctions, we’re gonna keep picking Debbie’s Kitchen. There are always a few daily specials, to be had on a variety of wonderful homemade breads, and a wrap special. We suggest these, as they’re sure to be some mixture of sweet and savory, crunchy and creamy—slathered in a unique dressing of some sort—but you can create any variety of sandwich you wish. They’re big (so be prepared to save some for later) and they’re messy (perhaps Debbie’s is not a first-date sandwich place), but they’re the best you’ll find round these parts. It’ll be difficult, but save room for dessert.

Best Sandwiches (Old World)

Andy & Sons
256 Delaware Ave., Albany

Here is what you need to know: Carm’s Colossal (lean prosciutto, roasted red peppers and fresh mozzarella) and Vinnie’s Choice (Sopressata, roasted red peppers and fresh mozzarella). Vinnie and Carmen are the owners—they were once the sons, and now their sons are the sons. Those two subs are the tip of the iceberg. Homemade meatball, sausage, Boccancini (fresh mozzarella in oils and herbs), caponata (pickled eggplant), antipasto, olives, cheeses, homemade pasta, and to top it all off, homemade cannoli. Is it lunchtime yet?

Best Soup

The Larkin
199 Lark St., Albany

The Larkin’s soups are a big hit, as they’re rich but not too heavy—an important feature of a good soup—and it goes without saying that the taste is delicious. Chef Serigne Sow has so many unique concoctions up his sleeve, from broccoli-apple-peanut to spinach-scallop-apple (a particular favorite), we’re always excited to see what the offerings are.

Best Burger

New York Grill
1343 Central Ave., Colonie

The restaurants of Albany are known for many praiseworthy things, but until recently, burgers were not one of them. That all changed with the opening of the New York Grill, an unpretentious steakhouse featuring the Black Angus burger—a half-pound of fresh beef bursting with the breed’s trademark flavor and cooked to your precise specification. If you order one rare, you’ll get it perfectly rare, a feat that even the finest dining establishments often fail at. Here’s the best part: It costs $5.99. Fries included. No baloney.

Oliver’s Café
181 Freeman’s Bridge Road, Glenville

Despite the encroachment of other favored burger joints, Oliver’s remains a quiet mecca for those seeking hand-crafted, imaginatively appointed burgers with a side of hand-cut fries. Everything else in the place is made from scratch, so be sure to sample the other breakfast and lunch items.

Best Hot Dogs

Famous Lunch
111 Congress St., Troy

On the same busy Troy corner since 1932, it was first known as the Quick Lunch, but it got famous in 1958 when a Troy-born Marine stationed in Moscow flew over a batch of hot dogs to celebrate the U.S. ambassador’s birthday. It’s still FedEx-ing hot dogs to far-flung fans, but you can enjoy three or four of the little dogs with mustard and meat sauce right here.

Best Bread (New World)

Bountiful Bread
Stuyvesant Plaza

If you led us inside the store blindfolded, we’d know immediately where we were by the heavenly aroma of freshly baked loaves. We’d also know exactly where to jump across the counter and snag a Northern Italian ciabatta.

Best Bread (Old World)

Perreca’s
33 N. Jay St., Schenectady

It has remained a family operation because it stays small and because the quality of the bread—which emerges every morning from a room-sized, coal-fired oven—stays the same. Which is to say, crusty and excellent.

Best Wings (Buffalo)

Bayou Cafe
507 Saratoga Rd., Glenville
79 N. Pearl St., Albany

The chicken wing has become one of epicurean history’s greatest mistakes turned good. As the story goes, a bunch of hungry drinkers in a pub somewhere in Buffalo demanded some chicken; when the cook went to the kitchen only chicken parts were left, so with a little creative spicing, vinegar and hot sauce, the Buffalo chicken wing was born. There are many places doing great chicken wings, and there are thousands of variations on the original, but this joint has got it down. They’re the right size, they’ve got excellent Cajun spicing, and—the key—they’re cooked properly: crispy outside, tender in the middle. Mmmm, wings.

Best Wings (Bangkok)

Malt River
Latham Circle Mall, Latham

This brew pub’s Thai peanut wings have been dazzling our taste buds for years. We know what you’re thinking: “Peanut butter on wings—yuck!” But you won’t believe the sweet flavor and spicy finish. Chase ’em down with a hand-crafted grog, and you’ll be in heaven instead of a strip mall in Latham.

Best Late-Night Dining

Justin’s
301 Lark St., Albany

Where else can you dine like this between 11 PM and 1 AM? The main dinner menu is no longer available at those hours, but the cafe menu still offers a great variety of Justin’s signature new American cuisine in the form of soups, salads, appetizers and café entrees like the ever-satisfying ropa vieja. A repeat winner still going strong.

Best Late-Night Face-Stuffing

Soho’s Pizzeria
269 Lark St., Albany

Where there are a lot of bars, you tend to find a lot of pizza shops. These guys know what they’re doing—they know that people get the munchies after a full night out on the town and that the later they keep their shops open, the more business they’ll do. Soho’s is in a prime cater-to-the-hungry-late-night-crowd place—right among the many bars on Lark Street. The staff are always polite, even if it’s 4 AM and the chairs are on the tables, and they always heat their tasty pie slices to perfection—just the thing to sate the pickiest pizza craving. And even the not-so-picky.

best ice cream

The Toll Gate
1569 New Scotland Road, Slingerlands

Peppermint fudge. Butterscotch marble. Peanut butter & jelly. Rich, creamy chocolate. Raspberry sherbet. Watermelon sherbet. Oh, give me a cone with a scoop of everything! With just enough flavor choices to keep things interesting but not too many to overwhelm, Tollgate Ice Cream continues to make the locals (and those in the know) clamor for more. If a cone at the shop just isn’t enough, take home a packed half gallon for those late night cravings. In business for more than 50 years and a repeat Metroland Best Of winner, Toll Gate continues to make its scrumptious ice cream in the basement of its shop on New Scotland Road in Slingerlands.

Best Gelato

Aromi d’Italia
2050 Western Ave., Guilderland

It’s Italian ice cream, but better—half the calories without losing half the flavor. Don’t you wish we could do that to all food? More than 24 flavors to choose from, including melon, kiwi, tiramisu and white chocolate mousse, as well as the traditional flavs.

Best Desserts

Mrs. London’s
464 Broadway, Saratoga Springs

Sure, you can enjoy a pot of tea at one of the inside tables, but then you’re forced to study the dessert display, and all you’ll see is chocolate . . . rich, expertly crafted into breathtaking confections that dance on the palate.

Best Dessert You Order Before Your Entrée

Pearl Restaurant & Lounge
1 Steuben Place, Albany

Pearl’s executive chef, Kevin Conway, continues to delight our palates with his signature soufflés. The notorious soufflés date back to his sous-chef days under the late Sophie Parker of Chez Sophie. The chocolate soufflé simply melts in your mouth, but you can also opt for the more exotic passion fruit soufflé. It’s rumored that chef Conway is creating apricot and Grand Marnier soufflés, which are certain to impress his clientele as well. Just be sure to order this decadent dessert before your entrée (it takes about 25 minutes to make). Perfection is worth the wait.

Best Server

Aleph Ashline
Justin’s, 301 Lark St., Albany

If ever a wiz of a waiter there was, Aleph Ashline is one because, because, because, because, because, becauuuuuuuse . . . Ashline himself may tell you that it’s his triple-Gemini qualities—he’s a quick-witted communicator, and mutability is his MO—that have allowed him to so gracefully negotiate a profession that would (and does) drive many into sputtering tantrums. But whether the root cause is in his stars or in himself, we find that having Ashline tableside makes a meal an experience. He’s not so much a server as an ambassador of goodwill bearing merlot and ropa vieja. What could be better?

Best Place to Drop $200 Without Even Going There

McGuire’s
353 State St., Albany

McGuire’s is so popular among local foodies with money to spend (see Best New Restaurant) that it’s one of the hottest reservations in town. And one of the most expensive, if you fail to show up: To avoid losing money on diners who cavalierly treat reservations as optional, McGuire’s has introduced the Manhattanesque policy of taking a credit-card deposit—$40 a head—and keeping it if you don’t keep the appointment (and don’t cancel). And you thought the Delmonico with Madeira demi-glace was expensive.


Readers Poll Results:

Best American

1. Fridays

2. Chili's Grill & Bar

Jack's Oyster House (tie)

Best Italian

1. Lombardo's

2. Olive Garden

Best French/Continental

1. Provence

2. Ferrandi's

Best Seafood

1. Real Seafood

2. Red Lobster

Best Chinese

1. Plum Blossom

2. Dumpling House

Best Japanese/Sushi

1. Ichiban

2. Hiro's

Best Vietnamese/Thai

1. My Linh

2. Bangkok Thai

Best Mexican/Southwestern

1. El Loco

2. El Mariachi

Best Southern/Soul Food

1. Hattie's

2. Big John's

Best Caribbean

1. Clayton's

2. Roy's

Best Indian/Pakistani

1. Sitar

2. Shalimar

Best Vegetarian

1. Shades Of Green

2. Antipasto's

Best Steak House

1. Barnsider

2. Outback

Best Burger

1. Sutter's Mill

2. Jack's Drive In

Best Wings

1. Sutter's Mill

2. Wings Over Albany

Best Pizza

1. I Love NY Pizza

2. Fountain

Best Soup

1. Panera Bread Co.

2. Bruegger's

Best Diner

1. Latham 76

2. Circle Diner

Best Brunch

1. Gideon Putnam

2. Madison's End Cafe

Best Bagels

1. Bruegger's

2. Uncommon Grounds

Best Sandwiches/Subs

1. Subway

2. Debbie's Kitchen

Best Ice Cream

1. Ben & Jerry's

2. Kurver Kreme

Best Coffee

1. Starbucks

2. Dunkin' Donuts

Best Outdoor Dining

1. Sutter's Mill

2. Jumpin' Jacks

Lanies Café (tie)

Best Brew Pub

1. Troy Pub & Brewery

2. Albany Pump Station

Best Martini

1. Alibis

2. 9 Maple Avenue

Best Restaurant to Take The Kids

1. Friendly's

2. Chuck E. Cheese's

Best Place to Eat @ 3am

1. Denny's

2. Latham 76 Diner

Best Bakery

1. Bella Napoli

2. Vanilla Bean

Best Produce

1. Price Chopper

2. Hannaford

Best BBQ

1. Smokey Bones

2. PJ's Barbeque

Best Server

1. Frank Salvaggio (of the Plum Blossom).



^top


 
Copyright © 2002 Lou Communications, Inc., 4 Central Ave., Albany, NY 12210. All rights reserved.