49 Grand St., Albany
Newly added to the Café’s menu of northern Italian-inspired specialties is true Neapolitan pizza, a flatbread variety baked in an old-world oven. Otherwise, the menu features handmade ravioli, the chef’s own cured meats, calamari neri (a Café original), roasted spring lamb, Catalan pork loin and much more. What makes this place tops is the harmony and grace of food and service, maintained for three decades, in a comfortable dining room and more casual bar. And there’s an upstairs room for elegant small parties.
Best New Restaurant
Star Plaza, 2050 Western Ave., Guilderland
Chef-owner Joseph Soliman opened the Hidden Café and the Garlic Lover’s Corner, and now is helming a restaurant in Guilderland that shows his flair for combining Mediterranean techniques with continental fare. It’s an unlikely spot—it’s in a strip mall, after all, and its previous incarnation left it with an odd layout—but Soliman is a virtuoso at adapting both recipes and environment. It’s comfortable here. Try the seafood cioppino or the grilled lamb.
Best American (New-School)
New World Bistro Bar
300 Delaware Ave., Albany
Chef (and Chopped champion) Ric Orlando has a gift for infusing the regional harvest with innovative, international flair. And creative, homegrown multiculturalism is about as American as it gets. The menu offers tapas and small plates, burgers, flatbread pizzas, mighty entrees and mouthwatering desserts. If you haven’t been yet, go. If you have, go back.
Best American (Old School)
The Wishing Well
745 Saratoga Road, Wilton
Seventy-five years on, the Wishing Well remains your place for lobster. For steaks. For live piano entertainment. For all those things your grandparents found desirable in a restaurant and which you realize, to your mounting horror, you also have come to enjoy.
340 Warren St., Hudson
Hudson’s Warren Street has been enjoying a culinary boom during the past few years, and the seven-year-old Swoon brought Jeff Gimmel and Nina Bachinsky-Gimmel up from the city and out to the farm. Farms, actually, as they like to visit the places from which they buy their food. Chef Jeff offers items like pork rillette risotto, homemade pastas, spice-rubbed skirt steak, pan-roasted salmon with smashed garbanzo beans and duck confit with turnip greens, served in an airy, cheerful setting.
25 Chapel St., Albany
Yono Purnomo long ago established that Indonesian fare deserves a place alongside continental offerings, but they all get the fusion treatment, like sweetbreads with kung pao sauce, scallops with corn fritters, pakora-crusted soft shell crab and sautéed alligator with bean sprouts. The bakmi goreng (stir-fried Indonesian noodles) is outstanding, and the ultimate is the five-course rijsttafel. All presented in one of the area’s loveliest dining rooms.
Best Family Italian
Testo’s Italian Restaurant and Pizza Parlor
853 4th Ave., Troy
A family business since 1976, Testo’s serves up delicious family-style Italian food at recession- busting prices. Sadly, Momma and Poppa Testo both passed away this year, but the Testo’s legend continues to shine, led by their sons and daughter. Their attentive wait staff is one of the best in the area. Try their new well-conceived wine list, or an ice cold Peroni beer.
Best Trip-to-Italy Italian
The Appian Way
1839 Van Vranken Ave., Schenectady
Sisters Anna and Gina Mantova bring a long legacy of from-scratch traditional Italian cooking to this Schenectady mainstay. As the regulars know, they’ve tried to walk away from it a couple of times but have been persuaded back. Everything is made to order—I’ve seen the kitchen, and know it’s true—so settle in when you visit and enjoy a trip to the old country.
Best Gourmet Italian
818 Central Ave., Albany
Armand Lule’s polished Italian restaurant, Grappa ’72, continues to impress us with an exquisite culinary blend of comfort and elegance. From the opening-act appearance of fresh bread with sweet/tangy caponata, through exquisite apps like fennel and oranges with pomegranate and pecorino or a dish of pancetta, rapini, cannellini and red pepper flakes, to heartier fare like grilled lamb chops marinated in kalamata brine, each dish feels perfectly composed, with subtle grace notes completing the balancing act. Fresh ingredients, excellence in execution and service, and an understated, sophisticated interior further enhance Grappa’s ability to lure, entice and ultimately satisfy the most discerning diner.
Stuyvesant Plaza, Albany
Chef Michael Cunningham has found the right home here, purveying a contemporary French menu that can includes such items as pan-seared foie gras, risotto with clams, mussels, prawn and scallops and grilled trout served over a warm spinach salad with roasted red pepper tapenade. There’s an old-world bistro feel here that makes the busiest nights comfortable.
10 Wolf Rd., Colonie
Best trip to Chinatown, best vegetarian array, best secret dishes like the garlic steak. Emperor’s has long since established itself as the area’s most acclaimed Chinese eatery, and this in the midst of chain-restaurant central. Nothing fancy about the decor, and the service can be perfunctory, but where else will you find duck feet with pepper-black-bean sauce?
Sushi Thai Garden
44-46 Phila St., Saratoga Springs
1707 Route 9, Clifton Park
The emphasis is on Thai and Japanese cuisine, with extensive menus of both. Thus you’ll find tempura and satay, curry and sashimi. Don’t overlook appetizers like idako (marinated baby octopus) and naruto maki (crab, avocado, and masago wrapped with cucumber). A relaxing atmosphere and attentive service complete the experience.
Best Pan-Asian (New)
193 Lark St., Albany
Korean and Thai cuisine are the specialties of this new Lark Street eatery. But don’t be afraid to order off of the Chinese or Japanese menu. Kinnaree seems to have the whole Asian continent covered. Housed in the former Taste of Greece, this place is a welcome addition to the neighborhood.
997 Central Ave., Albany
Choose your style (curry, garlic sauce, whatever), choose your filling (meat or fish or tofu) and craft the dinner you desire. Soups and starters are also strong points, with a good tom yum goong and a splendid, egg drop-enhanced khao soi. It’s a casual, strip-mall place, but its look has improved over the years and service is quick and friendly. And there’s sushi as well!
Best Japanese Steakhouse
260 Wolf Road, Colonie
The show goes on at Koto, where the hibachi chefs expertly slice, dice and sizzle your food before your very eyes (and bring out that little pee-man to put out the fire). But no matter if you’ve seen this presentation one too many times—the results are delicious. And so are the equally impressive traditional Japanese dishes you can order at one of the quieter tables, including sushi, tempura, teriyaki and the very reasonably priced bento-box lunches.
Best Japanese Steakhouse (without the Show)
Kumo Sushi & Grill
370 Delaware Ave., Albany
Hibachi chicken is $13; steak is $15 and a seafood medley is $17. These are among the items usually cooked with a spatula-clanging show at the more expensive places; here your teppanyake meal just comes, and comes very deliciously, from the kitchen. Also Japanese fare like tempura and teriyaki and a wonderful crispy red snapper. And don’t overlook the sushi!
Van’s Vietnamese Restaurant
307 Central Ave., Albany
Van’s has discovered the cure for the common cold: hot and sour soup. This cold-weather staple is only one of many excellent Vietnamese dishes the restaurant prepares in colossal servings and at more than reasonable prices.
Best Mongolian Buffet
2309 Nott St. E., Schenectady
Here’s the Chinese buffet secret: Find one with a Mongolian grill station. There you present your selection of meat and veggies and sauce to a surly grill jockey who flash sautees it and presents you with a meal that’s far more healthy than what’s at the steam tables. And we like the one tucked into Golden Phoenix, which otherwise groans with sugary sauces.
315 Central Ave., Albany
There’s an all-you-can-eat tacos night on Wednesdays, but entrees include pollo a la parrilla (chicken with plantains), chile colorado (chopped beef in a truly hot sauce), chuleta de cerdo empanizada (pork chops with plantains) and carne asada (grilled steak with sliced avocado) – so it’s more than a burrito joint. Pleasant ambiance and friendly service, too.
1300 15th St., Troy
We don’t usually get past the pierogi, golombkis, potato pancakes or kielbasa, especially with a side of sautéed cabbage, but the menu also offers hungarian goulash, croquettes and spinach crepes. And when you get through all that, dessert crepes await.
1814 Western Ave., Albany
Order the pikilia, which gets you three of the restaurant’s signature spreads (chick pea purée, potatoes and almonds with garlic, caviar mousse, tzatziki, smoked eggplant purée, creamed feta). Then let chef-owner Harry Hatziparaskevas do his magic with lamb and fish and other upscale Greek specialties.
Best Greek Takeout
577 New Scotland Ave., Albany
With its long display counter, open cooking station and handful of tables, there’s an urban diner sensibility about Anton’s, which reinforces the expectation that your gyro will be terrific. It will. Also the chicken souvlaki, the sliders and fries, the moussaka – any of the many Greek-centric offerings here, including the pastries.
2243 15th St., Troy
When your pillow of lavash bread hits the table and you tear it open (ow!) and that big puff of steam escapes, you relax into the happiness of knowing you’ll enjoy an exceptional meal of Turkish-inspired fare that includes shawarma, kebabs and even curried chicken pizza. An RPI favorite, it’s also been a category winner here for a decade.
9B Johnson Road, Latham; 47 Caroline St., Saratoga Springs
Karavalli continues to bring elegance and variety to the challenge of offering Indian cuisine by extending its menu to several regions with contrasting food styles. Like the dosai, a rice crepe with fillings. And the ubiquitous buffet is here reimagined in a more rarefied manner.
Best Indian Buffet
Jewel of India
187 Lark St., Albany
The newest player in the Capital Region’s legions of Indian cuisine is a winner. And the ever-changing and spectacularly stocked buffet is the best way to experience the array of offerings. The unbelievably attentive service and streaming Bollywood are the cherry on the kulfi.
71 Partition St., Saugerties
But not just Moroccan. Chef-owner Niels Nielsen’s seven-seat eatery starts with the much-influenced cuisine of that country (his tagine is a wonderland of flavors) and puts Mediterranean fare alongside, for a menu of lively choices that includes a briouat, a phyllo roll stuffed with ground lamb.
1305 Altamont Ave, Rotterdam
The location—currently an unlikely side building to a gas station and convenience store—is due to change in the coming months. Which is needed: the jerk chicken here is amazing. The oxtail stew, ditto. It’s takeout oriented, although you can sit at one of the two indoor tables (or a picnic table outside) and enjoy both the food and the music that always plays.
The Bears’ Steakhouse
Route 7, Duanesburg
None of the many area steakhouse incursions has touched the Bears. For more than 40 years, the Payne family have excelled in offering steaks and chops and even superb homemade pickled herring at their unlikely Duanesburg outpost, where reservations are a necessity.
Capital Q Smokehouse
329 Ontario St., Albany
In a region replete with finger-lickin’ Barbecue goodness, this place beats all the others, hands down. Pitmaster and former executive sous chef Sean Custer has a damn fine way with meat, and with five distinct and delectable sauces and four rubs, their smoked-on-premises pulled pork, beef brisket, ribs, and authentic sides—from hopin’ John to succotash—are genre-definingly delicious. This is their fourth year in business and they’ve taken the title since they fired up their pit. Plus, their website is eatmypork.com, and we take that as a challenge.
Best Bar (new school)
The City Beer Hall
42 Howard St., Albany Ny
Touting the only mechanical bull in Albany, a free personal pizza with every beer or cocktail and a wide selection of craft beers this downtown bar has found its niche. Two full bars, outdoor beer garden, televised sporting events and soon a full menu; it’s too much that might just be enough.
Best Wine Bar
The Wine Bar and Bistro
200 Lark St., Albany
A repeat winner. Neighborhood wine lovers flock to this cozy basement hangout where conversation naturally flows as freely as the wine. And the French-inspired fare created by chef-owner Kevin Everleth and executed by chef Jason Baker is as superb as ever. No wonder this place is frequented not only by neighborhood foodies, but also by people in the food business themselves.
Best Brew Pub
Brown’s Brewing Co.
417 River St., Troy
With 15 signature brews and a special Beer of the Day everyday, Brown’s may finally cure us of this nasty Four Loko habit. If Metroland were housed in Troy, you probably wouldn’t be reading this right now. Instead we’d be forcing our opinions on you out on Brown’s riverfront deck.
Antipasto’s Vegetarian Bistro and Wine Bar
1028 Route 146, Clifton Park
Antipasto’s Italian vegetarian menu features an array of delicious salads, pasta dishes, veggie burgers and pizza—a vegetarian’s oasis. For the wine or craft beer drinker, owner Steve Zumbo’s careful selection will compete with anyone in the region. And you can always ask for some friendly advice when making your choices; part of the joy of this place is the amazing energy that permeates it. Antipasto’s needs to be on everyone’s bucket list.
Best Vegan Food
274 Lark St., Albany
Just like their fresh juices and wide selection of teas, Lil Buddha’s vegan (and plain vegetarian) cuisine is marked by its attention to detail, right down to the homemade salsa. The vegan BLT, Bandito Burrito and roasted beets are not to be missed.
Best Vegan Junk Food
Little Anthony’s Pizza
1095 Central Ave., Albany
Whenever you order something off the vegan portion of Little Anthony’s pizzeria menu, they slip you a tiny note. It’s a message from the owner, Pat, encouraging you to offer suggestions for how he can continue to offer the best, most inexpensive vegan “convenience” food around. Judging by the taste of his vegan chicken parmesan, he doesn’t much need the help.
Best Buffet (Getaway Division)
Mohonk Mountain House
1000 Mountain Rest Rd., New Paltz
During the summer months, Mohonk offers a dinner buffet the like of which you’ll find nowhere else, as hundreds of guests move through lines of gourmet fare that by rights should only be this good when plated in the kitchen. And summer lunch at the Granery is a cornucopia of burgers, ribs and corn. The breakfast and brunch buffets are year round, and also are genre-defining.
Miss Albany Diner
893 Broadway, Albany
Alright, it’s a little grubby, but that’s how we take our greasy spoons, thank you. This dining car has secured a permanent spot on the national register of historic places—and in the hearts of is diverse patrons. We love the ambiance, but food is what makes it a winner. Try the Mad Eggs or the Mad Irish Toast. You’ll be back for more.
2082 Delaware Turnpike (Rte 443), Clarksville
There’s much more going on at this unlikely Clarksville outpost, like fancy dinners and seasonal parties, but chef-owner Daniel E. Smith abandoned an urban kitchen to cook as he pleases, and it pleases him to offer red flannel hash, superb eggs Benedict, and the usual array of flapjacks and waffles and other preparations of eggs. Lunch is another tasty option here.
Peter Pause Restaurant
535 Nott St., Schenectady
The locals love this place and probably would rather we stopped giving it awards. So don’t go. Don’t enjoy the homemade bread, the daily Italian-themed lunch specials (eggplant parm is a favorite), the easygoing atmosphere and, if you get there earlier, the excellent breakfasts. It’s a tiny space, so by not going you won’t have to wait.
Best-Kept Secret (Emerging)
661 Albany-Shaker Rd., Loudonville
Small plates, salads and sandwiches are offered alongside a menu that ranges from typical (of course there’s filet mignon; this is a hotel restaurant) to excellent preparations of scallops and short ribs. Service is impeccable, prices are good. It’s been here for a couple of years but still awaits discovery.
Best-Kept Secret (Endurance)
River Street Café
429 River Street, Troy
This jewel overlooking the Hudson River and historic River Street has a great vibe in an old Troy building, and serves up amazing food with great wine list with great service. Owner and chef George Schroeder puts years of experience into his delicious cooking. And you won’t find a more romantic setting sitting overlooking the Hudson when the sunsets.
100 Fenn St., Pittsfield
Tucked into a Pittsfield side street, the Highland dates from 1936 and the big padded booths and friendly service will persuade you it’s still that year. Certainly the prices and the menu selections harken to the past. Pork tenderloin for 12 bucks, and hamburger for three—good, inexpensive fare is its own time machine.
2015 Rosa Rd., Schenectady
Cella Bistro excels in entrées like pan-seared duck breast and a traditional steak frites, and there’s a cheddar cheese fondue with yukon gold potatoes and grilled asparagus, but we’re going to salute the small plates they offer: marinated olives, a variety of cheese, Spanish tortilla with lemon caper aioli, mussels in saffron cream, steamed clams, pork ribs with chipotle glaze, crab-stuffed peppers, fried wonton shrimp and more.
Best Cheap Eats
184 River St., Troy
You’ll meet chef-owner George Hajnasr as you study the brief, cheerfully inexpensive menu; let him steer you into a filling meal of Lebanese fare that can include meat pies, falafel, baba ganouj and more, available in two sizes of wrap or as full (but very casual) dinner plates. And there’s outdoor dining in the warm months
1631 Eastern Parkway, Schenectady
Thick-crust pizza made with love and fresh dough, served in a cozy neighborhood space that also offers sandwiches and salads, burgers and full dinners of Italian-inspired fare. As to that pizza, it’s up to you how to top it, but there are a white pizza and a spinach quiche pizza among the alternatives.
266 4th St., Troy
Once they put their homemade dough in the wood-fired oven, you know you’re going to have a terrific meal. Top it traditionally, or try such variants as the white clam pizza, the fra diavolo pizza, the pesto pizza, the eggplant florentine pizza, the puttanesca pizza and the unlikely General Tso’s pizza. DeFazio’s also makes its own sausage and barbecue sauce, among other things. A Troy mainstay.
Harvest and Hearth
251 Stafford Bridge Road (County Route 67), Saratoga Springs
Flatbread gourmet pizza prepared with ingredients drawn as locally as possible, including a nitrate-free pepperoni that’s as good as any of the bad-for-you stuff. Owner Peter Michelin is also the ovenmaster, turning out such pies as the “Hearth House” (tomato sauce, mozzarella and asiago cheeses), “The Shrooms” (wild mushrooms, fontina and caramelized onions), “Sammy’s Free Range BBQ Chicken” “The Epiphany” with kalamata olives, goat cheese and roasted red peppers.
Antipasto’s Vegetarian Bistro and Wine Bar
1028 Route 146, Clifton Park
Widely known as the area’s premier vegetarian restaurant, Antipasto’s also serves one of the most delicious gourmet pizzas in the Capital Region. And oh what a pizza it is: crispy crust with fresh vegetables, cooked to perfection. Try the Official (roasted red peppers, spinach, portabella mushrooms, smoked mozzarella with a garlic crust) for a slice of heaven.
181 Freeman’s Bridge Road, Glenville
We have saluted their handmade burgers year after year, noting the daily specials (the Cajun burger is always a winner) and the hand-cut fries. Let’s also note that the breakfast, other lunch sandwiches, daily soups and rich desserts also offer compelling reasons to visit, as does the view of the nearby airport.
Best Hot Dogs
111 Congress St., Troy
A bustling lunch counter alongside a row of booths; orders hollered to the counterman, who works in a window overlooking Congress Street; forefinger-sized dogs nestled with meat sauce in a spongy bun; fries with crunch; amusingly inexpensive. A perennial winner.
5 Schonowee Ave., Scotia
Jumping Jack’s opening marks the beginning of the summer season with its cool 1950s vibe. Enjoy a delicious burger and fries as you take a stroll by the Mohawk River or through the park. One bite into one of their famous cheeseburgers and a sip of a cool milkshake and you know the line was worth the wait.
319 Ontario St., Albany
With about a dozen fillings and specialty salsas, not to mention homemade tortillas and all the freshest ingredients, Bros. makes a simple street food eat like a delicacy. One of the best take-out spots in town, hands down.
Andy & Sons Importing Co.
256 Delaware Ave., Albany
The finest subs in the Capital Region. Fresh rolls, produce, and high quality meats and cheeses are combined as if by alchemy. Choose one of their time-tested menu items, or build your own. Delicious!
Best Rotisserie Chicken
Mr. Pio Pio
160 Quail St., Albany
Rotisserie chicken is an Ecuadorian specialty, and is served in several ways at this very inexpensive and very casual restaurant in Albany’s student ghetto. The menu also offers many beef and fish dishes and a hearty bandeja tipica, which starts with steak but throws eggs, plantains and much more into the mix.
Best Fish Fry
Ted’s Fish Fry
47 3rd Ave., Watervliet
636 New Loudon Road, Albany
350 2nd Ave., Troy
700 Hoosick St., Brunswick
203-A Wolf Road, Colonie
It’s our own empire of fish-fry goodness, a small Watervliet storefront that has beaten the odds by expanding all over the area. But they’ve kept their focus while expanding, still concentrating on giving you a great slice of fish. Have some fries with it.
1600 Union St., Schenectady
So you go in for a sandwich. Maybe it’s corned beef, maybe it’s tongue. Maybe it’s Oscar’s smoked turkey or ham. You knew you’d be getting a Dr. Brown’s, but then you look at the deli display and for crying out loud, get a knish. Do you have enough mustard at home? You see the grocery display and decide you better stock up. That’s how this place works on you.
Best Rebirth of the Spring Roll
297 North St., Pittsfield, Mass.
Once upon a time, Kim’s Dragon, in West Pittsfield, served legendary spring rolls—small, greaseless, bursting with flavor. The legacy has passed to another generation of the family, and the spring rolls have been reborn in the downtown Spice Dragon. They’re larger, they have a crisper wrapper, but the flavor remains sensational and they can’t turn them out fast enough.
Tri City Valley Cats Game
Joe Bruno Stadium, 80 Vandenburgh Ave, Troy
Best potatoes at a ball park? Hell yeah. For $2.50 you get a bowl of buttered, salted new potatoes that are a meal in themselves. Simply delicious.
402 Broadway, Saratoga Springs; 1225 Western Ave., Albany
A coffeehouse needs good coffee, pastries and maybe a sandwich or two, plus comfortable seating and WiFi, provided you’re not forced to study your neighbor’s boring Facebook page. Uncommon Grounds also makes bagels—excellent ones—and cheerfully puts up with the inane requests of the idiot who had to be in line right in front of you.
260 Lark St., Albany
You won’t find a whole lot of extras at this spare but elegant Center Square café. What you will find is the most exquisite espresso drinks around. And that’s no accident. The café and roasterie’s founders are expressly focused on perfecting coffee. And they’ve damn near done it.
Best Scratch Cafe
Scratch Bakery Cafe
293 Hamilton St., Albany
Admittedly, Scratch gets serious bonus point for being walking distance from our office. But we keep going back day after day because they never fail to tempt us with their fresh and flavorful offerings. Even the panini bread is baked on premises. Plus they have an array of vegan and gluten-free treats available that easily match their conventional counterparts.
197 Lark St., Albany
When you take in that first crunchy mouthful of a Crisan creation you know you’ve crossed the line into total dessert sin. Is it possible that the component butter is butterier than that which we mere supermarket shoppers enjoy? Whatever the secret, the pastries and cakes are superb, and the storefront is a nice stopping place for a coffee break.
Best Soft Ice Cream
585 S. Main St., Lanesboro, Mass.
Krispy Cone takes soft ice cream to the next level. They have hundreds of flavors, pretty much limited only by your imagination. . . . Pina colada? Rum raisin? Peanut butter and jelly? Check—thanks to an amazing system and mysterious system that mixes flavor goodness into each serving and dispenses it with the perfect soft-serve swirl.
Best Hard Ice Cream
1344 Spring Ave., Wynantskill
For intensity and innovations in flavors, Moxie’s is tops—think everything from standard chocolate to blueberry lavender and Cajun vanilla. Nobody else around here makes hard ice cream that tastes so perfectly handmade. And they earn super bonus points for having a cool, country setting full of fun, so you can actually savor those stunning flavors while the kids drive a wooden tractor or firetruck.
1179 Central Ave., Albany
Special occasions call for Coccadotts creations! Coccadotts delightful cupcakes are the perfect treat to add a little flair to your celebration or just to your average day. After sampling their wide assortment of delicious flavors, there’s no turning back.
293 Hamilton St., Albany
Simply put, these kids make the best damned cheesecake around. And their delightfully kitschy Hamilton Street shop is the perfect place to grab a slice and a coffee—the best cheap date in town.