49 Grand St., Albany
It’s easy to take a place like this for granted, but when you visit again (because surely you’ve visited and enjoyed it already) you rediscover the seemingly effortless old-world charm that informs every aspect of this place. Chef Franco Rua’s menu features Tuscan-inspired fare like Cinghiale Toscana (roasted boar), Puttanesca Napolitana and veal scaloppini Lavacchio, prepared with gorgonzola, olives and sundried tomatoes. And true Neapolitan pizzas from the wood-fired oven.
Best New Restaurant
544 Delaware Avenue, Albany
Chef-owner Un-Hui Filomeno has returned to the helm of her own place, a lively, congenial restaurant featuring the tremendous variety of fare for which she’s known, from Korean bulgokee to her signature Five-Cheese Lobster Mac, taking macaroni and cheese to a place you never imagined. Many ingredients come from local sources, and the emphasis on healthy fare puts a lot of vegetarian and vegan items on the menu.
Beekman Street Bistro
62 Beekman St., Saratoga Springs
Chef-owner Tim Meaney continues his “farm to table” commitment with what’s now a tradition of quirky excellence in a suitably artsy neighborhood. Recent menu items include duck breast with lentils and golden beets, grilled crème fraiche pizza with arugula and pan-seared sea scallops over wild mushroom risotto.
Star Plaza, 2050 Western Ave., Guilderland
Sometimes you can’t get beyond the salads, seeing as how they include steak and asparagus over greens and tomatoes with blue cheese dressing, lamb Kabob with greens and cukes and a chicken pesto-lettuce array. But the entree list includes veggie jambalaya, pasta with chicken and shrimp and Portuguese sausage, grilled lamb with shiitake mushrooms and so much more.
Best Old American
The Century House
997 New Loudon Road, Latham
Chef Michael Niccoli maintains the old-world ambiance and traditional menu, featuring mainstream (but thoughtful) preparations of NY strip, duck breast, lamb chops and even turkey pot pie, seafood like salmon, scallops and sea bass—and a tavern menu with burgers and sliders and salads and soups, served in a well-appointed dining room.
Best New American
New World Bistro Bar
300 Delaware Ave., Albany
Ric Orlando fears no food which, when you think about it, is unique. We’re so cowed by comestibles that it’s inspiring to find a chef eager to combine ingredients in ways that are lively and delicious. And good for you, given his hyper awareness of nutritional issues. From Panang curry Bolognese to good old ropa vieja, the menu offers a range of flavors and styles.
The Bear’s Steakhouse
8254 Duanesburg Road (Route 7), Duanesburg
No, there’s no website. They don’t need one, any more than they’ve ever needed to advertise for the 40-plus years they’ve been around. That’s because the steaks and chops and prime rib are like nothing you’ll find elsewhere, making a pilgrimage here essential when you want the finest steak in a homey setting with superior service and—oh, my god, is that the size of the dessert?
Latham Farms, 579 Troy-Schenectady Road, Latham
Owners and Claire and Sandy Pogue and chef Dominique Brialy offer contemporary views of the classic cuisine in a bistro setting with a nice aroma of Gallic. You’ve got your escargot, your ris de veau, some steak tartare, some grilled canard, pork several ways (try dijonnaise). Enough, you say? Here’s crème brûlée!
The Appian Way
1839 Van Vranken Ave., Schenectady
Enter through the front door once again—the side room has been rented—to enjoy the scratch cooking of Anna and Gina Mantova and the genial service of the extended family. The pasta is homemade, the insalata di arancia (salad of seasoned oranges slices) boasts surprisingly pleasing flavors, and if you’re lucky enough to find brasciole as a special, grab it.
Best Gourmet Italian
818 Central Ave., Albany
Armand Lule’s Grappa ’72 is a repeat winner in this category. From the tastefully elegant interior to the attentive service to the fresh takes on regional Italian specialties, Grappa manages to be both casual and gourmet all at once. Excellent wine list to boot.
Best Family Italian Restaurant
Testo’s Italian Restaurant & Pizza Parlor
4th Avenue and 124th Street, North Troy
What is more comforting than a wonderful Italian dinner? Well a wonderful Italian dinner at Testo’s. Not much has changed over 36 years with this repeat winner. Although mama and papa Testo have passed, the Testo boys still carry on the great family tradition. Try their delicious baked haddock diner, eggplant parmesean and their award-winning pizzas. Amazing family recipes for meatballs and lagasgna. Affordable, generous portions, great for the kids and also a great wine and beer selection for adults. Testo’s is a true Lansingburgh landmark.
Best Pizza (Albany)
63 N. Lake Ave., Albany
While the neighborhood isn’t looking too fresh these days, Sovrana’s uses more fresh ingredients than you might think—they have their own garden and make their own sausage, for example. Students from the neighborhood come and go, but the pizza is as blissfully gooey and chewy as ever.
Best Pizza (Troy)
266 4th St., Troy
Defazio’s is tough to beat. They start with quality ingredients, have a great menu, use a wood-fired oven, and make their pies with love. We can’t prove that, but we swear it’s true. You can get it delivered but we suggest eating in. The space is quaint and it’s BYOB.
Best Pizza (Saratoga)
26 Henry Street, Saratoga Springs
It’s not just the northern branch of Albany’s Café Capriccio. It’s a comfortable eatery with a Neapolitan flair, cooking exotically topped flatbread pizzas in a wood-fired oven. But you’ll also find plates of cured meats and cheeses, pasta and risotto dishes, and full plates built around meats and fish. There’s something good here for every budget.
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). OK, that’s what we said last year. No matter, the food is still excellent, whether you partaker of the hibachi show or sit at a quieter table to enjoy traditional Japanese dishes including sushi, tempura, teriyaki and the very reasonably priced bento-box lunches.
1558 Central Ave., Albany
A city hasn’t really made it until it sports a pho restaurant like this one. Broth is the mainstay—broth enhanced with wide noodles and tender meat, including parts of beef you don’t typically order but owe it to yourself to try. Bánh mì is a sandwich with cucumber, carrots, radishes and your choice of meat. Vermicelli dishes round out the menu. Simple fare with complex flavors, impressive and inexpensive.
997 Central Ave., Albany
Don’t let the strip-mall placement dismay you. Here you’ll enjoy a range of curries and other Thai specialties, including fried rice dishes, palate-firing hot and sour soups, a variety of duck preparations and a range of seafood dishes. Try the Chili Fish (pla lard prik), which puts before you a deep fried whole red snapper topped with spicy chili sauce. Low-priced lunch specials, too. Pan-Asian bonus: there’s also a sushi bar.
Best Asian Buffet
710 New Loudon Road, Latham
It’s not a buffet in the load-your-plate-till-you’re-dizzy sense. Pay a flat rate ($21 Sunday-Thursday, $23 Friday-Saturday) and can order endlessly from a generous menu of sushi, sashimi and such other Japanese specialties as tempura, teriyaki, katsu and noodle soup. The special rolls are whimsical, and the décor of the place is amusingly Vegas-esque.
Sushi Thai Garden
44-46 Phila St., Saratoga Springs
1707 Route 9, Clifton Park
Sometimes your meal can be a refuge from daily stress, and both Sushi Thai locations offer a peaceful dining area where the fresh sushi and sashimi and creative rolls harmonize with the extensive menu of Thai and Japanese dishes. It can be enough to sit and sip some tea with a plate of edamame, but add a curry and a noodle soup and life is complete
10 Wolf Road, Colonie
We’ve been praising this place for many years despite the fact that you may have to turn around in the IHOP parking lot to get there. There’s also nothing fancy about the place itself. But the menu, and the food that awaits your delectation—that’s another matter. This is non-tourist-Chinatown-style dining, with great meat and fish dishes, plenty of vegetarian items, and a few things the sound of which still makes us nervous (conch with duck feet, anyone?).
351 Duanesburg Road (Route 7), Schenectady
Seventy-five years ago it was the Sodium Diner. A few years ago the place was refurbished with added space and now sports palm trees inside. We should all be so sassy at 75. Old-fashioned diner fare is offered alongside newfangled items, with an all-day breakfast and such staples as meatloaf, chicken pot pie and roast turkey as well as wild mushroom risotto and pork chops with eggplant and feta.
Best Out-of-the-Water Rebirth
Collins Park, Scotia
One of the sadder images from last summer’s flood showed Jumpin’ Jacks’ tables floating down the bloated Mohawk River. Amazingly, they all were returned. But beyond that, owner Mark Lansing rebuilt the place in time for its traditional opening date, and the burgers have been flying out of there since then. It’s assembly-line food in the most pleasant way, and a Jackburger with fries says summer to us.
181 Freeman’s Bridge Road, Glenville
You have to get past the stuffed French toast, the pancakes, the variety of egg dishes. You need to avoid the array of tasty sandwiches, the homemade soups. You need to walk in here committed to the fact that you’re getting a burger—hand-formed, cooked to order—and may very well go for one of the specials, with blue cheese, say, or Cajun spices. And on top of that (beside it, technically), are hot fresh hand-cut fries.
Best Hot Dogs
Saratoga Awesome Dogs
112 Excelsior Ave., Saratoga Springs
They’re smoked. That’s all you need to know. So are the burgers. So is the wurst. There’s no doubting the provenance—the smoker fumes alongside the red Awesome Dogs cart in the busy parking lot it inhabits in the warmer months on the drier days. We secretly crave the peppery presence of smoke in our food. Indulge yourself.
Best Lunch (Troy)
111 Congress St., Troy
What do you want, a fancy gourmet sammich or something? Leave that to for the state-worker wage-slaves. You’re in Troy. The rules are different. You can have hot dogs for lunch. In particular, the little dogs unique to this area, smothered with onions and cinnamon-scented meat sauce. You need more than one to make a meal, and have some fries with ‘em.
Best Lunch (Schenectady)
Peter Pause Restaurant
535 Nott St., Schenectady
Breakfasts include homemade bread. Daily specials can include spaghetti with mushrooms, ravioli with meatballs and, on Fridays, linguini with clam sauce with, for a little extra, some baked fish. This is a locals-intensive eatery that fills so fast for its breakfast and lunch service that you may have to wait for a seat. So wait.
Best Lunch (Albany)
182 Washington Ave., Albany
Taste, value and lunch-hour efficiency add up to a downtown Albany lunch staple. The weekend brunch rocks, too.
1108 Madison Ave., Albany
The Tuscan frittata, the raspberry-oatmeal pancakes, the eggs burrito, the many mouth-watering omelets—they’e all as scrumptious as ever, and available (along with many other items) all week long. Stop in for the weekend brunch, and there are even more choices. Those lines don’t form just because people are too hungover to go somewhere else.
Stuyvesant Plaza, Albany
Deceptively simple but creative takes on classic brunch items at this stylish restaurant in Stuyvesant. Beautifully presented and ridiculously tasty; even if you order the chicken-fried steak, you’ll know you’re not at Denny’s.
Best Vegan Brunch
X’s to O’s Vegan Bakery
97 4th St., Troy
A niche category, for sure—yet, X’s to O’s biweekly vegan brunch has grown from a delicious bounty into an institution and gathering for upstate vegans. You’d be amazed how far some people are willing to drive for tofu scramble and cinnamon buns—almost as far as the bakery’s wholesale business travels to deliver their in-demand confections.
Best Late-Night Dining
1100 Madison Ave., Albany
Not only is the bar menu served until midnight Monday through Thursday and 1 AM Friday-Saturday; with options like the artisan cheese board, several gourmet pizzas, eggplant napoleon, and bang bang lobster and shrimp, it rocks.
Best Outdoor Dining
Water’s Edge Lighthouse
2 Freemans Bridge Road, Glenville
The menu of traditional Italian items is complemented by some Asian influences and a Lighter Fare list that makes this as much a destination for a cocktail and a snack as it is for a full meal. Which is very good, because you’ll want to be wielding that wine glass from a seat on the outdoor deck, with a pleasant view of the Mohawk River
1300 15th St., Troy
Owner Jan Siemiginowski works tirelessly to keep the restaurant and its property looking good. That’s one of the reasons each visit feels fresh. Beyond the traditional pierogi, golombki and the like are spinach crepes, chicken marsala, beef goulash, beef Stroganoff, Vienna schnitzel (the classic – with pork) and more. And cabbage and potato pancakes, of course.
The Greek House
27 3rd St., Troy
Why is the moussaka so good? It’s in the béchemel. The gyros? The meat is freshly carved off a rotisserie. The spanakopita? It’s the flaky phyllo. The cold appetizer dips? Hey: we’re not going to try to answer all your questions. Visit this charming Troy storefront-restaurant and report back to us.
Carmine’s Brazilian Grill
4-6 Sheridan Ave., Albany
The irrepressible Carmine Sprio returns to the area with his take on the Brazilian rodizio, where slow-cooked meats are presented in a relentless parade, giving your inner carnivore a glorious dining experience. The meats are complemented by a starters bar that sports an array of salads and cheeses and more. For lighter fare, try the bar menu (and an excellently crafter drink or two).
9B Johnson Road, Latham; 47 Caroline St., Saratoga Springs
Start with a masala dosai, which is a huge rice-flour crepe stuffed with potatoes and served with an chutney array. Move on to kundapur chicken (from Karnataka), which adds coconut milk, chilies and curry leaves, or avial Malabar (from Kerala), in which bananas, yams, eggplant and more are cooked in yogurt. Check out the daily lunch buffet and weekend brunch.
Best Indian Buffet
Jewel of India on Lark
187 Lark St., Albany
Friends, many years from now we will look back at this time we’re living in as the golden age of Indian buffets in the Capital Region. Why? So many good buffet offerings to choose from. We give the edge to Jewel of India on Lark for their variety of dishes (try the bhindi masala, an okra dish—it’s wonderful) and the fresh nan served with your meal.
431 Liberty St., Schenectady
This was chef-owner Aneesa Waheed’s dream, and she’s realized it brilliantly. Your tagine—a conical two-piece clay pot—is placed before you, the lid swiped off, and those aromas circle your senses. Lamb meatballs with tomato sauce, chicken with preserved lemons, eggplant with prunes and chickpeas and a variety of kebabs await.
2243 15th St., Troy
Memorize these two words: beyti sarma. Say them to your server. Wait’ll you see what you get. For over a decade, this Turkish eatery has drawn such a steady and growing clientele that we sometimes have to fight for a table on weekends. But it’s worth it for the cold appetizer plate, the iskender curry, the puffy lavash, the Turkish coffee, the baklava
Best Middle Eastern
Garlic Lovers Corner
235 North Greenbush Road, North Greenbush
The mix of flavors in appetizer platter of hummus, baba ghanouj, tzatziki and falafel tells you you’re culinarily overseas; entrees like the lamb and apricot stew, served over orzo; eggplant roulade with ricotta cheese and spinach, and a Mediterranean vegetable bowl that features eggplant, squash and onions confirm that belief, as chef-owner Nabil Assad purveys an impressively mixed bag of superb fare.
Park Falafel and Pizza
11 N. 7th St., Hudson
Order the falafel platter at Park Falafel, we dare you. The platter comes full of hummus, giant falafel balls cooked to perfection, an assortment of olives and pickles, and out-of-the-oven fresh pita bread that would make any veggie connoisseur blush. You will be overwhelmed but you will keep dipping, and munching, because it just doesn’t get any better than this. But Park Falafel is not a one trick pony; they offer vegetarian and kosher fare, as well as pizza and other delicious baked goods that come straight out of the oven. We are salivating just thinking about it.
Mr. Tikka Kebab
450 Madison Ave., Albany
Perfectly seasoned, clay-oven prepared chicken rolled up in nan. Spicy and delicious.
Area farmers markets
You can only find her booth at area farmers markets, we found her in Troy, but when you do you’ll be forever changed. Her food is homemade, authentic, and judging from the never-ending line of people at her stand – it’s a hit in the Capital Region. Better get there early, her empanadas regularly sell out, which means you’ll have to wait another week for a taste.
319 Ontario St., Albany
For the fresh ingredients, the skill in assembling them, the casual eat-in or take-out ambience, and most especially for the awesome grilled shrimp burrito with pico de gallo, salsa roja and tacos crema.
1113 State St., Schenectady
At long last relocated to a large, easy-to-find space, Orchid’s now offers a slightly expanded menu with the same great fare, including delectable jerk chicken, oxtail stew that’ll knock your socks off, and goat curry that only the most stubborn will resist. Meat pies and some tasty macaroni and cheese are among the other items—and now there’s a bar!
Best Jamaican Patties
Roy’s Caribbean Restaurant
185 Henry Johnson Boulevard, Albany
There are more and more places to get Jamaican patties these days, but at Roy’s, which offers them with beef, chicken, jerk chicken or vegetables, they get the spice and balance just right. You can also buy them at the Roy’s cart at the Capitol in nice weather.
Best Restaurant When Someone Else Is Paying
Mohonk Mountain House
1000 Mountain Rest Road, New Paltz
High on a New Paltz hill with its own fabulous lake, Mohonk is a vacation destination like no other. You might as well stay—meals are included in the price—and when you’ve savored the breakfast and lunch buffets in a room with a stunning view and resisted the cookies at afternoon tea, you’ll be ready for an even more outrageously excellent dinner. Better take a couple of the hikes they offer.
197 Lark St., Albany
Dessert-making is part of Claudia Crisan’s heritage. Her parents operate three successful dessert shops in Romania, where something more dangerous and therefore more delicious happens as confections are born. From bite-sized delights to wedding cakes, the artistry is amazing. The Lark St. shop also offers a comfortable stop for a cappuccino.
100 Milton Ave., Ballston Spa
After a while, a cup of soup makes sense. Perhaps a bagel. Some coffeehouses creep up on you with a hunger-inducing embrace. Here you’ll also find baked goods, ice cream and, in one specially designated corner, wine and beer. And WiFi. And plenty of outlets. You’re crawling at 30 mph through the village anyway. Stop in.
Best New Coffeehouse
The Happy Cappuccino
185 Jay St., Schenectady
It doesn’t hurt that this quirky little multi-room shop is near Proctors and thus has attracted some celebrity performers. But simply to sit in a window seat and enjoy the diverse Jay Street parade is fun. A good selection of tea, the usual silly sweetened coffee drinks and a reliable WiFi connection make this a good workspace—and the chairs are delightfully wheel-based.
Best Wine Bar
The Wine Bar and Bistro
200 Lark St., Albany
A repeat winner. Loved by neighborhood regulars and visitors alike, the Wine Bar continues to offer excellent French-inspired fare to go with the lovingly selected wine offerings. Not much we can say that we haven’t said before. Thank you, Kevin and crew.
Best Cheap Eats
Gus’s Hot Dogs
212 25th St., Watervliet
It’s not just in-the-know locals who dine here, if the tiny indoor table and the scattering of picnic tables outdoors constitutes dining. Gus’s ships its tiny, tasty dogs all over the country. Line up for some lunch and be sure to try to the sausage and peppers or a burger. Try them all! You won’t care that they don’t come with fries.
Best Fried Chicken
45 Phila St., Saratoga Springs
Hattie Austin seasoned and fried her chicken in a very certain way—she served us, we know—and thank goodness chef-owner Jasper Alexander maintains that recipe. He’s added a glorious array of other southern fare, like red beans and rice, Creole jambalaya and catfish, but make sure you devote at least one visit to the crispy fowl.
198 First St., Troy
Dinner on Fridays only—but it’s Cuban-inspired tapas to go with the musical performance you’ll also enjoy. Breakfast and lunch on the weekends, which is when you can find the Cuban sandwich and the empanadas that taste so good. The walls are artwork galleries, the people who gather are fascinating—why can’t we have this daily?
Best Restaurant that Feels like a Saratoga Restaurant Ought to Feel
30½ Caroline St., Saratoga Springs
So much has changed in the 80 years since Sperry’s opened, yet the restaurant captures a sense of the old Saratoga even as it welcomes each new generation of visitors. Chef Dale Miller offers a menu that mixes tradition with innovation, and owners Christel and Colin MacLean keep it as charming as always. Check out the Sunday brunch!
392 Ontario St., Albany
Hours and hours of not-too-hot smoke penetrates the tough meat and tenderizes it to a fare-thee-well, leaving its mark as a ring of pink on the inside. There’s no way to fake it, although some places try. Capital Q sets our standard, serving barbecue and all the trimmings in an eccentric little storefront site.
The Placid Baker
250 Broadway, Troy
It’s more the homemade bread that wins the Placid Baker best sandwiches. It’s their creative use of not only what they bake but what is available locally. Oh, and the sandwiches are delicious—that helps.
Andy’s Italian Food & Deli
256 Delaware Ave., Albany
The finest ingredients, the most delicious meats, cheeses and veggies, and fresh sub rolls are the tools the gentlemen at Andy’s use to make what are simply the best subs in the Capital Region. The specialty subs are made from time-tested recipies, but they’ll follow your lead, too. A treat for any ocassion.
Best Brew Pub
Brown’s Brewing Company
417 River St., Troy
Beer. That’s why Brown’s is the best brew pub. Sure we like the food and the patio overlooking the Hudson River, but this category is really all about beer. Pour us an oatmeal stout, India pale ale, whiskey porter, Tomhannock pilsner, or any one of their other home-brewed hoppy libations—we don’t care. Just keep ‘em coming.
Antipasto’s Vegetarian Bistro and Wine Bar
1028 Rt 146, Clifton Park
Delicious Italian vegetarian-friendly menu and a host of other items that will make a veggie fan swoon. The perennial winner, Antipasto’s is always adding great new dishes to itsr expansive menu. Try the field greens and veggie sausage or the warm spinach salad. The vegetables are always crisp and fresh and when put them on one of their pizzas you have a work of art. Not only does Antipasto’s have great food, also a great wine and beer selection, meticulously overseen by owner Steve Zumbo.
Best Vegan Food
Lil’ Buddha Tea
274 Lark St., Albany
While most area restaurants still can’t wrap their heads and menus around the deceptively simple notion of plant-based cuisine, Lil’ Buddha has a virtual monopoly on the area’s growing vegan clientele. More than a tea and juice shop, this place is going to be vegan-in-chief Bill Clinton’s first stop if his family’s upstate vacation lands them in Albany.
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