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Best of Food & Drink

by Metroland Staff on July 24, 2014 · 2 comments

Best Restaurant

New World Bistro Bar

300 Delaware Ave., Albany

Chef Ric Orlando has been dazzling and delighting Capital Region diners for years, and his menus at New World Bistro Bar have never been more creative—a rainbow of flavors from the Americas and beyond put together in surprising, scrumptious and often spicy ways (vegan and gluten-free options too). Add the comfy surroundings and pleasant, nurturing staff, and you’ve got a restaurant at the top of its game.

 

Best Italian (Northern)

Café Capriccio

49 Grand St., Albany

The formula that has worked here for decades includes attentive service, a selection of charming dining areas, and a menu that evolves without letting go of favorites. The term Tuscan is imposed almost indiscriminately these days, but it’s the true description of what happens here: you’re as close as you can get to a Florentine farmhouse. The new house wine is an added boon.

 

Best Italian (Northern/Southern)

Grappa ’72

818 Central Ave., Albany

Armand Lule’s Grappa ’72 is a repeat winner for its consistently delicious Italian fare, with many choices of veal, chicken, fish, and pasta in preparations that range from classic to highly creative. Add superb wine list and attentive service in a smart room that manages to be both upscale and casual, and you have a true winner.

 

Best Italian (Family)

Testo’s Italian Restaurant & Pizza Parlor

124th Street and 4th Avenue, Troy

A restaurant that stays open in the same locale for 38 years and continues to grow is a very rare feat, especially in Lansingburgh. But there is a reason Testo’s Italian Restaurant endures. They are constantly upgrading  the restaurant, and tweaking  the menu, whether it be adding delicious Italian classics to their dinner menu or updating the lunch menu. They deliver a classic menu and comfortable dining experience of delicious, affordable Italian food.

 

Best Steakhouse

The Bear’s Steakhouse

8254 Duanesburg Rd. (Route 7), Duanesburg

The long, long legacy of this standard-bearing steakhouse passed into the second generation of the Payne family a while back, but the standards remain high—and the place remains busy, despite having never advertised. Make a reservation, make the trip, and remind yourself not only what excellent steak tastes like but what excellent service looks like.

 

Best Cuban: Carmen's Cafe

Best Japanese (Steakhouse)

Koto

260 Wolf Road, Colonie

Still our first choice for groups large and small who enjoy the spatula-flipping, shrimp-flinging show at the teppanyake tables, where the food is as tasty as the show is entertaining. But don’t overlook the rest of the menu, particularly the multi-course bento box specials.

 

Best Japanese (Neighborhood)

Shogun Sushi

457 Madison Ave., Albany

A relative newcomer to the Center Square neighborhood, Shogun is a handsomely designed and comfortable restaurant that caters to locals and visitors alike with a modern, thoughtful menu. Start with the spring rolls, gyoza, or spicy rock shrimp—or a sampler featuring all three. Try the mango chicken, tempura dishes, fresh sushi and sashimi, and a dazzling array of chef’s special rolls.

 

Best Chinese

Plum Blossom

685 Hoosick St., Troy

There are many options for Chinese food in the Capital Region—and a few that have disappeared—but we keep returning to the Plum Blossom, where the consistent quality of traditional fare is matched only by the impressive atmosphere.

 

Best Thai

Capital Thai

997 Central Ave., Albany

An unlikely seeming strip-mall location conceals an unassuming, eager-to-please place for sweet Thai curries, pungent soups and the variety of noodle dishes that characterizes this lively and inventive cuisine.

 

Best French

The Epicurean

Latham Farms, 579 Troy-Schenectady Road, Latham

A repeat winner for consisntently top-notch French cuisine, including preparations of veal Oscar, frogs’ legs, steak tartare, and several variations on mussels. A recent Wine Spectator award-winner.

 

Best International/Unclassifiable

Sage Bistro

Star Plaza, 2050 Western Ave., Guilderland

Some items are Middle Eastern, some show a Korean influence, some are from the shores of Italy – but chef-owner Joseph Soliman also is an excellent hand at familiar continental fare. So you’ll find soemthing you like at Sage Bistro, although we suspect you’ll like whatever you find, in a comfortably unlikely strip-mall location.

 

Best Conversion from French Bistro to English Pub

The Old English Pub & Pantry

683 Broadway, Albany

For more than a decade, the historic Quackenbush House served as a formal French restaurant, and then three years ago, Winston moved in. That’s Winston as in the cigar-wielding Churchhill portrait that reigns over the dining room, and now ye olde tavern (and its charming garden patios) are more popular than ever. Old English draws a lively crowd for its selection of British beers on tap, pickle-back shots, and of course, fish-n-chips. The burgers rule, too (must be the sauerkraut that has Winston scowling . . .)

 

Best Pizza (Saratoga)

Capriccio Saratoga

26 Henry Street, Saratoga Springs

The northern branch of Café Capriccio features a hot wood-fired oven from which Neapolitan pizzas emerge in mere seconds, crafted to the exacting standards of an Italian pizza council, served in a quirky location a couple of blocks from the madness where you’ll also enjoy a menu of other Neapolitan-inspired fare.

 

Best Pizza (Troy)

Defazio’s

266 4th St., Troy

This old-school pizzeria has never stopped delighting us with that delicious crust, that heavenly sauce, that savory homemade sausage . . . Oh, gotta stop thinking about it.

 

Best Pizza (Albany)

The Fountain

283 New Scotland Ave., Albany

A well-known Albany favorite for years—you might even see our ex-mayor there in all his golden glory. Don’t forget that they are great even for grabbing a pie to go. Try their sausage with peppers and onions or go for the gold with their meatball pie. Just try any one, just once, with jalapenos. We dare you.

 

Best Mexican

La Mexicana

1759 State St., Schenectady

It grew out of a grocery, this little restaurant, and its limited menu of tacos, tamales, burritos, fajitas and such beams with homemade glory. Chef Maria Sosa makes a terrific Mexican chorizo that’s part of a $13 combo platter with rice and beans, guacamole and crema and a stack of soft tortillas. Nothing fancy, but neither are the prices.

 

Best Lebanese

The Phoenicians

1686 Central Ave, Colonie

What makes Middle Eastern fare authentic? Craftsmanship, patience and fresh ingredients, and the approach here turns it into a world-class menu of shawarma, kababs, falafel, grilled items and terrific salads. Even a simple plate of hummus is a delight, and the restaurant whisks you from busy Central Ave. to the Mediterranean’s edge.

 

Best Moroccan

Tara Kitchen

431 Liberty St., Schenectady

A repeat winner. Clay-pot cookery is never better realized than in a tagine, the cone-topped serving dish in which the aromatic stews of Morocco are stovetop-simmered at this tiny, out-of-the-way restaurant. Try the chicken with preserved lemons and green olives and the appetizer of eggplant, roasted garlic and tomato.

 

Best Middle Eastern

Ali Baba

2243 15th St., Troy

A perennial winner, a great favorite, a restaurant that has won for itself a fanatical following for its unpretentious approach to such Turkish fare as doner kabob, chicken guvech, kofte iskender—and the puffy loaf of lavash, served with a garlic-yogurt sauce.

 

Best Greek

Athos Restaurant

1814 Western Avenue, Albany

A repeat winner. Classic Greek fare in a fine-dining environment, where you’ll enjoy pastichio, moussaka, chicken saganaki, shrimp grekolimano, and great starters like the flaming kefalograviera cheese, the zucchini fritters, and the smoked eggplant dip.

 

Best Indian

Karavalli

9B Johnson Road, Latham

47 Caroline St., Saratoga Springs

A repeat winner for creative, delicious fare from six regions of India, offering welcome alternatives to the standard-issue menu. We’re fond of the rice-and-lentil dosai, which you fill with veggies and condiments, the coconut-crusted fish, the tandoori rack of lamb. Vegan and vegetarian options abound, and there’s an excellent buffet lunch.

 

Best Vegetarian

Antipasto’s Vegetarian Bistro and Wine Bar

1028 Route 146, Clifton Park

A perennial winner. A delicious Italian vegetarian-friendly menu with all the Italian favorites with a vegetarian twist, and arguably the best pizza in Saratoga County. An amazing wine list meticulously created by owner Steve Zumbo. Delicious salads (try the warm spinach salad), with a staff so friendly that you feel like you went home to a family dinner.

 

Best Burgers

Café Madison

1108 Madison Ave., Albany

Order it any way you want—they’re all good. The best breakfast joint in Albany keeps on rockin’ right through lunch.

 

Best Pub Food (Saratoga)

Parting Glass

40 Lake Ave., Saratoga Springs

According to the website, the Parting Glass is the oldest continuously run bar and restaurant in Saratoga Springs. We can’t vouch for that, but we like the atmosphere and the food and the music. Good enough for us.

 

Best Pub Food (Schenectady)

20 North

20 North Broadway, Schenectady

While small, 20 North (subsequently located on 20 north Broadway St in downtown Schenectady) is a nice watering hole, offering a great menu to go with that lager or shot of Jameson. We suggest trying their wings. If you’re looking for somewhere with a little more wiggle room, Pinhead Susan’s next door is also a county favorite.

 

Best Pub Food (Albany)

The Elbo Room

170 Delaware Ave., Albany

For a tavern that’s been around as long as the Elbo Room, the inside is surprisingly clean, and the pub food is a revelation. Wings that stand up to anyone’s, plus burgers, sandwiches, and really excellent pizza and calzones. And plenty of room to sit, stand, play pool or watch the World Cup . . . oops, that’s over, isn’t it.

 

Best Pub Food (Troy)

Finnbar’s Irish Pub

452 Broadway, Troy

Chefs Daniel Cunningham and Josh Coletto have left a formidable menu in their wake. All the classics are accounted for, and there’s plenty of adventurous (and vegetarian-friendly) fare thrown in as well.

 

Best Brew Pub

Brown’s Brewing Company

417 River St., Troy

The visionaries who kickstarted the Troy revival in 1993. Creating award winning craft beers (over 25) with a menu to match. With a beautiful deck overlooking the Hudson River, Brown’s has developed legions of loyal customers. Also check out the Malt Room in the basement: part speakeasy, part chateau. Garry and Kelly Brown continue to develop Brown’s as a Troy treasure that only seems to get better every year.

 

Best Belgian Pub

The Merry Monk

90 North Pearl St., Albany

A repeat winner for its creative pub menu and outstanding beer list. There are so many interesting things to try on the menu—wild boar baby back ribs, duck drummers, wild game sausage, a half-dozen scrumptious-looking burgers—but we understand if you overlook all of that to make a meal out of the melt-in-your-mouth frites and mussels.

 

Best Wine Bar

The Wine Bar and Bistro on Lark

200 Lark St., Albany

Many wine bars have poppoed up in recent years, but the Lark Street mainstay continues to warm our stomachs and souls with its cozy atmosphere (did you hear about the fireplaces?), the eclectic menu and of course, a great wine selection. Chef-owner Kevin Everleth constantly tweaks the creative, French-inspired menu that allows you to dine on full entrees or snack on lighter fare.

 

Best Subs

Andy’s Italian Food & Deli

256 Delaware Ave., Albany

A repeat winner. Andy’s deli meats, cheeses and roasted veggies are the real deal. Why lunch at the sub chains when you’re in the Delaware neighborhood?

 

Best Bakery

Bella Napoli

7721 River St., Troy; 672 New Loudon Road, Latham

Baking in Troy since 1957, Bella Napoli is a cultural institution in this region. The Troy store is like a throwback in time. Case upon case of the delicacies that make one drool. The Latham store adds a great breakfast and lunch café. Old-world specialties, Italian pastries, cookies, cakes and breads . . . mmm. A perennial winner for good reason.

 

Best Desserts

Crisan

197 Lark St., Albany

The “edible art gallery” label still applies, but these sweets don’t just look good, they taste incredible. We’d make suggestions, but you really can’t go wrong with any of these lovingly crafted confections.

 

Best Ice Cream

Moxie’s

1344 Spring Ave., Wynantskill

Mexican Chocolate, Blue Moon . . . the flavors here are nothing quite like anywhere else. And who else has six different flavors of vanilla? Who knew vanilla could be so mysterious and exciting?

 

Best Coffeehouse (North)

Uncommon Grounds

402 Broadway, Saratoga Springs

In-house roasted coffee beans? Check. Reliable wi-fi? Check. Brooklynite-wannabe counter staff to reluctantly toast your bagel? You bet. Add to that a comfortable mix of tables and couches and counter space – and a fine selection of sandwiches and pastries – and you’ve got enough fodder to help you finish that novel.

 

Best Coffeehouse (West)

Happy Cappuccino

185 Jay St., Schenectady

Yummm, cappuccinos and lattes and hot cocoas and iced Americanos. And baked vegan donuts, because this is Jay Street.

 

Best Coffeehouse (South)

Swallow

433 Warren St., Hudson

Halfway up Warren Street, Swallow is the buckle in Hudson’s growing boho belt. With great coffee and espresso (Stumptown), interesting art, fresh pastries and vinyl on the turntable, it’s no wonder this place has become the town’s point of convergence.

 

Best Coffeehouse (Central)

Tierra Coffee Roasters

1038 Madison Ave., Albany

With excellent locally roasted coffee, great sandwiches and even beer, Tierra on Madison is what a coffeehouse should be, with a happy hour. Take a stroll next door to Tierra’s farm store where you can check out their locally roasted nuts and other goodies including a very scientific-looking, high-octane, cold-brew chemistry set up ( at least we think it’s cool).

 

Best Brunch

Iron Gate

182 Washington Ave., Albany

Consistently serving up a great weekday lunch, Irongate also offers great weekend specials, ample parking along Washington Avenue and a haven for friends and family weekend get-togethers. Just remember, you can’t order that bay breeze until after noon on Sunday.

 

Best Brunch with Booze Included

City Beer Hall

42 Howard St., Albany

Every Saturday and Sunday, the City Beer Hall offers a beer brunch featuring coffee and an alcoholic beverage of your choice (bloody mary, mimosa, screwdriver or a craft beer) with every entrée. What more invitation do you need?

 

Best Breakfast

Café Madison

1108 Madison Ave., Albany

A repeat winner. Also a candidate for Best Brunch, though the breakfast is just as good all week long. Omelets, pancakes, stuffed French toast, breakfast burritos . . . and toast from several varieties of freshly baked bread. We can hardly wait for morning.

 

Best Late-Night Dining

The Point Restaurant & Lounge

1100 Madison Ave., Albany

A repeat winner, this is now the place to get interesting food after most other restaurants have closed their kitchens. Of course you can get pub food into the late hours at many places, but of you’re looking for something a little more upscale, this is the place. And don’t forget to try the full menu during regular dinner hours.

 

Best Late-Night Face-Stuffing

The Brown Bag

156 4th St., Troy

Every good night of drinking in Troy ends at the Brown Bag. Big greasy burgers and all the sides you can handle are the best night cap in town. You just might need a DD for your DD, though, when the food coma sets in.

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Best Media

Best Arts

Best Goods & Services

Best People & Places

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UPDATE: An omission was corrected in the Best Pub Food (Troy) category.