Union St., Schenectady, 374-5930. Serving
Mon-Thu 11:30-10, Fri-Sat 11:30-11. AE, D, DC, MC, V.
unassuming pub fare
Entrťe Price Range: $11 (linguine pomodoro) to $19 (16
oz. N.Y. strip steak)
Ambiance: too quiet
Thereís a level of dining worth exploring thatís not gourmet,
not fast food, not chain-restaurant fare. Itís what good diner
food can be, but served in more formal surroundings. At the
Manhattan Exchange, itís happening in an upstairs room where
you still can hear some of the ruckus of the usually crowded
bar below, but as more of a comfort than annoyance.
Whatís offered is a pub menu, with sandwiches the dominant
feature. A list of dinner items is handed out separately.
Much of whatís available has the look and feel of what food
vendors helpfully supply. Thanks to cryovac and other handy
packaging, complete dinner solutions are more affordable than
ever, and you can scratch the scratch kitchen if such is your
And how should we feel about this?
It all depends on what youíre looking for. Iím enough of a,
oh letís call it ďcontrol enthusiast,Ē that Iíd prefer to
put in an hour making a tomato sauce, which then will simmer
for a few hours more. But I keep jars of already-made sauce
in the pantry, just in case.
So it is with dining out. Except that you donít usually get
a pre-ordering view of the pantry.
There are other signs, like the menu items themselves and
the pricing. Manhattan Exchange keeps its dinners in the $11-$15
range (a large steak is the only thing more expensive), which
suggests the lower reaches of fine dining. I say this knowing
that some peopleóand Iím sure youíre not one of themóthink
anything over $10 is fantastically expensive, and even some
who should know better cry foul if a menu item tops a twenty.
Chicken franÁaise, for instance, which you donít see much
these days, is a $13 entrťe (that includes a soup or salad)
thatís made with chicken breast stripsófrom the look of them,
Iím guessing theyíre the long pieces that tend to detach from
the underside of the breast when youíre breaking down a chicken.
Itís a utilitarian piece of meat, suitable for use as chicken
fingers, and easy to work into pasta dishes and salads.
Fried in an egg batter, theyíre finished with a buttery wine
sauce and go especially well with mashed potatoes, if thatís
one of the choices of the day (real potatoes, too). A side
of vegetables, although sourced from a frozen assortment pack,
was acceptably finished.
Placed in a larger context that includes the comfort of the
dining room, efficiency of service and all the intangibles
that make up a restaurant experience, it was 14 bucks (plus
tax and tip) well spent. The food was pleasant, and stood
up to the chemical-rich flavor of the diet soda with which
I accompanied it. And there was enough left over for a microwaved
The downside? I look for a pub environment to have a few people
around in what should feel likeówell, if not a living room
at least something a little lived in. In an ideal universe,
this would not include TV screens, because people actually
would wish to talk with one another, and do so without hollering.
As I noted, Manhattan Exchange puts its bar patrons in a ground-floor
room that fills quickly (owner Debra LaMalfa has plans to
expand the size of that room before long), while the upstairs
dining room remains fairly empty. On one of my visits, my
party dined alone.
I donít think itís the restaurantís fault. Other items we
sampled were quite satisfying. Linguine pomodoro ($11)
is a huge platter of pasta topped with fresh tomatoes that
were sautťed in plenty of minced garlic, and discreetly herb-seasoned.
A more complicated version adds chicken and sun-dried tomatoes
and finishes it in a tomato-flavored cream sauce ($15). Youíll
get three meals from each of those pasta dishes.
Grilled boneless pork chops ($13) were just that, although
they spent a little too much time on the grill and needed
all the accompanying applesauce to impersonate the missing
On the sandwich side of things, thereís a signature burgeróbut
you guessed thatóavailable in any number of configurations,
priced from $5 to $7. Itís a tasty half-pounder served on
a Kaiser roll, and the price includes fries. We managed to
get through about a quarter-pound of the thing.
Needing to broaden my offspringís culinary horizons, I ordered
a Monte Cristo ($7) and insisted she taste it, and she ended
up commandeering the sandwich. Itís an all-in-one that piles
up ham and turkey and Swiss cheese, then the whole thing is
dipped in an egg batter and fried. Another endangered species
of menu item, and itís done very well here.
Plenty of deli sandwiches, clubs, grilled sandwiches, like
the $7 Reuben, as well as salads and the usual array of appetizers.
Nachos, for instance, are what youíd expect, but the $7 half-order
was so voluminous, with ground beef and chopped tomatoes and
jalapeŮo slices among the mix, that Iíd hesitate to order
the full-sized $9 plate without an army to feed.
LaMalfa, whose family has a longtime background in the restaurant
business, bought the Manhattan Exchange nearly two years ago
and is working to keep it a friendly and satisfying place.
Certainly the enthusiasm of our servers (who have to lug the
food up a flight of stairs) is testimony to a happy place,
and one that delivers on its realistic promise.
here for a list of recently reviewed restaurants.
Masson, the ever-inventive chef at Saratoga Lake
Bistro (located at Brownís Beach on Saratoga Lake)
is creating a CrÍpe Dinner Party, March 10-13.
Itís a three-course meal that lets you choose
an appetizer (escargot, seafood, or mushrooms
in a crÍpe), entrťe (crÍpe-enhanced preparations
of salmon, pork or beef tenderloin) and dessertówhich,
needless to say, will be crÍpe suzette. Itís $27
per person (plus tax and tip), and parties of
six or more get a complimentary bottle of wine.
Call 587-8280 for reservations. . . . The Stockade
Inn (1 N. Church St., Schenectady) has redecorated
its spacious and handsome lounge area, and enhanced
it with a new lounge and martini menu thatís offering
upscale pub fare like wraps, fried calamari, chimichangas,
tempura and the like. Itís available Tue-Sat during
dinner hours (5-9); the restaurant also serves
lunch Tue-Fri 11:30-2, and brunch Sun 10-2. Call
346-3400 for more info, or check out www.stockadeinn.com.
. . .
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very much enjoyed eating dinner at Daniel's
at Ogdens. You review described my dining
experience perfectly. This wasn't the case
with Pancho's. I much prefer Garcia's or
Lake View Tavern for Mexican fare. I agree
that a restaurant can have an off night
so I'll give the second unit on Central
Avenue a try.
yes I miss the star ratings, bring it back.
Second, I haven't had a chance to visit
Poncho's yet, but I especially like reading
would travel to Amsterdam to this restaurant
- it's not that far away. People traveled
from all over to eat at Ferrandi's in Amsterdam.
From his background, I'm sure the chef's
sauce is excellent and that is the most
important aspect of an Italian restaurant.
Sometimes your reviewer wastes words on
the negative aspects of a restaurant. I'm
looking forward to trying this restaurant
- I look forward to Metroland every Thursday
especially for the restaurant review. And
by the way Ferrandi's closed its Amsterdam
location and is opening a new bistro on
Saratoga Lake - Should be up and running
in May. It will be called Saratoga Lake
Bistro. It should be great!
comments about the Indian / Pakistani restaurants
being as "standardized as McDonald's"
shows either that you have eaten at only
a few Indian / Pakistani restaurants or
that you have some prejudices to work out.
That the physical appearances are not what
you would consider fancy dancy has no bearing
on the food. And after all, that is what
the main focus of the reviews should be.
Not the physical appearances, which is what
most of your reviews concentrate on.
A restaurant like The Shalimar, down on
Central Avenue, may not look the greatest,
but the food is excellent there. And the
menu has lots of variety - beef, lamb, vegetarian,
chicken, and more..