Broadway, Albany, 431-1920. Pub menu available Mon-Thu 11:30-9,
Fri 11:30-10, dinner Mon-Thu 5-9, Fri-Sat 5-10. AE, D, MC,
price range: $17 (penne Bolognese) to $24 (miso yellowfin)
classic pub/elegant eatery
It’s easy to take a mainstay for granted, and the Plaza Grill,
a couple of doors down from Coulson’s on Broadway in the bowels
of Albany, persevered for some 70 years without drawing much
Perhaps it was fated to lose its luster once the old-time
political machine lost its most colorful characters. Perhaps
it was just the shift to the malls. Reborn now as Franklin’s
Tower, rising, as it were, from the dead, the restaurant’s
new owners are keeping it true to its roots even as they offer
an up-to-date, well-prepared menu.
It’s actually two restaurants. There’s a ground-floor pub
in which you dine at booths amid dark paneling and an upstairs
room with more elegant, nicely decorated surroundings. There’s
also a third-floor banquet room, so the restaurant is ready
New owners David Kuk and Patrick Hall come to the business
with different backgrounds: It’s Kuk’s first restaurant, while
Hall has been in the business for quite some time. Their shared
goal is to preserve and maintain the sense of heritage here
while providing good food and entertainment.
Franklin’s Tower has been open for about six months; the past
four have seen a wide variety of live music events. Now that
some outdoor tables are available, the entertainment can include
downtown Albany itself.
Kuk notes that the lunch menu has a deliberate Oriental influence,
which shows most clearly in the appetizers list. Asian chicken
wings ($6.25) sport a soy, ginger and garlic sauce; spring
rolls ($6.25) are reminiscent of the thin-skinned Vietnamese
variety. We sampled the rolls as a dinner appetizer (when
they’re priced at $8), where four half-rolls are presented
around a mound of fresh greens; the sweet-and-sour sauce doubles
Back to lunch: Sandwiches are a mainstay, priced from about
$7 to $9; a strip steak sandwich is $13. And it’s a nice variety
of offerings, including blackened chicken breast, smoked turkey,
grilled shrimp and even catfish. The pulled pork sandwich
($9), while it doesn’t taste like it spent a whole lot of
hours on the smoke, nevertheless is tender and flavorful.
Served in a generous-sized baguette, it has the potential
for two meals.
A selection of wraps (including a pulled pork wrap) lets you
cut the carbs, and a selection of burgers lets you put them
back again. I sampled—all right, fully consumed—the Broadway
burger ($8), where a portobello mushroom tops the beef beneath
provolone cheese. It’s served with fries, and thus well suits
the publike atmosphere.
Consider some of the appetizers as meals in themselves. Barbecued
con carne ($6) doesn’t really translate accurately as a name
for this dish, but it approaches the classic Southwestern
chili con carne preparation by presenting chunks of tender
beef in a chipotle-spiced barbecue sauce. Accompanying chips
turn it into a dipping compote.
Two soups we sampled at two visits were both creamy and rambunctiously
thick, which also makes for a satisfying meal if you like
your soup that way. Cream of broccoli and a seafood chowder
both were not sparing in their use of the named ingredients.
Dinner starters also include prosciutto-wrapped shrimp ($12.50)
and spiced littleneck clams ($14), along with three fancy
salads. An order of fried brie ($8.50) was more successful
than I anticipated; a pairing with spinach and a red pepper
sauce helped cut the cheese intensity.
The nine-entrée-item dinner menu takes a chamber music approach,
with a single beef dish (grilled N.Y. strip, $24, served with
wild mushroom-rosemary demi glacé), a couple of seafood items
(blackened catfish, $17, and miso yellowfin tuna, $24), a
grilled porterhouse pork chop ($24) and a couple of chicken
dishes among the offerings. Chicken panzanella ($18) is a
breaded cutlet strewn with tomatoes, onions and mozzarella
atop steamed spinach; chicken frangelico ($20), which I tasted,
is sautéed and served with mushrooms and pecans in a slightly
sweet brown sauce. The combination was effective, although
there was a saltier flavor than I prefer—a characteristic
that also appeared (to a lesser extent) in the marinated pork
It worked in that context. The pork was given a deep, slightly
spicy flavor from the marinade, and the meat was fork-cut
tender and well paired with a fluffy pile of garlicky, for-real
mashed potatoes. Crunchy string beans and a couple of outsized
decorative potato chips finished the plate.
Eggplant roulade was a quiet, massive success. This $18 entrée
substitutes goat cheese for the more traditional ricotta,
and the flavor difference is extraordinary—there’s no going
back. A selection of sautéed veggies, including the usual
suspects like carrots and broccoli, and a cream-sauced heap
of angel hair pasta tied the dish together and kept it appealing
even in its leftover life.
The servers are friendly and talented enough that I’d like
to see them work more cooperatively. The upstairs dining room
quickly feels remote when nobody is on hand for a while. And
they need to take the open flames off the table. They’re cute,
and add gently to the light, but one of the plastic-sheathed
menus came into too-close contact at an adjacent table and
the subsequent aroma lingered.
I’m betting that having a superior restaurant at this address
will be a boon as Albany refashions itself. Downtowns need
more places like this.
here for a list of recently reviewed restaurants.
spring with a wine-tasting dinner Apr 14-17 at
the Saratoga Lake Bistro (Route 9P, where
Saratoga meets Stillwater) where a four-course
dinner is offered with three glasses of wine for
$45 (not including tax and tip). You have a choice
of appetizer, each paired with an appropriate
wine. Entrées include poached salmon on a bed
of creamy spinach served with steamed mussels
and a 2004 Petit Bourgeois (Loire) Sauvignon Blanc,
grilled filet mignon topped with a four-peppercorn-and-Cognac
sauce served with a 1998 Chateau Bel Air Haut
Médoc, and roasted leg of spring lamb rubbed with
Rosemary and garlic, served with a 2002 Guigal
Côtes du Rhone. A cheese selection and dessert
follows. Wine experts will go from table to table
to give you information about the wine selection.
And note that the outdoor deck is now open! Call
the restaurant for reservations: 587-8280 (www.saratogalakebistro.com).
. . . Paul Parker, chef-owner of Chez Sophie
Bistro (Route 9, Malta) is offering the last
cooking class before the summer season kicks in
at 11 AM on Sunday, May 29. The theme is appetizers
and hors d’oeuvres, and will be a voyage through
the kind of fare you make at home for dinner parties—and
dishes to take to parties to impress your friends.
The class culminates with a 4 PM sit-down meal.
Because the class is a very hands-on experience,
it’s limited to 12 participants, and the cost
is $125 per person, which includes instruction,
food and wine. To reserve a place, call the restaurant
at 583-3538 (www.chez sophie.com). . . . Remember
to pass your scraps to Metroland (e-mail:
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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..