Sand Creek Road, Colonie, 869-2448. Serving dinner Mon-Thu
4-10, Fri-Sat 4-10:30, Sun 4-9. AE, D, DC, MC, V.
price range: $18.50 (chicken teriyaki) to $32 (lobster
Sure, it seems like the Barnsider always has been there, but
the fact that the place has been going strong for more than
40 years still seems somehow shocking. Forty years? A steakhouse?
That’s probably one of the keys to its success. It offers,
and always has offered, a menu that’s compelling in its reliability.
In a market that is notoriously averse to culinary innovation,
the Barnsider is more conservative still. Steaks, seafood,
Another key: terrific service. It’s easy to argue that steaks
are steaks, so there needs to be an extra touch to keep the
customers coming back. The Barnsider does it nicely.
When I last wrote about the place, in 1994, I complained that
the filet mignon was a pricey $19. Today it’s $23. And pricing
on the rest of the menu is consistent with what you’ll find
in other area steakhouses; in fact, compared to some of the
better ones, the Barnsider is a bargain.
And there’s a secret bargain it offers: A birthday boy or
girl gets a 50-percent discount on that special day. You can
even have the birthday kid serenaded, something we witnessed
a few times during our visits.
It’s not a place that crackles with ambiance. More than likely,
you’ll be seated, as we were, in the cavernous main dining
room—yet it doesn’t feel like so many people are splayed around
you. I studied the room to figure out the secret, but I haven’t
cracked the mystery. It could be the large tables and very
comfortable chairs; certainly the high ceiling helps diffuse
Unless you’re in a party of five or more, reservations aren’t
available. Early on a weeknight we were seated immediately;
a weekend visit necessitated a brief wait. Once you’re seated,
however, the show begins. You’re taken in hand.
servers work in teams of three,” says general manager Michelle
Hughes, who has served in several different capacities at
the place for many years. “It’s a system that we’ve used here
since the beginning, and it works very well for us.”
The beginning, by the way, was at Colonie Center for the restaurant’s
first 20 years. It moved—around the time of its only change
of ownership—to the former Victoria Station on Sand Creek
Road, not too far from its former location.
Hughes explained that all of the food is prepared in house;
furthermore, the steaks are dry-aged on the premises for at
least three weeks, after which they’re broken down and trimmed
in the Barnsider’s own butcher shop.
Such attention shows. “It’s as good a steak as I’ve ever tasted,”
said Gary, an actor. He was commenting on the meat that makes
up the steak au poivre ($24), a cut of sirloin cooked
exactly to his specification. The au poivre part, however,
was far less peppery than we expected: Typically, the meat
has cracked peppercorns pounded into its surface; here, it’s
a light dusting of pepper.
I checked my old review after the fact and found myself complaining
of the same thing, so both the restaurant and I remain consistent,
and it’s clearly a house style that is popular with the customers.
The sauce, which is thick and suitably rich, also contains
nothing too peppery for your parents.
Other steaks range from top sirloin ($19) to a 28-oz. sirloin
for two ($38), with cuts of tenderloin and even a teriyaki
sirloin ($20) among them. I sampled the New York sirloin ($27
for a 23-ounce cut) during one visit and found it an excellent
cut, conservatively cooked—but I like to smear the steaks
I grill with wasabi butter.
Seafood dishes include baked stuffed shrimp ($20), tomato
basil salmon ($20), baked haddock ($19), crab-stuffed scrod
($22) and more; in the chicken realm, there’s a teriyaki-seasoned
pound of breast ($18.50) and the item that overwhelmed my
wife: chicken Florentine ($19.50).
Two breasts are stuffed with spinach and cheese, then wrapped
in puff pastry before baking. It looked so good and was browned
so nicely that she was convinced it came from elsewhere, already
prepared, but Hughes assured me otherwise.
I also sampled the rack of lamb ($25), which gets a crunch
from a coating of herbs and is served in its juice with a
hint of mint. Excellent—even a little too much—for a lamb
lover like me.
Unnecessarily, I started with a special appetizer of escargot
($10), cooked and served in little pastry jackets surrounded
by garlic butter. The snails were tender; the combo was good.
But there’s a robust salad bar that awaits with every entrée
order! It doesn’t go too crazy with auxiliary salads, but
the basics are there, and they’re fresh, and there are a few
loaves of bread for you to slice and a Matterhorn of cheddar
from which to extract slices. You’ll easily fill up on this
stuff, which explains the number of take-home containers we
It’s easy to forget that this reliable gem of an eatery is
tucked to one side of Wolf Road, but it’s worth a visit when
your appetite is stoked and you want to avoid the chain restaurants
that otherwise throng the area. Here’s a sound reminder that
it’s possible to be local and better.
but oh-so-strong, port wine is not to be taken lightly
evokes social pa nache like serving a good port wine. A carefully
chosen port can get you laid, secure a raise, or impress the
in-laws. Since it’s a mystery to so many, it always makes
an impact, more than scotch, more than liqueurs like Amaretto
or Bailey’s, and definitely more than regular wine. And, although
this high-alcohol treat is an acquired taste, it’s acquired
quickly. The robust, syrupy, dried-fruit sweetness is made
for sipping after dinner or for a late-night snort. You sip
because two glasses can render you a stumbling, slurring mess—it’s
17 percent to 22 percent alcohol (regular wine is 11 percent
to 14 percent). But beyond that, sipping it is just the right
thing to do.
wine (or porto in Portuguese) developed out of necessity in
the 17th century. Back then, as today, Britain was one of
Portugal’s biggest wine customers. After realizing that a
summer’s hot boat ride up the Atlantic was ruining the red
wine, Portuguese producers began adding brandy to stabilize
it. The addition of neutral spirits stopped fermentation and
left the natural sugar unfermented, so a sweeter, higher-alcohol
Amid several styles, there are five main varieties of red
port (a white version exists but is difficult to find). Ruby
port tastes fruity, light and young, and is the most unrefined.
Its fruit-forward sweetness and alcohol aroma can overwhelm
the uninitiated, so it’s safer to start with a velvety, mellow
Both tawny and ruby are blends from several years, so they’re
not tagged with a vintage, but some tawnies carry a 10-, 20-,
30- or 40-year designation, indicating the average amount
of time the wine spent in an oak barrel. Recently released
10-year tawnies have been excellent deals, so don’t feel pressured
to shell out the extra bucks for the 20- or 40-year tastes.
Australia also makes some delicious and affordable tawny ports,
like the caramel-tinged Benjamin Port ($10).
Vintage port, on the other hand, is produced from a single
harvest year. Rich, full of fruit flavor and aromatic, vintage
port garners attention from aficionados who rave about it
(including this one). Winemakers declare vintages when the
harvest is particularly notable, but be aware that younger
ones can taste a bit astringent and harsh. Some of the best
port houses, albeit expensive, are Warre, Taylor, Cockburn
(pronounced “CO-burn”), Osbourne, Sandeman, Fonseca, Dow and
The fourth variety of port is late- bottled vintage (LBV),
produced from a vintage-declared crop, but aged twice as long
in oak barrels. And the fifth type, “vintage character,” “special”
or “reserve” port, is a blend of high-quality ruby ports from
several different vintages. These often taste smoother than
Because of the added distilled spirit, once opened, ports
keep up to year if they are kept in a cool, dry area with
an airtight cork. They will lose some of their freshness after
a few months, but no worries.
Pipe Tawny Port (Australia). Sweet = 7. $30. Tastes like
walnuts and macadamia nuts sauteed in creamy butter, then
drizzled with sweet, opulent caramel. Has a beautiful, never-ending,
prune-tinged finish. Simply gorgeous and worth like $90.
Quinta de Roriz Vintage Port (Portugal). SW = 5. $52.
Smells like fresh raspberries, and tastes like a fruity Shiraz
that has been reduced to a rich, silky syrup. Decadent, luscious
1998 Late Bottled Vintage Port (Portugal). SW = 6. $20.
Aroma of almonds steeped in rose water, with the sip giving
dark roasted or grilled berries. Finish of intense caramel
10-Year Tawny Port (Portugal). SW = 7. $30. Like ripe
black cherries soaked in brown sugar, butter and maple syrup.
After some time in the glass, it offers a pecan praline flavor
that lasts for minutes.
Fine Ruby (Portugal). SW = 5. $15. It starts with big
alcoholic chocolate and a dark cherry blast, but the fun disappointingly
ends long before it hits the tummy.
here for a list of recently reviewed restaurants.
Damon Baehrel of The Basement Bistro in
Earlton (Greene County) will prepare and host
his restaurant’s final Winter Wine Tasting Luncheon
of the season. He will pair three of his favorite
Hudson Valley wines with courses served in his
popular “Chef’s Tasting Menu” format. The luncheon
takes place at 1:30 PM on Feb. 26, and the cost
is $54 per person plus tax and gratuity. Reservations
are required; call 269-1009. For more info, visit
www.sagecrestcatering.com. . . . Provence (Stuyvesant
Plaza, Albany) presents its Regional Wine Spectacular
2006, during which the restaurant offers a 25-percent
discount on region-specific bottles of wine on
Sundays and Mondays. During February, Old World
Wines are the feature, specifically Italian, French
and Spanish vintages; the March feature is Australian,
New Zealand and South African wine. Call the restaurant
at 689-7777, or visit www.provence-restaurant.net
for more information. . . . Learn the basics of
making pasta from chef Dominic Colose at his Saratoga
pasta emporium, The Yawning Duck (51 Ash
St.) from 7 to 9 PM on Feb. 16. The class covers
making, rolling and cutting pasta dough, as well
as a guide to filled and flavored pasta, and cooking
tips. The class is $45 plus tax per person. Feel
free to bring your own equipment (rolling pins,
pasta machine, etc.). The second class, “The Fundamentals
of Italian Sauce Making,” is scheduled for Thursday,
Feb. 23. Call 584-0929 for information and reservations.
. . . Remember to pass your scraps to Metroland
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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..