By B.A. Nilsson
bbq & restaurant
Western Ave., Guilderland, 456-0940. Serving daily 11-10.
barbecue, of course
price range: $5.50 (pulled-pork sandwich) to $23 (full
rack of ribs)
It was easy to spot Chico’s. A row of motorbikes glistened
in front, prompting me to do a double take. (This is one of
the first things you see as you approach Syracuse’s Dinosaur
Bar-B-Que.) There was a time, before the explosion of fast-food
joints, when you chose a diner based on the number of trucks
parked outside. A form of this rule still prevails for barbecue
joints and bikers, and that row of machines augers well for
A neighbor got wind (not literally) of this new barbecue joint,
and, because she’d enjoyed Adrian Arceci’s cooking at events
he’s catered, she assured me this would be the real thing.
Which I’m always happy to investigate.
Like the slow approach of a rebel army or an infiltration
of killer bees, killer barbecue continues to ease into the
area. It’s not any kind of single entity, being the product
of several distinct (largely Southern) parts of the country,
but it’s a world apart from what we call barbecue in the Northeast.
Which boils down, if I may use that term, to the difference
between grilling and smoking, both of which produce delicious
slabs of meat, but which probably shouldn’t be sharing a descriptive
As with so many who find themselves running barbecue (smoked
variety) restaurants, Arceci (nicknamed “Chico”) began with
a backyard smoker, offering baby back ribs and pulled pork
to family and friends, then to parties, eventually to catered
was in the mortgage business,” he says, “and I still am. But
I always wanted to run a restaurant.”
That’s a phrase worth pondering. I’ve heard it uttered countless
times by people on the periphery, folks too dazzled by the
exotic look of the business to understand the horrific commitment
of time and money that’s required.
Chico has had the advantage of learning the money business,
and has made the right investment in making his place look
and feel attractive—and, based on the size of the smoker around
the back of the place, to provide plenty of good eating.
As I’ve no doubt mentioned before, I’m passionate about this
subject. I have a smoker at home and regularly stink up the
neighborhood while torturing racks of ribs and pork butts.
So I don’t praise Chico’s lightly. And it’s not enough that
he’s producing a range of superb pork and beef and turkey
and more, smoked on the premises. He’s also got a friendly
and efficient floor staff, and those seem to be my two favorite
You’ll find the place on Route 20 (Western Avenue) during
its brief confluence with Route 146. The place is divided
between dining area and bar, each in its own room. Although
not as informal as the fabled barbecue shacks in the south,
it’s still very workingman-friendly. On the occasion of my
family’s first visit, we were greeted as if we’d been there
many times before.
anywhere you like,” said a genial server, and suddenly we
were menued and beveraged and salivating at the sight and
aroma of other people’s meals.
Thank goodness it’s not an extensive menu. Dominating the
appetizer list is chicken wings—smoked, not fried, and offered
with three sauces of varying heat intensity or good old BBQ
sauce. We ordered 10 ($6.50) and chose the hottest variety,
reckoning correctly that it would tax my family’s heat tolerance
not at all. I also theorize that the spicier the sauce, the
less there is of fat content because the ratio of tabasco
to butter is higher.
Excellent wings. A terrific cup of chili ($3), with smoked
pork the dominant meat. And it’s all homemade, including the
daily soup specials, by chef Tony Lance, who also has learned
his barbecuing well.
The St. Louis quarter-rack ($7.50) was falling-off-the-bone
tender and shot through with the pink that reveals it to be
long-smoked. And the flavor was especially lively. A St. Louis
cut refers to a particular way of trimming a full rack, and
it assures you of the best-tasting portion. And it comes with
a choice of two side dishes, so it’s a great price for dinner.
A half rack is $13, a full one $19.
You can also go whole hog, so to speak, with the Grand Slab
($9-$23), or narrow your journey down to baby back ribs, available
as a half ($14) or whole portion ($20).
Side dishes comprise cole slaw, prepared as you’d expect;
baked beans, a sweet, thick recipe; French-fried or mashed
potatoes; and potato salad. For an extra fee, you can have
sweet potato fries, onion rings or mashed sweet potato served
with pecan butter.
My wife is a traditionalist who doesn’t mind seeing those
traditions traduced, so she ordered a smoked turkey dinner
($10). It had all the trappings of what you’d eat during a
holiday, but the turkey has the added succulence of all that
Because I felt compelled to sample as much as possible, I
got the three-selection combo platter ($15). The trio of pulled
pork, beef brisket and smoked sausage complemented one another,
the sausage tying together the flavors of the other two meats,
all of them appropriately tender.
Smoked chicken is another offering and, for smoke-free dining,
there are burgers (beef or sausage), roast beef, grilled chicken
and fried fish.
We’ve been back when there weren’t so many bikes out front,
and rest assured: The food was still just as good.
here for a list of recently reviewed restaurants.
as I was wondering whatever became of the cigar
dinner, I learn there’s one tonight (Thursday)
at the Park 54 Restaurant (54 Clifton Country
Road, Clifton Park), featuring the cigars of Carlos
Toraño. And you’ll sample five of those cheroots
on the restaurant’s patio along with a six-course
meal chosen and prepared by chef-owner Mike Pietrocola.
Cocktails are at 6, and dinner includes a chicken
and crayfish terrine, prosciutto-wrapped monkfish,
Tuscan-style pork loin and much more. It’s $80
per person. Space is limited and, last I heard,
was filling quickly, so you’ll have to find out
if last-minute seats are available by calling
688-1548. . . . Nicole’s Bistro (Clinton
& Broadway, Albany) presents its eighth annual
Cucina Sinatra, featuring the meal “Old Blue Eyes”
was known to enjoy at Jilly’s Restaurant in New
York. Which means you’ll be dining on vongole
polsolippo, rigatoni arrabiatta, insalate verdi,
scaloppine de vitello alla milanaise and more—and
I’ll be damned if I’m going to tell you, at this
late date, what those are. You’ll hear music of
the man himself performed by Ed Clifford, so get
your requests ready. It takes place June 15th
at 6:30 PM, and costs $100 per person, which includes
wine, spirits, entertainment, tax and tip—and
each course will be paired with an appropriate
wine. Call 465-1111 for reservations. . . . 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..