Western Ave., Albany, 427-0091. Serving daily 11:30 AM-1 AM.
AE, MC, V.
price range: $4.75 (small pizza) to $15 (full rack
visit to the Washington Tavern, I’m ashamed to note, was in
June 1983. At that point, owner Michael Byron had been running
it for slightly more than a decade, and its reputation as
the area’s friendliest watering hole already was solid.
reeling from the news that my wife was leaving me; my best
friend had just broken up with his longtime girlfriend. We
needed beer. A couple of burgers would be nice. And we found
exactly what we were looking for. Too heartsick to even consider
conversing with the more comely guests—and the WT, as it’s
popularly known, attracts its share—we at least found consolation
some pints and traded war stories in the smoky barroom. He
soon patched things up and married his girlfriend, and remains
married to her; I met another shortly thereafter, and am still
married to her.
enjoy a similar success, but I won’t guarantee it, except
to note that during my recent visit I was privy to a conversation
in which a concerned trio tried to dissuade a friend from
throwing over his wife in favor of a much younger married
was but one of the attractions of the newly refurbished patio,
where your al fresco dining is enhanced by a view of the neighborhood.
My daughter loves to dine outside, and we indulged her this
pleasant evening, giving us a respite from the many TVs inside.
What I’d forgotten was that there’s no longer a smoky barroom,
and those who wish to dine while firing up a gasper have to
do so outside. On the patio.
the kicker: My wife, who can work herself into a big PC snit
over secondhand smoke, actually was able to relax and ignore
(and it wasn’t really that bad; it just looks stupid, this
sea of young, would-be sophisticates clinging to the notion
that there’s anything attractive about their addiction).
are young and swift, able to hustle armloads of drinks and
platters to tables, whisk away empties, keep up with orders
and new requests, and still smilingly parry the importunities
of love-struck singles.
years after my last visit, I’m a middle-aged family man, and
still I found a pleasant, welcoming atmosphere. It’s not just
a kids’ bar. Byron also owns the Ginger Man, the excellent
restaurant down the street that’s also known for its wine
list, and, he explains, he owns most of the rest of the block.
60 tenants,” the ebullient Irishman said, “so it’s in my best
interest to keep the neighborhood top notch!” With that in
mind, and to increase the WT’s banquet capacity from 35 to
50, he recently refurbished the place. And it looks great,
with lots of new tables and chairs and a brighter feel to
came to the States in 1966 and worked for Schraft’s in Manhattan,
which soon sent him to a motor inn in the Albany area where
he handled the foodservice (and a customer base of state legislators,
who had far fewer choices in those days). “I was about to
get married,” he said, “and it was time to move on. The Washington
Tavern became available, and we bought it.”
itself has been in operation since 1884, back when its thoroughfare
was the Great Western Turnpike. No longer just a coach stop,
it’s now surrounded by colleges, professional buildings and,
of course, residential neighbors. It offers a pub-fare menu,
and just as the façade has been rebuilt to reflect the look
of a classic Irish pub, so too has the menu evolved into a
classic array of what goes best with beer. Or even a flagon
don’t even have to list them. You know what they are. We sampled
the crock of chili ($5), which I’m guessing is on the apps
list rather than with the soups owing to its density, and
it’s a decent bowl of the stuff that sports more-than-usual
heat-spice. French onion and a soup of the day are always
available, as is the greens & beans I sampled ($2 for
a bowl; $3.75 per crock), a mix that’s thinner than I expected
(probably explaining why it’s listed with the soups rather
than the apps) but certainly flavorful.
the ribs fanatic, got an appetizer portion of a meaty St.
Louis cut ($7, also available as an entrée for $10 or $15),
and, although they lacked the smokiness of true barbecue,
they still were tender and satisfying.
are bounteous, at least from the example of Susan’s chicken-breast
salad ($7), which turns out to be a big mix of fresh greens
with tomatoes, onions, olives and cucumbers, topped by deep-fried
chicken breast strips, much more than she could handle for
to further decimate the poultry population by ordering a chicken
fajita ($8.25), which brings sizzling strips of seasoned meat
on a hot platter along with the cheese, peppers, onions, salsa
and sour cream with which to wrap your concoction in warm
cold and club sandwiches are available; paninis and wraps
for fancier sandwich fare; pizzas of all stripe and, of course,
burgers. My Black Forest ham and cheddar burger ($7.25) boasted
plenty of meat, a good charbroiled flavor, and a side of thin
tavern fries that gave just the right touch of old country
here is exactly as expected, affordably priced and efficiently
served; there’s Guinness and Newcastle on tap, so what more
could you ask?