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PHOTO: B.A. Nilsson

This Old Steakhouse

The Butcher Block Grill

1632A Central Ave., Colonie, 456-1653. Serving Mon-Thu 11:30-9:30, Fri 11:30-10, Sat 4-10, Sun 4-9. AE, D, DC, MC, V.

Cuisine: steaks and seafood

Entrée price range: $18 (chicken teriyaki) to $37 (broiled lobster tail)

Ambiance: rustic

By B.A. Nilsson


As a heartsick 16-year-old, I complained to my father about the fickle young woman who continued to spurn my proffered love. He nodded sagely throughout my recitation, offering nothing in the way of advice, until I volunteered a piece of information that he could, so to speak, sink his teeth into.

“She’s a vegetarian,” I said.

His normally impassive face grew florid as he worked his jaw in what either was indignation or phantom chewing. Then he sadly shook his head, opining, “You’ll come up against a lot of problems in life. Disappointments, anger, jealousy, despair. And women will always break your heart. But there’s no problem on earth that can’t be solved at least temporarily by a big juicy steak.”

Thus have I inherited a fondness for the chops-and-salad-bar establishment, and that hobbledehoy heartsickness has been supplanted by annoyance: specifically, annoyance at my beef-boycotting wife, who has prompted the deaths of countless hens.

Our recent visit to the Butcher Block, a stalwart not far from Central Avenue’s Northway intersection, resulted in a predictably simple order: chicken, salmon, beef.

And salad bar, of course. I confess to terribly mixed feelings about the evanescence of those things. It seemed like the end when Wendy’s packed it in, but at least a couple of other chains persist with them, and they persevere in steakhouses like this one.

Grazing along the salad bar seems like a dietarily virtuous pursuit, but clumps of cheese and shredded bacon and thick, oily dressings—not to mention mayonnaise-based compotes—can quickly negate that value. Still, a fat guy like me can feel at least a little unselfconscious on that second or third trip through.

But what an unwieldy passage it can be! The Butcher Block provides a cooler of oval plates made of chill-holding pewter, but the outer rim of one of them can act like a racecourse for cherry tomatoes, one of which launched itself into the macaroni salad as I went by.

That’s also because I’d heaped the middle of the plate with lettuce, which forces you to assemble other comestibles in the margins. I’m learning to go first for that far end of the bar, where the more complicated salads live, and lay on the lettuce later.

For 25 years, the Butcher Block has been offering its simple menu of meat-and- potatoes fare. It’s a restaurant of moments: generally good, but not consistent. My steak-ordering strategy has been shaped over the years by places like this. A thick slab of sirloin should be rare but not actually bloody, but ordering it rare almost always nets me a medium-rare result. And that’s fine, though it’s not what I ordered.

Can you blame the chef? Not always. Meat continues to cook after it leaves the grill, and time under heat lamps also darkens it.

My latest problem is that I’m eating grass-feed beef at home, sourcing my meat from local farms. There’s a pronounced (and better) flavor and texture difference when compared to commercially sold corn-fed beef—but market forces keep that a philosophical rather than a culinary problem at this point.

Familiarity is comfort’s most important component, and the Butcher Block keeps it familiar. The menu takes no bold turns, offering a long-familiar mix of steaks, chicken and seafood. The rooms are hunting-lodge rustic, and you’re seated at a solid wooden table with what amounts to a face towel for your napkin.

With so much bounty at the salad bar (including soup and Bountiful Bread-sourced loaves), you’re probably nuts to get an appetizer; to ensure leftovers, I ordered a crock of French onion soup ($5), which proved a perfectly acceptable compote, and my table shared the crab cakes ($10), which gets you two good-sized towers of the meat-and-bread mixture, with swirls of spicy tartar sauce alongside.

Other apps include baby back ribs ($9), steamed littlenecks ($9), crab-stuffed mushrooms ($8) and escargot ($8).

There’s a duck breast with orange and lingonberry sauce ($22) among the non-beef entrées, as well as grilled pork chops ($20) and chicken teriyaki ($18). We sampled the chicken New Orleans ($18), which gives you four breast strips served over pasta with a Cajun sauce; it seemed a little bland nevertheless, so my wife enhanced it by adding some veggies from the salad bar.

Maple Dijon salmon ($22) gives you a good-sized piece of fish where the flavors of maple syrup and Dijon mustard come through an apple-pecan crust, and this was the opposite of the chicken dish, with lots of flavors swirling through.

A fresh catch is offered among the seafood items, along with shrimp scampi ($23), broiled scallops ($22), crab-stuffed haddock ($20) and more.

But it’s the steaks that draw people back, and my sirloin (12-ounce cut, $26) was an impressive chunk of beef despite the above-noted cavils. (There’s an 8-ounce cut for $21). Prime rib is carved daily until the day’s supply is exhausted; filet mignon is available in 8-ounce ($24) and 12-ounce ($30) cuts. Top sirloin ($22) and porterhouse ($30) also are available.

The Butcher Block has enjoyed its longtime popularity because of the comfort it offers; with a sharper focus on service, which could be more responsive, and food consistency, it should enjoy a continued long run.

Click here for a list of recently reviewed restaurants.


Preview the new year with New World Home Cooking Companys 10th annual Champagne Dinner, which takes place at 6:30 PM on Dec. 14. Chef Ric Orlando and Michael Weiss, wine instructor at the Culinary Institute of America, join forces to present a seven-course meal paired with seven wines. Start with a clam foursome—raw littlenecks with mustard sauce, cherrystone ceviche with cilantro, razor clam spicy Asian barbecue, and Manila clam paella with peas and chorizo—and continue through a meal that includes a trio of lamb (lamb filet mignon, sweetbreads with strawberry-chipotle sauce, and crepinettes with tomato jam) and much more. It’s $79 per person, plus tax and tip, and you can reserve seats by calling (845) 246-0900. The restaurant is at 1411 Route 212, Saugerties; check out for more info. . . . Remember to pass your scraps to Metroland (e-mail

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What you're saying...

I 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.

Mary Kurtz

First, 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 the reviews.

Pat Russo
East Greenbush

I 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!

Peggy Van Deloo

So happy to see you finally made out!! Our experiences have always been wonderful, the staff is extremely professional, the food subperb, and the atmosphere very warm and comfortable. Let us not forget to mention "Maria" the pianist on Friday and Saturday nights.

Charlie and Marie
Michaels Restaurant

I have been to Michael's several times and each time I have enjoyed it very much. The food is delicious and the staff is great. Also, Maria Riccio Bryce plays piano there every Friday and Saturday evening, a nice touch to add to the already wonderful atmosphere. It is also easy to find, exit 27 off the thruway to 30 north for about 5 miles.

N. Moore


Elaine Snowdon

We loved it and will definitely go back.

Rosemarie Rafferty

Absolutely excellent. The quality and the flavor far surpasses that of other Indian restaurants in the area. I was a die-hard Shalimar fan and Tandoor Palace won my heart. It blows Ghandi out of the water. FInally a decent place in Albany where you can get a good dinner for less than $10 and not have tacos. The outdoor seating is also festive.

Brady G'sell

Indian is my favorite cuisine available in the area--I loved Tandoor Palace. We all agreed that the tandoori chicken was superior to other local restaraunts, and we also tried the ka-chori based on that intriguing description-delicious.

Kizzi Casale

Your 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..

Barry Uznitsky

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