CREDIT: B.A. Nilsson
Wall St., Schenectady, 395-5999, www.katieobyrnes.com. Serving
Mon-Fri 11:30-10, Sat 12:30-11, Sun 12:30-9. AE, D, MC, V.
pub fare with an Irish twist
price range: $6 (veggie wrap) to $13.79 (New York strip
By B.A. Nilsson
the deafening to the sepulchral, we experienced this restaurant
at the two opposite poles of its personality. On a Friday
night, when it’s party time, the place was so packed with
people that food service seemed incidental. Unfortunately,
on a subsequent lunchtime visit, with almost nobody in the
place, food service was the same. And there’s my problem:
I went seeking a restaurant. Katie O’Byrne’s is a bar with
Not that that’s an excuse for the food to be mediocre, but
I’m guessing that after a Guinness or two some of the culinary
coarseness goes away. Or perhaps it’s unimportant when toping
is your mission.
Schenectady is undergoing all kinds of improvement-revival-refurbishment
activity, clearly hoping that the if-you-build-it-they-will-come
adage holds true. Much as I sometimes rag on the city (where
I resided for a decade), I’m hopeful the promised turnaround
will occur, and I laud a vision that includes an emphasis
on the arts, as Proctor’s Theatre is pursuing.
Katie O’Byrne’s has a great location, in a building just off
State Street, not far from the Amtrak station. The place looks
very attractive inside, with large windows wrapping around
the corner and a high-ceilinged pair of rooms (dining area
and bar) decorated with Irish-themed gewgaws. When it was
about to open, last July, advance press promised good cookery
and a menu that would include such classic fare as shepherd’s
Ah, but that’s a tricky dish to pull off, and, if ever it
was offered, it’s gone now, along with the flatiron steak
that was served for a while. You can console yourself with
Irish stew, but the serving we sampled was practically inedible,
with an overpowering amount of rosemary and sage—what amounted
to an attack of the aromatics.
We probably should have known better than to visit on a Friday
night. That’s often a party night, and Katie O’Byrne’s has
established itself as a place to party. It was a loud, lubricious
event, and we elbowed through the wall-to-wall bodies, folks
with ties loosened, skirts askew, voices pitched to outshout
the throbbing music. We pinballed our way into the dining
room, most of the 14 tables filled but with room enough for
another threesome, and after a long while caught a server’s
eye and were seated.
That’s why I revisited on a weekday afternoon, when the only
diners dining were the staff, while a single bartender seated
us and took our drinks order, poured the sodas—I watched from
my seat—and then stayed for a full five minutes, yakking with
the sole barside occupant, before returning to our table.
During both visits our food was delivered promptly once we
ordered, and servers were pleasant, if perfunctory, but I
was dismayed to see my culinary bugbear, the spray bottle
of solvent, wielded on table after table as the Friday customers
left, misting the air with its chemical aroma. After which,
the server swept all the leavings—crumbs, crud, whatever—to
the floor, then shook out the fabric placemats (over the floor)
and re-placed them.
I started dinner with a pint of Guinness, which was the high
point of the meal. Soup of the day was cream of broccoli ($3
or $4.49), a milky broth with not much vegetable. Spinach-and-artichoke
dip ($7.29) was a better bet, with hearty chunks of hearts
in a creamy mix, served with a basket of tortilla chips.
Hot sandwiches, deli sandwiches and wraps are the lower-priced
entrées, while a handful of over-$10 items round out the menu.
That’s where we spotted corned beef and cabbage ($10.49),
which is always irresistible. Except here. Thick, tough slabs
of undercooked meat glared from the plate in opposition to
a chunk of cabbage that seemed to be a cornucopia of odd tastes,
lacking, however, much in the way of cabbage (usually so dominant
In a similar vein, the classic fish and chips ($12) offered
little in the way of either. The fish was tough and the coating
not at all flaky, suggesting something that had been fried
long ago, while the fries were a mushy pile of the seasoned-shoestring
variety. This is the peril of relying too heavily upon all-in-one
food suppliers, whose prepackaged, precooked offerings are
temptingly cheap but mediocre.
The fries were better during a lunchtime visit, when they
at least achieved crispness. I had them alongside a hamburger
($8) that I bravely ordered rare. And so it—sort of—was, but
a good rare burger is one that seethes with juiciness, while
this one lacked any such moisture.
Winning the day was a grilled chicken Caesar wrap ($7.29 for
lunch, $7.79 for dinner), which was exactly as expected, and
served alongside an order of tasty sweet potato fries (50
Perhaps the bar business has been so fantastically successful
that the food-service end of things never was completed, like
the restaurant’s Web site, which sports a series of “under
construction” signs. Why not finish the job? Train the kitchen
and floor staff to care about what they’re serving, and thus
offer the city something valuable for its rebirth of downtown.
here for a list of recently reviewed restaurants.
Steakhouse (11 N.
Broadway, Schenectady) features selections from
the Finger Lakes-based Hosmer Winery during its
Wine Tasting Dinner at 7 PM on Monday (March 5).
The five-course dinner features five wines, beginning
with a crisp pinot noir to accompany Cajun shrimp
bruschetta. Ravioli Bolognese with a cabernet
franc and bacon-wrapped filet mignon paired with
a hearty Estate Red are among the courses. The
cost is $55 plus tax and tip. For more info and
reservations, call the restaurant at 374-0100,
or e-mail enjoyparisi at nycap.rr.com. . . . Remember
to pass your scraps to Metroland (e-mail
food at banilsson.com).
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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..