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Pig In

Otis & Oliver’s

979 Troy Schenectady Road, Latham, 785-9291. Serving Mon-Thu 11:30-10, Fri-Sat 11-11, Sun noon-9. AE, D, DC, MC, V..


Cuisine: barbecue and pub food

Entrée price range: $8 (tuna sandwich) to $20 (full rack of baby-back ribs)

Ambiance: dressed-up rustic


By B.A. Nilsson


We are becoming a barbecue-savvy corner of the Northeast, with a growing number of ribs joints offering a toothsome range of preparation. Still, it’s important to approach any of these places with the proper expectation. Otis & Oliver’s offers the Northern variety of barbecued ribs, which is a combination of grilling and slow-roasting. Smoked ribs, which are what’s termed barbecue south of the Mason-Dixon line, are another genre altogether.

The principle is the same for both: Season the meat (Otis & Oliver’s owner Don Wade uses only Danish baby-backs, which sport a more concentrated flavor as well as an extra rib), cook for many hours at a low temperature.

Wade scores and grills the ribs to start, then, borrowing from the smoked-ribs tradition, applies a dry rub before finishing the meat with more than six hours in a special oven. The finished product gets served with a tasty house-designed sauce with a flavor of apple that avoids the too-sweet model too often offered in lieu of a more complex and vinegary characteristic.

Although he’s been open at this location for 16 months—Wade and his wife, Erin Cavanaugh, took over what once was Buckshot’s Bar-B-Q, located in Latham alongside Cocca’s Motel—he introduced his version of ribs at his other area place, the Cider House Restaurant at Altamont’s Orchard Creek Golf Club.

And even before that, Wade was a ribs enthusiast. He learned the fundamental approach while managing a unit in a restaurant chain, placing him at the time in Atlanta. “I changed the dry rub and developed my own sauce,” he says, “when I put ribs on the Cider House menu.”

Wade, who grew up in New Jersey, had a grandfather in the catering business. “But I went into the military and then took a job developing missile systems for Raytheon,” he says. “I hated it. I suppose I was thinking of my grandfather when I quit and opened a sub shop.”

This he parlayed into the managerial position that eventually brought him to Albany—along with his wife, who’s an area native with family nearby. Wade helped design the Albany Pump Station and worked there during its inaugural year.

What with the changes he planned for Buckshot’s, a new name was in order, and it was inspired by a trip Cavanaugh and a friend took to the Central Park Zoo, where they saw a pair of pettable pigs named Otis and Oliver. The name also inspired the porcine-centric decor, abetted by piggy gewgaws donated by guests.

Anticipating a threat of warmer weather, the owners changed the menu a couple of weeks ago, adding (by popular demand) Reuben sandwiches (corned beef or turkey, $9) as a well as a slew of more seafood items, steamers ($8 per dozen) and a number of shrimp preparations among them. This also means that the barbecue combos ($18) can add an array of fried shrimp and clams to a half-rack of ribs, not forgetting that the classic ribs and chicken combo re mains available, as well as ribs and pulled pork.

We sampled the last-named during a recent visit, a portion too large to finish at one sitting, rich with the expected flavor. Although I’m easily wooed from smoked ribs to their grilled cousin when the textures are in place, I do miss the smoky flavor in pulled pork. Again, it’s a matter of expectation, and I can’t find legitimate fault in the O&O version.

The platter is decked out with fries, beans and slaw, all good of their kind, with a choice of soup or salad as well. I opted for the latter: again, the expected mix of greens, fresh and not, as befits a casual place like this, not overdressed.

Want a little less? Order the pub ribs ($9.50), which is smaller and served only with fries and slaw. There’s not a pulled-pork dinner as such, but it’s offered as a sandwich ($9) with a jalapeno BBQ sauce, served (in common with all of the sandwiches) with a pickle and a choice of fries, chips, or deli salad.

Those other sandwiches include grilled chicken breast, Cajun chicken, chicken salad, roast beef, corned beef and Philly steak, all in the $8-$9 range; “Thanksgiving Every Day” is the moniker for, no surprise, a turkey sandwich, which lured my wife from her usual choice of chicken thanks to its appropriate accompaniment of apple-cranberry stuffing. And even this was a large enough portion to send us home with a half-sandwich for the next day’s lunch.

Chicken pot pie ($9) is listed in the “Traditional Fare” section, and we found it to be the traditional mix of peas and carrots along with a good proportion of meat, all waiting with steamy promise under a puff-pastry cap. The batch we sampled was unpleasantly salty, however, which we were courageous enough to point out to the server, who removed it from the bill (we turned down a proffered substitute only because there was more than enough food on the table at that point).

Other entrées include steaks (rib eye or NY strip, $19 and $20), fish & chips ($9.50), seafood scampi ($17) and a range of $8-or-so burgers, including a veggie version. New England clam chowder ($3/$4) is a rich, tasty starter, competing in my affection with the Maryland crab cakes ($9.50 for two) served with a spicy remoulade.

It’s a friendly place that fills quickly; our busy server nevertheless kept up with our table and several others. The deck has just been opened, doubling the accommodations and giving you the opportunity to enjoy the ribs in their natural setting—outdoors. Which will be the destination for our next visit.

Click here for a list of recently reviewed restaurants.


Schenectady Day Nursery will hold “A Little Bit of Jazz,” a food-intense benefit at Schenectady County Community College from 5:30-8 PM tonight (Thursday) with a buffet that includes a carving station, antipasto table, pasta station, tapenade, coffee and desert. The event also will feature vocalist Colleen Pratt and Friends, wine tastings and a silent auction. John and Karen Mantas, owners of Mike’s Hot Dogs on Erie Boulevard in Schenectady, will be honored. Admission is $50 per person. For an invitation, contact Joanne DeVoe at 573-0773. . . . Remember to pass your scraps to Metroland (e-mail food at

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Have you eaten at any recently reviewed restaurants? Agree or disagree with B.A.? Let us know what you think...

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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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