Quackenbush Square, Albany, 447-9000. Serving Mon-Thu 11:30-10,
Fri-Sat 11:30-11, Sun noon-8. AE, D, MC, V.
price range: $8 (burger) to $23 (gorgonzola sirloin)
been back to dine at the Albany Pump Station only a couple
of times since writing about it in 1999, shortly after it
opened. Actually, I’ve stopped by more often than that, but
my timing is invariably lousy and, faced with a long wait
for a table, I usually leave. Or, to give them credit, they’re
so consistently busy that tables are snapped up insanely quickly.
Let’s face it, I’m annoyingly impatient. Once I’m seated I’m
happy to wait for a scratch kitchen to do its thing, but I
hate that initial stretch. Being handed a light-up pager only
adds to the feeling of being herded, but this I hand off to
others in my family.
The Pump Station actually was just that, an 8,000-square-feet
operation put into service more than a century ago to move
water from the Hudson to the long-gone Bleecker Reservoir,
and which was used until 1932. The large cranes you see overhead
still work, as was proven when the brewery tanks above the
bar were put into place.
The brewery part is also Hudson-related—in this case, related
to the city that bears the name. In 1860, the Evans family
picked up a brewery that had been in service for almost three-quarters
of a century, and ran it until the Volstead Act killed the
So the combined name—C.H. Evans Brewing Company at the Albany
Pump Station—salutes a whole lot of heritage, and there’s
memorabilia on display for the history buffs.
While it’s clear that the efflorescence of microbreweries
hasn’t put Anheuser-Busch out of business, nothing beats a
good local brew. The night I visited, the offerings included
Quackenbush Blonde, Bavarian-style Hefeweizen, “Old Musty”
Barley Wine, Extra Stout, Kick-Ass Brown, Pump Station Pale
and Doc’s Pear Cider. An aficionado of darker brews, I opted
for the ale, and was well pleased with its full-bodied flavor,
not at all as bitter as I was expecting.
Two dining areas dominate: One has large tables and a row
of booths in a room dominated by a fireplace, while in the
other you scramble up on higher-altitude tables and have views
of bar and kitchen. This is where my party was placed, which
also placed a TV in my line of sight. Fortunately the set
snapped off—probably the work of a rogue TV-B-Gone wielder—and
wasn’t reactivated during the rest of our stay. People pay
less attention to TVs than those who inflict them upon us
Now let’s look at the menu. Nothing’s going to take you by
surprise, as it hews to a formula well implemented by the
chain restaurants, but with few twists. For instance, the
chicken wings. They’re billed as Thai peanut wings ($8 for
a dozen), and the usual sauce is replaced by that which the
One reason we chose this place was to give my kid a wings
fix, and she leapt at this variation. But it was not good.
Plump and juicy chicken lurked under thick sauce, but the
sauce itself was salty and not much else.
Other starters include the ubiquitous spinach and artichoke
dip ($9), nachos ($8 or $10), calamari ($9), several preparations
of shrimp and more. French onion soup ($4.50) is always available,
as is an array of salads, some of which can feature grilled
And there is a number of sandwiches, averaging $8, including
chicken, turkey, pulled pork, portobello and other items—and
burgers, too, of course.
Salt called attention to itself in my split pea soup as well,
so I’m guessing that’s one of those flavoring habits the chef
will have to ease back on. With the soup it wasn’t nearly
as bad, but there so obviously were other flavors looking
to get through that the salt could have been cut way back.
Add a house salad or cup of soup to an entrée order for $3
or a Caesar salad for $4. So my wife chose the Caesar and
declared herself satisfied, complimenting the freshness of
the leaves. To me it was typical of the chain approach, with
a too-thick (and too-generous) dressing and too much grated
But here’s a good reason to dine here: Golabki ($15), a traditional
Polish dish (the work means “little pigeon”) that wraps boiled
cabbage around a mix of ground beef and rice. Nicely seasoned,
with a very tasty marinara, the plate is finished with pierogies.
It makes sense for a brewery to offer beer-battered fish and
chips ($13), and it’s very traditional and very well done,
with a couple of sizeable slabs of white fish alongside a
generous portion of real fries.
Ribs, mahi, shrimp and sirloin also figure among the entrées;
over on the pasta side is a variety of combos adding chicken
breast, vegetables, shrimp and/or more to the pasta. And there’s
Cajun jambalaya ($19), which means it’s neither—jambalaya
is served with rice. Rice is an option here, our server assured
me, so I ordered it that way because I was deeply in need
of an andouille sausage fix.
They should just rename the dish. It was good, but it wasn’t
jambalaya, which is cooked with rice, like paella. This dish
sported a thick cream sauce, and the rice was an afterthought.
As Utah Philips put it, “Good though.”
I’m glad to see this place endure as other microbreweries
disappear, and I like some of the little differences on the
menu. It’s kind of large and soulless here, but there will
come a day when I need a good flagon of ale and some fish
and chips, and I’ll be back.
here for a list of recently reviewed restaurants.
one thing to cook and eat, but if you want to
remember and share your culinary experiences,
you need to write about it. Learn Food Writing
Basics with a four-week class (7-9:30 PM Wednesdays,
March 12-April 2) taught by Amy Halloran,
who invites you to “stir the sauce of your experience
into a good serving of words. We’ll study the
genre and how it’s developed over the years, in
order to create a recipe for writing about your
life at the table and stove.” The fee is $125
for members, $145 for nonmembers of the Arts Center
of the Capital Region, and you can register by
calling the center at 273-0552. . . . With spring
drawing nearer, it’s time for a Taste of Provence
at Nicole’s Bistro (Quackenbush Square,
Clinton Avenue and Broadway, Albany) beginning
at 6:30 PM on March 7. You’ll enjoy an evening
of Southern French wines (presented by wine expert
Matt Consolo) paired with the cuisine of
Chef Daniel E. Smith, C.E.C. Courses include Bourride,
a traditional fish soup served with beurre de
Provence (aïoli), a salad of marinated fennel,
olives and roasted peppers and an entrée choice
of Cassoulet de Toulouse or Gigot d’Agneau
Rôti served with tapenade. Dinner is $65 per
person (noninclusive); call 465-1111. . . . Remember
to pass your scraps to Metroland (food