price range: $7 (cheese pizza) to $27 (filet mignon)
a surprise to me. I went to Daisy Baker’s for dinner and discovered
a new restaurant downstairs, a place called Bacchus. I dined
at Daisy’s but, being of a Dionysian disposition, returned
to try the other place. They’re nominally two separate restaurants,
but they share a building (and bathrooms), an owner and a
worthy approach to food. So here’s a two-in-one review.
when Troy was one of the country’s most prosperous communities
(you have to go back more than a century), a handsome building
went up on 2nd Street to house the young women flocking in
to find work. This Marcus Cummings-designed edifice went on
to become a Christian Science Church, so when it turned into
a restaurant in the 1970s, it was going to be monikered in
sardonic tribute to the denomination’s founder, Mary Baker
Eddy. “Daisy Baker’s” evolved as a compromise.
it functioned until 1985, when the eatery was shuttered. Another
restaurant, a fine-dining venue called Allegro Café, was established
in the warrens of the basement level, and enjoyed a few prosperous
years; but, by the time Daisy Baker’s reopened in 2000 under
new ownership, Allegro was long gone.
spaces are both functioning. Owner Jim Scully has refurbished
the downstairs, installed a wood-fired pizza oven, and named
the operation Bacchus. Upstairs remains as it has been: a
cathedral-like space with a low divider between bar and floor,
and a comfortable spread of tables and banquettes.
place to start is barside. Arrive early, enjoy a pint, greet
your date—then head for a table. I bellied up with a friend
named David, with whom I shared a fruit-and-cheese plate ($9)
to whet the appetite. It’s a polite mixture of cheeses firm
and creamy, with grapes and apples and a few (too few) crackers.
barside also starts you off with more of a sense of intimacy
than the dining room provides. Which leads me to my only adverse
criticism of the place: The high ceiling is handsome, as are
the stained-glass decorated walls, but the effect is slightly
cavernous, an effect that doesn’t go away when the tables
at Daisy’s centers around salads and sandwiches, all in the
$7-$8 range unless you opt for something with sirloin or shrimp,
with a handful of more formal entrées. Dinner stretches the
entrée list to eight well- chosen preparations, distributed
among beef, seafood, chicken and pasta. Chef Adam Bastidas
favors a tidy, attractive plate over portion excess. Judging
from the special I ordered—sea bass wrapped in prosciutto,
$22—he’s also pursuing dramatic contrasts of flavor, as the
combo of sweet fish and spicy ham suggested.
proper began with an order of crab cakes ($11) that were a
very good example of how these ought to taste, the texture
enhanced by a coating of panko, the flavor complemented by
a smoky, spicy, mango-sweetened dipping sauce.
are a commitment here, including items like shrimp tempura
($11), clams and chorizo ($10), grilled brie ($9) and more,
more like tapas than starters. Which is why David opted for
the lighter-fare pear salad to start—a $9 compote that also
included blue cheese, walnuts and dried cherries on a bed
of greens. Other salads range from a simple $6 green salad
to a Mediterranean- flavored mixture top with marinated tenderloin
with lobster ravioli ($21), lemon tarragon chicken ($17) and
a NY strip ($24) available, David opted for the filet mignon
($27), a disarmingly tender slice of beef enhanced in this
presentation with cracked peppercorns and a mushroom-flavored
demi-glace, on a bed of buttery Yukon gold mashed potatoes.
was prompt and attentive, and the feel of fine dining never
flagged. Dining in the old Allegro, by contrast, was a trip
to a Dickensian environ of crowds and cramped space. The transformation
to Bacchus is remarkable (or I’ve decreased in size). Ceilings
still are low, but the tables are spacious and the polished
wood and discreet lighting make it very comfortable.
which serves for day and evening fare, is all about pasta
and pizza, and you’ll want to try the wood-fired latter your
first visit there. Chef Chris Davies offers a few suggestions,
of which the simple pizza Margarita (tomatoes, garlic, basil,
mozzarella, $10 for an eight-incher, $14 for 12) gives a flavorful
taste of what wood-fired is all about. The combo of thin crust
and very high heat makes the pie crackle, and the toppings
seem that much more lively.
for the three-cheese pizza, or the one topped with shrimp
pesto or clams casino—or put together your own with a host
of familiar and exotic possibilities. Even the sauce can be
replaced or enhanced, with alternatives like pesto or roasted
garlic Alfredo in the wings.
possibilities, priced from $12 to $16, include a mix of blackened
chicken and Italian sausage (Rome’s Inferno), penne with broccoli
rabe, roasted shrimp and feta cheese over linguini and more—including
my favorite, the Hercules, which combines prosciutto, ham
and Italian sausage with roasted red peppers over farfalle.
true upstairs, the service here, under the able guidance of
Daryl Burchfield, was casual, brisk and friendly, and Bacchus
is not only an appealing destination but also bids fair to
become a popular hangout for my Troy-based friends.