By B.A. Nilsson
Bar and Grill
275 New Scotland Ave., Albany, 453-3299.
Serving Sun-Thu 11 AM-1 AM, Fri-Sat 11 AM-2 AM.
In real life, meaning when nobody else is footing the bill,
I don’t do much fine dining. I’d love to, of course, and when
that book or movie deal comes through, you can bet I’ll be
a regular at the top-end places.
Even so, I’ll still go looking for pizza. And wings. And those
dreadful factory-made jalapeño poppers. Which typically don’t
show up at fancy restaurants—and if they do, they get reinterpreted
into something they ain’t.
So going to Graney’s the other night was a pretty typical
foraging journey for my family. The only difference between
this and a civilian visit is that we sampled more items than
if we’d had to pay for it. And if we’d had to pay for it,
it would have been marvelously economical.
Sports is a dominant theme here, and there are (at last count)
20 television sets strategically hung, feeding the games from
eight satellites. “We want to cater to the sports enthusiasts,”
says Mike Graney, who opened the restaurant in March, “but
we also want it to be family oriented. I keep the sound down
on the TVs. And I keep the jukebox quiet until nine o’clock,
so families can enjoy dinner together.”
Graney spent nine years as manager of the Elbo Room, and has
very definite ideas about how to make a restaurant like this
one work—and they’re good ones. “My chef is Dennis West, who
was at the Orchard for five years. We put together a menu
pretty quickly, but we’re adding things like ribs and steamers
We took a table near the front early one recent evening, my
wife and daughter psyched for a munchies meal.
Like Buffalo-style chicken wings (which will be served shortly),
nachos also seem to have sprung from an inspiration of the
moment. But instead of taking their name from their native
city, they have immortalized the nickname of their creator:
Ignacio “Nacho” Anaya, who worked at the Victory Club in Piedras
Negras, a Mexican town not far from Eagle Pass, Texas. According
to local lore, a wealthy woman from Eagle Pass came in late
one night in 1943 (I’ve also seen 1939 as the date) after
a shopping trip. She was looking for food, but the chef was
gone. So Anaya assembled tostada chips and jalapeños on a
plate and melted cheese. There’s still a party every October
where the towns of Eagle Pass and Piedras Negras invite chefs
to present their most creative nacho variations.
Some purists believe nothing more than cheese and jalapeños
should grace the chips; others substitute salsa for the peppers.
But it’s hard to keep ingredients like olives and sour cream
away. When it comes to adding beans and meat, two widely divergent
camps emerge. Some decry the resultant gloppiness; others
revel in it.
Graney’s offers them with cheese ($3.50) and “loaded” ($5.50),
and we ordered the latter. This turned out to be a truly capacious
bowl swimming in chips and cheese, ground beef and peppers,
with most of the jalapeños at the top—fortunately—so that
I could scarf them away from my more palate-timid companions.
But there’s no doubt that those nachos got soggy. Our strategy
was to use an uncoated chip near the edge as a lever to pry
the central mass apart and then as a shovel to haul it mouthward.
This was as straightforward an assembly as you’d expect, but
of much greater proportion that I thought $6 would bring.
Wings are available in groups of 10 ($4), 17 ($6), 24 ($8)
and 50 ($15). Why 17? “So often I heard people say that they
were too hungry for just 10 but not hungry enough for 20 or
24,” says Graney. “So I split the difference. And the order
of 17 wings has become my most popular size.”
What with the other food coming, we went for a 10 with medium
heat, which falls above mild but below hot and “dare ya!”
But our waitress helpfully provided a side dish of dare ya!
sauce for me to sample, and it showed how aggressively habanero
peppers go to work. I got to sample two wings; what my daughter
didn’t polish off from the remainder she enjoyed the next
day for lunch.
Burgers are available, for less than four bucks; soups, salads,
pasta dishes and sandwiches both hot and cold are further
offerings—and few of these items come even close to $10. Susan
ordered a meatball sub ($5) and regretted it by the time it
arrived, since we’d eaten so much else. But it was a formidable
sandwich, served with fries, which easily could feed two.
We snacked off it for a couple of days afterward.
Best of all the Graney’s items is the pizza, personal-sized
but still generous, with $4 for a cheese pizza and 75 cents
per extra topping. We put pepperoni and onions on a pie, sampled
a slice apiece and still had leftovers.
Service is reasonably attentive, although waitresses tended
to congregate, chatting, near the kitchen door. The bar has
an excellent selection of beer on tap, including Amstel Light,
although I figure if you’re going to drink it, it should have
some heft. So I downed a Newcastle.
Dinner for three, with tax and tip, a beer and soda, was $35.
don’t know about you other dads out there, but this one would
enjoy a nice glass of wine on Father’s Day in lieu of haberdashery.
In the Hudson Valley on Saturday evening (6:30-8:30) there’s
an outdoor concert as part of the Millbrook Vineyards &
Winery music series (800-662-9463, www.millbrookwine.com)
that features a variety of musical styles from jazz to swing
to bluegrass. Journey Around the World in 60 Miles takes place
from 10 to 6 Saturday and Sunday on the Shawangunk Wine
Trail (845-255-2494), where you’ll visit different wine
producing countries and sample their foods. If you’re traveling
to the Finger Lakes, you can join in the Father’s Day Highlands
Fling from 11 to 6 Saturday and Sunday at the McGregor
Vineyard Winery (800-272-0792) with samples of gourmet
foods and vinifera wines. The Salmon Run Wine Festival also
takes place this weekend at Dr. Konstantin Frank’s Vinifera
Wine Cellars (800-320-0735, www.DrFrankWines.com ), featuring
pairings of world class wine with fine food. Gewurz &
Brats is the party at Keuka Overlook Cellars (607-292-6877,
www.keukaoverlook.com) from Saturday through Monday, highlighting
the release of the 2001 Gewurztraminer served with grilled
bratwursts, homemade sauerkraut and other spicy delicacies.
Strawberries and Wine is the Saturday event at the Goose
Watch Winery (315-549-2599, www.goosewatch.com), with
fresh strawberries, strawberry desserts and strawberry wine
among the offerings. On Sunday there’s a Scandinavian Festival
starting at noon at Swedish Hill Winery (888-549-9463,
www.swedishhill.com), where you’ll enjoy their Scandinavian
fare, live music and arts and crafts exhibitors. . . . Remember
to pass your scraps to Metroland.
fax info to 922-7090)