Hungry Horseman Grill
Central Ave., Colonie, 464-5050. Serving Mon-Thu 11:30-10,
Fri-Sat 11:30-11; Sunday brunch 11:30-2, then dinner 3-10.
AE, D, DC, MC, V.
Food: * * * * ½
Service: Variable Ambience:
concept of comfort food has long been with us—I suspect it’s
been recently codified as such only because we’ve grown so
obsessed with labeling. We dine out for social interaction,
for business deals, for family celebrations—but always for
some degree of comfort.
It’s a childhood thing. We were comforted (or so we hope)
by a parent who offered food. The genre of comfort food seems
to be based on items that don’t tax the chef too much, reflecting
the simplicity of what was prepared by mom or dad or grandma
The Hungry Horseman seeks to combine the comfort of food with
whatever comfort is derived from sports memorabilia; as one
who never has been moved by sporting events, I don’t pay much
attention to it. (But don’t get me wrong, sports fans: I admire
a universe in which one team always wins thanks to perseverance
and fair play. How unlike life.)
Still, the photos and objets d’art that line the walls of
the Hungry Horseman do spell, in their own way, welcome, and
it was pleasant to dine in the restaurant’s casual setting.
A good thing, too, because the meal went on far longer than
it should have.
Co-owners Ben Record and John Everett were involved with the
Ripe Tomato, where Record also had been a co-owner; here they’ve
taken some menu ideas from that restaurant and combined them
with the happy-go-lucky spirit of Bruno’s, whose Albany branch
formerly occupied this space.
Although some of the Bruno’s pizza recipes were featured during
the early stage of the Horseman, Everett says, “We realized
we’re not a pizza place. We’ve changed the menu since we opened,
added some steak and pasta dishes, and put more sandwiches
on the lunch menu.”
Ever see those circus performers who keep several plates spinning
on balanced sticks? That’s the kind of skill required to keep
a busy restaurant going successfully, and the Hungry Horseman
showed an amiable level of accomplishment. The plates that
failed to spin during my recent visit included aspects of
the food and service, however, suggesting that all the aspects
aren’t being as carefully monitored as necessary.
This is the kind of place where one server is going to see
you through the meal. Ours had a couple of friends dining
at a nearby table, and so she entered into long conversations
with them. Long. Very long. We heard about kids and college
and car troubles . . . and our entrées languished under the
heat lamps. And then it took another 10 minutes for this server
to disengage herself once we’d finished eating. My party slipped
out, one by one, abandoning all hope of dessert, leaving me
not good,” Everett remarked. “We pride ourselves on service,
and obviously we slipped up.”
The menu features an amazing variety of food items, both in
terms of the items themselves and the preparation. I ordered
a spinach and artichoke dip ($7), which usually looks like
it was prepared elsewhere. Here it’s the real thing, made
obvious by the large chunks of artichoke in the mix, accompanied
by the usual array of tortilla chips.
A special appetizer, dubbed the “Secretariat” ($6) to keep
with the horseracing theme, was a modest-sized cube of fresh
mozzarella cheese in alternating layers with prosciutto and
tomato slices. While the tomatoes sported typical off-season
toughness, the other ingredients blended their flavors nicely.
Buffalo-style chicken wings are the boneless variety ($6),
which seems like cheating. Just as you expect, with bleu (sic)
cheese and celery sticks; be warned that even the medium-heat
level packs a little punch.
A hot loaf of bread is accompanied by butter, both regular
and garlic flavored. This turned out to be a good thing, because
the “mushroom lover’s pasta” ($14), in which portobello, shiitake
and oyster mushrooms are tossed with penne, lacked evidence
of the promised seasoning of garlic, thyme and parsley. Fortunately,
we were able to mix the garlic butter in and develop a flavor
Chef David Quillinan has been with the restaurant for eight
months, and keeps the signature dishes as good as they were
reported to be. Yankee pot roast ($13) is a generous helping
of tenderized beef in a thick, dark sauce with chunks of carrots
and onions, served alongside a respectable helping of respectable
mashed potatoes. Pork schnitzel ($13) starts with a thin cutlet
that’s breaded and sautéed, served with capers dancing on
top and big potato pancakes on the side. The braised cabbage
seems to be right out of a can, which is unnecessary—but you
do have to work fresh cabbage a little to make it seem otherwise.
You can dine inexpensively with soup and/or salad—the house
soup, shrimp and scallop bisque ($2.50 for a cup) is a hearty
and very tasty brew that has meal-in-itself written all over
it. Several pasta dishes ($10-$17) combine various meats or
vegetables with the macaroni; steaks ($14-$16) include sirloin,
filet mignon and flank steak done London-broil style. Seafood,
chicken and ribs are available, as are less-common entrées
like calf’s liver and roast turkey.
Although dessert seemed an appealing option, it just wasn’t
in the cards for us; dinner for four, with tax and beverages
and a not-very-generous tip, was $81.
Springwater Bistro pre- sents an evening of Mexican
delights on Mon, Nov. 18, from 5:30 to 8:30 PM. Chef
David Britten will create Mexican tapas petite plates
including such favorites as tacos and quesadillas; this
will be complemented by optional tableside tequila tasting.
Joshua Hiebel, owner of the Saratoga Wine Exchange,
will present flights of tequila. To complete the experience,
the Bistro has arranged for an authentic Mexican jewelry
showcase, and a flamenco guitarist will perform. For
info and reservations, call the restaurant at 584-6440.
. . . The AIDS Council of Northeastern New York presents
the Eighth Annual Beaujolais Nouveau Wine Celebration
from 6 to 9 PM Thursday, Nov. 21, at Franklin Plaza/Michael’s
Catering in Troy. This celebration is held annually
on the day that this new wine is released to the world.
Cadalso Wine & Liquor of Latham is air-shipping
the wine from France for this benefit, and guests will
sample fine cuisine from more than 20 area restaurants.
Participating restaurants include the Albany Pump Station,
Arlington House, Beverly’s, BFS Catering, Big House
Grill, Café Capriccio, Daisy Baker’s, Dakota Steak House,
Debbie’s Kitchen, DiviniTea, Franklin Plaza/Michael’s
Catering, Jack’s Oyster House, Justin’s, Mama Rosa’s
Pasta Café, Milano, Montana Mills Bread Co., Monument
Square Café, New World Home Cooking, Olde 499 House,
Professor Java’s Coffee Sanctuary, Provence, Scrimshaw,
Stephanie’s on the Park, the Irish Mist and the Old
Daley Inn Catering Co. Tickets are $50 per person, and
all proceeds will be applied directly toward the AIDS
Council’s client services and education programs. For
more information, check out co-sponsor Time Warner Cable’s
website at www.cable sites.com/whatsnew; for tickets,
call the AIDS Council at 434-4686. . . . Remember to
pass your scraps to Metroland; you can e-mail
them to firstname.lastname@example.org
fax info to 922-7090)
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