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Photo by: Ellen Descsiciolo

Stacked Deck
By B.A. Nilsson

Zeeko’s Charbroil Restaurant
201 Continental Ave., Cohoes, 235-3940. Serving dinner Tue-Sat 11-9, Sun 11-7. AE, D, MC, V.
Cuisine: deli/pub fare
Entrée price range: price range: $6.25 (burger) to $8 (baked haddock)
Ambiance: aging club with a fine deck
Clientele: golfers

I suppose it’s a survival feature that causes us, when we’re in our 20s, to stop caring about such ephemera as dining venues. We’re on our own, and life, our cortical brain reminds us, is dangerous. Eat out in the open and some menacing mastodon might make dinner out of you and your meal.

The front seat of the car is good enough, provided the grub has been grabbed quickly. As a kid, however, I loved picnics, and seized any excuse to move the feast outside. This has become an imperative with my 7-year-old daughter, and, because I do once again care about such venues, I’m happy to facilitate it. The mastodon threat is low.

So we’re always on the lookout for decks. We scan the Metroland dining guide—the first step of any sound dining strategy—to see who boasts anything al fresco. And so it’s true of this week’s restaurant.

“That’s a new addition for us,” says Michael Murphy, known as Zeeko, chef of the enterprise. “It’s a great place to dine in the summer, looking over the golf course.”

What was once an Algonquin Indian village became Van Schaick Island after the Dutch captain of that name bought it for a bushel of wheat. Actually, the name changed frequently over the years, reflecting different attitudes and occupants. The oldest building on the island, which is located off the edge of Cohoes, was built in 1735. The golf club, established in 1895, began with two holes (there’s a brief game!) but evolved into the current layout by 1915.

It’s a membership-only golf club, but the restaurant is open to all comers, a policy instituted shortly after Zeeko took over the food-service operation seven years ago. “But we don’t have a big presence with the general public,” he says, “and I have to tailor the menu to what the membership wants. I change it regularly so they don’t have to see the same things all the time, and it reflects the club’s preferences.”

That’s what led to my only real disappointment of the visit. The menu listed no rib or chicken dinners, no barbecue platters. “We tried those things at first,” Zeeko explained. “But they weren’t big sellers here. They’re in big demand when we do catering jobs, however.”

And there’s the heart of his business, one that has grown so much in recent years that he’s even now looking at new spaces into which he can put a catering kitchen. “Catering isn’t the business it was even a few years ago,” he says. “You work harder now for the money. We do a lot of picnics and barbecues, and a lot of what’s called contract feeding—providing food on a daily basis for area businesses.

“In the warm months I also have the Camp Nassau facility in Guilderland available for parties, and we’re doing parties there every weekend.”

The public face of Zeeko’s remains at the Country Club, which can be a challenging destination, tucked as it is into a corner of an easy-to-miss island. Once you’re there, though, you find a lovely golf course unfolding by a big old building that’s showing signs of age.

We saw a much greater bar than dinner business, but the menu accommodates everything from quick bites to . . . well, not-so-quick bites. An unsurprising set of appetizers includes chicken fingers ($7), nachos platter ($7) and mozzarella sticks ($6). We tried an order of BBQ-sauced Buffalo-style chicken wings ($5.25 for 10) and found them as good as such items get, served with the requisite sides.

Soups are quite good, as a cup apiece of Manhattan clam chowder and sausage and pasta brews proved ($3 each). Good soup means you’re in good hands, and with that confidence we moved on to the baked haddock with accompanying vegetables, an array of sautéed broccoli and squash upon which the fish was served ($8).

Among several salads are grilled chicken Caesar, turkey cobb, chef and other chicken-enhanced variants ($8 each). Antipasto is the same price but probably the best value. It’s not fancy (don’t look for prosciutto), but it’s big, and I got two sandwiches out of the leftover meat and cheese.

Wraps, priced around $7, are a favorite, and you have much variety here, with roast beef, turkey and several chicken interpretations in the mix. The meats are slow-roasted on the premises, and also can be formed into a deli sandwich of your design ($6-$6.50). There, you also get the choice of a home-baked specialty roll.

That’s what I had surrounding an excellent burger ($6.25, with an additional buck to add cheddar and onions). Sides of fries and onion-rich cole slaw completed the dish.

A fleet of catering trucks unloaded alongside us, giving a whiff of the feast that was. The only barbecue item on the menu is an appetizer portion of ribs ($6), and those were sold out. We were offered instead a serving of beef brisket, charcoal-redolent and nicely sauced. Too bad such items can’t make it as regular menu items, but we’re keeping an eye out for Zeeko’s-catered events this summer.

Click here for a list of recently reviewed restaurants.

We want your feedback

Have you eaten at Zeeko’s Charbroil Restaurant or any other 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
Castleton

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
Schenectady

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
Albany

Wonderful!

Elaine Snowdon
Albany

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
Albany

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
Guilderland



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