FOOD & DRINK
Grand St., Albany
The second generation is in, with new chef Franco Rua alongside
his father, founder Jim, continuing a quarter-century tradition
of offering extraordinary Italian-inspired fare using fresh, local
ingredients when possible. Dinner here is always elegant and amiable,
like dinner with the family you dreamed about having.
New Restaurant, Best Brunch: Tosca Grille.
PHOTO: Shannon DeCelle
Chef Larry Schepici is back, in a posh Troy storefront serving dynamic,
Italian-inspired fare. Try the Dover sole when it’s available, and
the rack of lamb rubbed with honey, porcini, pistachios and herbs.
Live jazz and a lavish Sunday brunch keep the place hopping, as
Tosca herself keeps watch from a large wall mural.
Best American (Contemporary)
State St., Albany
Andrew Plummer looks at a bunch of ingredients and imagines—and
then prepares—a dinner you never imagined could have emerged from
such a simple-seeming combo. At McGuire’s, he offers his food in
a setting that’s equal parts Old World Albany and New American bistro.
Dine by the bar (if you want to find your Assembly rep) or in the
more formal room just beyond.
Best American (Traditional)
Steak & Seafood House
New Loudon Road, Latham
Don’t snicker, you snobby foodies. Sure, you can get a $40 boutique
steak at any number of upscale joints now, but for the basics of
American steakhouse cooking the way you remember it from dinners
out with your parents (or grandparents), Kirker’s has it down. And
the ambience and service couldn’t be more friendly and unpretentious.
Remember that the next time you’re craving a juicy steak and baked
potato, maybe with a couple of stuffed shrimp on the side—and you
don’t mind that your fellow diners aren’t part of the trendy downtown
Beekman St., Saratoga Springs
A recurring theme of these awards is the use of local produce. That’s
because the better restaurants know to offer the better food, and
Beekman Street Bistro has been in the forefront of tailoring its
menu accordingly. Original delicious approaches to traditional meat
and fish have won a devoted local following.
Broadway, Saratoga Springs
Owners Paul Parker (who is also the chef) and Cheryl Clark moved
the restaurant to the Saratoga Hotel last year and now enjoy all
the elegance of ambiance that their superior cuisine warrants. Following
in his mother Sophie’s footsteps, Paul pushes traditional French
techniques and recipes into unexpected, exciting directions. The
French have always been culinary trailblazers, so it’s not surprising
that this is a restaurant like no other, and absolutely first-rate.
on the Lake
Stafford Bridge Road, Saratoga Springs
Take a drive to the north end of Saratoga Lake and enjoy cuisine
that borrows a recipe from Morocco, from Italy, from the Deep South—from
wherever owner Richard Rodriguez and his talented kitchen crew want
to explore. It’s all about choices: great drinks, a couple of different
dining rooms, and even an outdoor deck for your enjoyment.
Best Restaurant When Someone Else is Paying
Inn and Suites, 25 Chapel St., Albany
You want the five-course rijstafel, and your envious dining
companions will want to keep pace, perhaps with osso buco or ostrich.
And wine, and a round of Donna’s unbeatable desserts. . . . Is it
any wonder that this excellent restaurant, with beautiful appointments
and top-notch service, is tops on your list of places to which you
hustle your well-to-do patrons?
Best Restaurant When It Doesn’t Matter Who’s Paying
Burden Ave., Troy
Dinner specials all are priced under 10 bucks, and when that includes
items like Thursday’s corned beef and cabbage and Monday’s baked
ham, you’ve got a deal. The tavern has been slinging its particular
brand of hash for nearly 75 years, so they’ve got it down. Slip
into a well-worn booth and enjoy the show.
Best Italian Neighborhood Restaurant (Schenectady)
Congress St., Schenectady
Come on in, come on in. Whew, it’s hot out there. Let me find you
a table. You want something to drink? Sure you do. Here, get him
a menu. We got some specials tonight. You look hungry. Let’s get
some bread over here. You want a nice braciole? It’s on special,
we still got a few left. ’Scuse me—I gotta say goodbye to some people.
I’ll be right back.
Best Italian Neighborhood Restaurant (Troy)
Italian Restaurant and Pizza Parlor
4th Ave. , Troy
Testo’s Restaurant is as synonymous with North Troy as Uncle Sam
Wilson. Meet anyone from Troy for the first time, and talk of Testo’s
soon enters the conversation. Testo’s is a culinary landmark managed
and run by the whole Testo family. Inexpensive daily dinner and
lunch specials, homemade meatballs, outstanding pizza, yummy entrees—the
menu is reminiscent of a bygone era. Testo’s continues to set the
standard for a family Italian restaurant.
Best Italian Neighborhood Restaurant (Albany)
Dove St., Albany
For more than 30 years, Bongiorno’s has served its traditional Italian
fare to the residents of downtown Albany. Long a favorite of state
politicians, Bongiorno’s is an experience like dining in someone’s
home. Not much has changed over the years, and that’s a good thing.
Owners Roseanna and Felix Bongiorno serve up hearty homemade Italian
food—the kind of food that always makes you feel satisfied. Whether
it’s a Bongiorno’s family member or one of the other great wait
staff serving you, you always feel the warmth that Roseanna projects
from her kitchen. Try her amazing veal saltimbocca, chicken picante
or zuppa di pesce. She also makes the best pesto pasta around. We
can only hope Bongiorno’s will be around for another 30 years.
The Payne family’s Duanesburg outpost has been going strong for
nearly 40 years. Make sure you have a reservation (if you can even
find the phone number), and then enjoy a steak dinner of legendary
flavor and proportion. We have many excellent steakhouses in the
area, but the Bear’s still tops them all.
Best Restaurant Worth a Drive
Rose & Kettle
Lancaster St., Cherry Valley
Your waitress is a 2006 National Book Award finalist? And she owns
the place with her husband, who’s the chef? But, ah: This is Cherry
Valley, a tiny town with a big history and an artistic presence
that’s making it the Taos of the east. Not surprisingly, then, this
restaurant offers amazing meals from locally sourced products in
a handsome, century-old house.
Best Kept Secret
Plaza, Delaware Ave., Delmar
Maybe it’s not so secret anymore. We visited on a recent weeknight
and the place was packed. That’s because chef-owner Joseph Soliman
has transformed this from casual Middle Eastern dining into a more
finished and formal restaurant where his entrees never fail to impress.
The staff has grown into a polished, attentive crew, and the dining
experience is wholly satisfying.
Western Ave., Guilderland
That giant smoker, just around the back of the restaurant, puts
out rib racks and pork butts and beef briskets and whatever else
Chico is inspired to slow-cook in that mouth-watering way. It’s
the real thing here, where the pulled pork is pink from its many
hours on the smoke and the sauces are piquant with spiciness.
Eastern Parkway, Schenectady
We like the sausage and tortellini soup, and the ravioli, and especially
the chicken wings, but when that pizza emerges, steam still rising
from the rivulets of mozzarella, its crisp crust begging to be bitten,
we are goners. We push aside everything else and dig in. Downstairs
you dine by the fireplace; upstairs is a big bar with frequent pizza-buffet
Pizza and Ice Cream Cafe
New Karner Road, Guilderland
For some of us, it’s the toppings. For others, it’s the cheese or
the crust. For others, however, it’s the tomato sauce. And Sparky’s
delicious sauce is the foundation of their excellent pizza. That’s
not to say the cheese or the toppings or the crust aren’t first
rate, too, because they are. But that sauce . . .
4th St., Troy
It really shouldn’t surprise anyone that this Troy institution would
be honored again this year. And we could sit here and labor over
suitable language to describe the consistently amazing pizza that
has sustained us for oh-so-many years, but we’d rather just say:
If you’ve never been to DeFazio’s, you are playing a dangerous game
of self-denial, my friend. One that could end up with you never
knowing what it means to fall in love with a sausage pizza.
Maple Ave., Voorheesville
It is a drive for us city dwellers, sure, but it is well worth notching
up that carbon footprint to sink your teeth into Smith’s thick,
saucy revelation of pizza-pie artistry. Go. Now. Carpool if you
must. The pitchers are flowing, and the staff will be happy to see
you. And once you’ve experienced this quaint restaurant’s signature
stick-to-your-ribs goodness, you’ll find yourself jonesing for it
at all sorts of crazy times (like when you are up at 2 in the morning
rushing to meet a deadline).
Best Power Lunch
Really, is there anyone who isn’t anyone here? There’s Mayor Jennings,
with Police Chief Tuffey, along with any number of lobbyists, lawyers,
bankers, architects, insurance types and any of their associates
lucky enough to be in on the day’s expense account. The room’s big
enough to allow for rolling up shirtsleeves and getting down to
brass tacks, not to mention the gargantuan Prime burger and the
insanely addictive fries. And it’s loud enough to ensure that the
table next to you can’t overhear your machinations.
Best Lunch (Subs Division)
& Sons Importing Company
Delaware Ave., Albany
Those cheeses hanging from the ceiling aren’t just for show. Order
a sandwich—try the Carm’s colossal if your appetite is up for it—and
you may well see one of them cut open for your sub, that mossy provolone
aroma filling a storefront that has absorbed many layers of such
aroma during its half-century here.
Deli & Caterers
Union Ave., Schenectady
Longevity counts for a lot in this business. Gershon’s has grown
and adapted even as it has persevered here for decades. The sandwich
list is unrivalled (the sliced turkey with chopped liver is sinfully
good), and they offer their own baked ham, their own pastrami, and
Dr. Brown’s sodas! Plenty of salads and other prepared items to
go, but you might want to dine inside or, when the weather’s nice,
on the patio.
Wolf Road, Colonie
A consistent winner for its more-exotic-than-usual menu, fresh seafood,
extensive list of vegetarian items, good pricing, and an astonishing
ability to hold its own on Wolf Road, Colonie’s prefab epicenter.
Emperor’s is the classic take-out-or-eat-here Chinese restaurant,
but it goes that extra distance.
Troy Schenectady Road, Latham
It was once a pizza joint, and then new owners snuck a few kebabs
onto the menu. Now, with a new name and complete redecoration, there’s
a full-blown Afghan menu with standard and some unexpected Middle
Eastern fare. It’s tucked into the eastern end of the Peter Harris
Plaza, so keep an eye peeled. An economical lunch buffet is a great
way to introduce yourself to the cuisine.
Johnson Road, Latham; 2788 Hamburg St., Rotterdam; 47 Caroline St.,
It slipped into a Latham strip mall, and has proven successful enough
that two other branches opened in recent months. Enjoy the Indian
fare you’ve already gotten to know, as well as dishes from other
parts of that country that don’t typically appear on restaurant
menus. Dosai, a thin pastry of rice flour served with tasty dipping
sauces, is a good place to start.
Mexican: Mexican Radio.
PHOTO: Chris Shields
Warren St. Hudson
Mexican Radio does Mexican like no other restaurant in the area.
Yes, it is worth a drive from Albany, Troy, or even Saratoga to
enjoy a maragarita and a Radio Roll-Up or an order of Tostada Magnifica.
Heck, we sometimes stop by their other location, in New York City,
if we need a fix.
River St., Troy
We’re hoping that the success of this restaurant might inspire a
move to larger quarters, but if you’re lucky enough to snag one
of the half-dozen tables, you’ll revel in a meal of hummus or falafel
or grilled meat or tangy salad—or whatever chef-owner Paul is inspired
to present on a particular day. Make sure you add his garlic dipping
sauce to your order.
15th St., Troy
The place gets busier and busier as more people discover that there’s
no better durum (the Turkish version of a gyro) in the area,
and that the lamb kebab has just the right grilled flavor about
it. Get a mixed appetizer plate (hummus, carrot salad, baba ganouj
and more) with a puffy loaf of lavash; try the beyti sarma for a
wild combo of ground meat and seasoning.
It’s a no-frills restaurant, practically anonymous among the many
storefronts on Central Avenue, but the Philippine Connection boasts
a selection of mouth-watering traditional Philippine delicacies.
The rich, savory sauces, flavored with liver and other unique ingredients,
are the perfect accompaniments for sautéed goat or beef. The guys
behind the counter will remember you, and what you ate. They’ll
explain what it is you’re actually eating, and they’ll appreciate
your business very much. Go pay them a visit.
4th St., Troy
You’d never guess that this café-type venue would be the place to
find authentic Peruvian fare, but ’tis the case. Taste homemade
ceviche de pescado, a fresh fish salad served with peeled
baked potato, or lomo saltado, seared sirloin strips served
with chopped onion, tomato and cilantro, rice and fries. Order some
flavored tea, and you have yourself a genuine Peruvian meal. Also
on the menu are delicious sandwiches, salads and pizza, but do yourself
a favor and try the Peruvian dishes. You won’t be sorry.
Delaware Ave., Albany
An Albany staple, now in its 14th year, My Linh marries the class
and sophistication that owner Linh Diep and family possess with
culinary prowess. The friendly staff are always more then willing
to help with any questions you may have regarding the menu, so if
you’re in the mood for exotic and understated tastes and surroundings,
My Linh won’t disappoint. The restaurant boasts many elegant rooms
to choose from, as well as a beautifully bamboo-lined patio—perfect
for taking in exotic drinks, great weather and conversation. Catch
a movie next door at the Spectrum, and you have the classic Albany
Taste of Greece
N. Lake St., Albany
Since its inception, this place has had its share of owners, and
because of that, the quality of cuisine has gone through some ups
and downs, but now the quality is up—way up. The cuisine runs the
Greek-fare gamut—spanakopita, souvlaki, moussaka and many other
authentically prepared traditional dishes. The atmosphere is simple,
the service is good, but the cuisine is top-shelf.
Van Vranken Ave, Schenectady
Mari’s has been a little-known Schenectady treasure for 22 years.
The family and staff of Jiro and Mari Omiya continue to deliver
the highest in quality Japanese food and sushi. Japanese aesthetic
flows freely here through presentation and décor. Loyal customers
have come year after year to indulge in their favorite traditional
meals of tempura, teriyaki, sukiyaki, don, udon and nabes. If you
feel like indulging, try the homemade chocolate mousse or tempura-fried
ice cream. Don’t forget to order some sake and phenomenal sushi
from Jiro at the sushi bar. Whether you’re a loyal customer or a
new one, you’ll return again and again for your very own piece of
New Scotland Ave., Albany
There’s basic sushi, you know crab roll, tuna roll, California roll,
and then there is new-world sushi, and that is what sets this little
place apart form the others. The chef’s special rolls are works
of art. For example, his Volcano roll (salmon, tuna, yellowtail,
massago, scallions, spicy mayo, all deep-fried and served with eel
sauce) is to die for. The Fantasy roll is various fresh fish delicately
wrapped with cucumber, his spicy crabmeat roll is a California roll
wrapped with spicy crabmeat sashimi. Fresh, unique presentation
in a tiny bistro setting.
State St., Schenectady
OK, here’s the scene: champagne martinis, an old crooner doing his
best Frank Sinatra, and vibrant feasts of red and green curry, steamed
vegetables, and pineapple rice. This intimate setting can take place
almost any Friday night at Schenectady’s downtown treasure. Not
only does this bistro boast a full, exciting Thai and martini menu,
a sushi bar and karaoke weekend nights, it also has a friendly,
attentive staff and great ambiance.
1st St., Troy
Stopping into Carmen’s Cafe in Troy is like indulging in a quick
vacation. This bright neighborhood cafe has an atmosphere is so
unassuming, that you feel like you’ve wandered into a friend’s dining
room. And Carmen’s picadillo empanadas are the perfect food
for the morning after those hard Saturday nights.
Route 146, Clifton Park
For 11 years, Anitpasto’s has been the area’s premiere Italian,
vegetarian-friendly restaurant and wine-and-beer bar. With their
outstanding wine list, incredible vegetarian appetizers, entrees,
pastas, gourmet pizzas, creative salads and friendly staff, Antipasto’s
is a culinary oasis in a community of cookie-cutter chain restaurants.
Sit with owner and (sometimes) bartender Steve Zumbo and talk about
legendary blues artists, great wine or current events, and you’ll
immediately feel like part of the Antipasto’s family. Also, for
non-vegetarians, there are meatballs, pepperoni and anchovies, all
kept separate from the vegetarian items. (Of course, the vegetarian
counterparts to these items are also available.)
Phila St., Saratoga Springs
You may already know that owner-chef Jasper Alexander took down
Bobby Flay in a fried-chicken cook-off that aired on the Food Network
in January. Here are a few things you may not know about this historic
joint, known by most for its fried chicken: The “good ’n’ evil”
chicken wings may be the best wings you’ll find anywhere, and the
chef’s fresh-fish-of-the-day special gives the chicken a run for
its money as the best item on the menu.
Outdoor Dining: Park 54.
PHOTO: Martin Benjamin
Clifton Country Road, Clifton Park
This may be the only view of nature in Clifton Park, but it’s a
great view and almost makes you forget that so many malls perch
so close beyond. And the food here—under the guidance of chef-owner
Mike Pietrocola and chef Mark Graham—is creatively inspired and
thoughtfully prepared. They have a way with meats and fish, but
don’t mind adding the right Italian touches as well.
Best Outdoor Drinking
Broadway, Saratoga Springs
The lush green ferns of the garden are an oasis; the slant-backed
Adirondack chairs a reminder of (real or imagined) vacations spent
playing backyard croquet. Once ballet season hits, the garden patio
of this Saratoga landmark fills with polo-shirted patrons sipping
Pisco Sours. For fans of sweeter delights, the daiquiris, made with
in-season fresh fruits and no mixes, are where it’s at.
Freeman’s Bridge Road, Glenville
You have to make it fresh for the customers. Oliver’s does this.
You need to spruce it up a bit. Oliver’s offers different takes
on the burger concept on different days, dressing it with Cajun
spices, or blue cheese, or whatever else may be the inspiration.
Serve it with hand-cut fries in a friendly eatery where everything
else is homemade, too, and you’ve got the best.
Best Ice Cream
Railroad St., Great Barrington, Mass.; 26 Housatonic St., Lenox,
Creamy and delicious, with a nice selection of homemade ice-cream
flavors (the espresso cookie is to die for) complemented by sorbets,
frozen yogurts and kickass smoothies. The two locations are within
easy striking distance if you’re in southern or central Berkshire
Best Ice Cream Parlor
Lincoln Ave., Amsterdam
New owner Theresa Dufel is running the place just as it’s always
been, with your choice of ice cream (Washburn’s, Perry’s or Ben
& Jerry’s) and homemade topping, which you can enjoy at the
old-fashioned counter or a booth. That’s if you can get past the
incredible candy display at the front of the store. She’s also returned
to another old tradition, and offers lunch as well.
Phila St., Saratoga Springs
Savory or sweet? That is the only question worth asking yourself
at this perfect-for-breakfast-brunch-or-lunch spot. Would I like
asparagus and goat cheese in a savory crepe, or delicious Nutella
hazelnut spread and strawberries in a sweet crepe? If I ordered
both, could I possibly eat it all?
Broadway, Saratoga Springs
Rachael Ray’s favorite patisserie (don’t let that keep you away)
may be a construction site right now, with work underway next door
on Max London’s, a restaurant opening in the fall to feature the
culinary élan of the bakery owners’ son. But step right around any
construction detritus and elbow the pesky Saveur-reading
tourists (who must have seen the eatery featured in a recent spread)
out of the way. You’ve got tartlettes, and chocolate-mousse cake,
and éclairs, and napoleons, and broiche and croissants to eat.
Best Desserts for Under $5
Madison Ave., Albany
In addition to the tavern’s all-round menu of Irish-influenced pub
food are some of the finest desserts to be had without a white tablecloth
and an expense account. Home made by a personal friend of the owner,
the molten chocolate cake and tiramisu will make you think you’re
at Ma Maison rather than the corner of Madison.
It’s a spread fit for royalty: gourmet omelet station, carving station,
Belgian waffle station, gourmet pasta station, with a half-dozen
or so additional hot entrees (seafood in a garlic-basil-chardonnay
sauce, beef tenderloin in a red wine sauce), plus an array of breads,
pastries and fruit. At $22.95, it’s not cheap, but it’s well worth
it—and the pricing for children is very reasonable. You’ll want
to try a little bit of everything, and if you plan on settling in
with the Sunday Times, you just might.
Best Breakfast (Contemporary)
Madison Ave., Albany
When we gave Café Madison this same distinction a year ago, little
did we know that a fire would close the place down for much of the
time in-between Best Of issues. We’re grateful that they’re back
up and running, and back to the old form, which means the tastiest,
most creative breakfast fare around.
Best Breakfast (Traditional)
Hoosick Rd, Troy
The best way to spot Duncan’s is by the many cars that encircle
it any given morning . . . and the infamous cow picture attached
to the roof. Yet once you step inside you know where you are: that
home-cooked, country-diner breakfast joint hasn’t changed since
you were a kid. But whether it’s after that late night out or your
Sunday treat after church, even the smell can warm your insides.
The freshly baked homemade bread melts in your mouth, the smell
of sweet maple syrup runs across your nose as you pour it on there
scrumptious blueberry pancakes. The locals still gather here to
drink coffee, read the morning papers and discuss politics (this
is Rensselaer County, after all), but “outsiders” are equally welcome.
And the best part is a good meal at Duncan’s doesn’t cost you much
at all. Oh, and don‘t forget to try the pie.
Best Breakfast Burger
lark St., Albany
The recently updated brunch menu at Justin’s sports an item that
initially made us do a double-take: a 4-ounce burger with apple-cured
ham, cheddar cheese, and a fried egg, all on a potato roll. After
sampling the mouth-watering concoction, we now hope that this signals
the beginning of a trend—viva la 2,000-calorie breakfast!
Smoothie: Shake Shake Mamas.
PHOTO: Shannon DeCelle
Where do we begin? The food is bomb-diggity, the ambiance lovely,
and the Mamas are divine. But those smoothies. Oh, those smoothies:
Four Berry, Peach Pear, Peanut Butter Banana. The Hans Solo has
the sweet, roguish charm of a blaster-strapped Harrison Ford, and
the Ooh La Lublin is so scrumptious, so satisfying with the sweetness,
that it’s sure to tame even the most beastly programmer. Come for
the smoothies, and stay for everything else.
This family-run diner has everything you want in a neighborhood
diner: great breakfasts, satisfying sandwiches, piping coffee, and
a familiar staff that is as friendly as they are attentive. And
the vibe is all about enjoying yourself and your food. So pull up
a stool at the counter at this intimate and cozy establishment and
prepare to make some new friends. And you should probably have a
slice of homemade cake, too.
Best Reinvention of the Diner
Duanesburg Road, Rotterdam
Palm trees in the dining room? In Rotterdam? Somehow it works, even
as the new menu, which seems to touch on everything your palate
might desire, works, too. Tops has been around since well before
you and I achieved consciousness, but this new building and new
menu make it the must-visit alternative to the sterile chain eateries.
Gourmet Takeout: Mezzo Marketplace & Eatery.
Photo: Joe Putrock
Marketplace & Eatery
Hamilton St., Albany
A little slice of Europe tucked into a quiet corner of Center Square.
Oh, and there are a few tables for eating in—the patio is lovely
when weather permits—but if you’re grabbing lunch or dinner on the
fly, you can’t do much better than this. Gourmet sandwiches are
prepared in the morning (and often are gone by early afternoon),
and there is a sumptuous array of prepared foods to choose from—grilled
salmon, crab cakes, sesame chicken, black bean salad, pasta pesto,
roasted vegetables, and so on. To start your day, the pressure-brewed
coffee is delicious, and the egg-and-cheese sandwich (try it on
a croissant) has no peer.
Best Italian Takeout
Western Ave., Albany
Drive slowly once you pass Crossgates, or else you’ll miss the bright-blue
sign that is really the only indicator that you’re near anything
special, let alone the best Italian takeout spot in the Capital
Region. Via Fresca’s door is in the back, past a curtained stair
to the basement, but once you get past this incongruous welcome,
you are easily sated by gleaming cases containing bowls of roasted
peppers, baby artichokes, olives and any number of pastas, salads,
and seafood delicacies. In addition, there’s a generous selection
of cold and hot sandwiches and paninis, lasagna, parmigianas, Italian
sodas, and cheeses. You can shop for your own kitchen while the
always cheerful and accommodating staff make your order.
N. Pearl St., Albany
In a downtown full of delis, pizza joints and pub food, Greenhouse
stands out as a healthy alternative—and a fresh, delicious one at
that. Choose a salad or wrap from one of the house specialties,
or build your own. Chop, chop, toss, toss. It doesn’t get any fresher
Best Late-Night Dining
Lark St., Albany
A perennial winner, because there’s just nowhere else where you
can order real restaurant food (everything on the appetizer and
café pages of the menu, including soups, sandwiches, appetizers
like corn fritters and café plates like ropa vieja) at 12:55 AM
(see if you can guess when the kitchen does close). And it’s real
Best Coffeehouse (Urban)
Broadway, Saratoga Springs
may be a slight stretch for modest little Saratoga Springs, but
Uncommon Grounds does spill out onto Broadway, where you can sip
your latte and enjoy some of the best people-watching of any downtown
in this region. Besides serving some of the best brew (coffee and
tea) the area has to offer—and offering enough varieties each day
to please any palate—this Uncommon Grounds recently doubled its
size and now boasts one of the coziest lounging areas around. Laptop-couch-potato
Best Coffeehouse (Suburban)
Delaware Ave., Delmar
A slice of quiche, a salad, and thou. Thou being a big, frothy cappuccino,
which you can enjoy while huddled over your computer (alongside
the other huddlers) in a room where each table has its own outlet.
Owner Roberta Bastow and her amiable staff quickly get to know you
and know what you like, so it’s easy to settle in. A few more coffee
varieties would be welcomed.
The best, most authentic espresso is served up by Villa Italia on
Broadway in Schenectady. You can stand at the marble counter within
arm’s reach of the espresso machine and feel like you are in Rivoire
Cafe at Piazza Signoria in Florence or some other la pasticceria—if
you don’t turn around and look outside. And if you choose to take
a seat and relax for a while with a great panino, pastry or gelato
they won’t charge you twice as much as is the practice in the old
country. It’s the capital region espresso which most yields the
flavor and richness like that in Italy, it’s the real deal. Molto
Best Pub Food
River St., Troy
It’s not a complicated menu—burgers, sandwiches, salads, wings—but
the food is bargain-priced and delicious, with some of the region’s
best chicken wings as well as a toothsome variety of fries. It’s
a lively Troy mainstay, with a good selection of beer and nightly
specials (try those ribs when they appear).
Best Wine Bar
Lark St., Albany
Good wine, good conversation in a European-style grotto. Weather
permitting, the back patio is the place to be.
Malone’s Mexican Irish Restaurant
River St., Troy
For real, peoples, put down the sour mash—it’s an abomination! (Why
the hell is it that color?) What you’re drinking ain’t a margarita,
cause tequila sloshed into a pitcher of sickly sweetness does not
a margarita make. When you are ready to have your mind blown with
the properly made signature Mexican libation, make your way over
to Troy’s Irish-Mexican upstart. Mmmmm. You’ll probably see us there.