FOOD & DRINK
Restaurant: The Inn at Erlowest.
Inn at Erlowest
Lake Shore Drive, Lake George
Miller pursues perfection as only an artist can, and his culinary
artistry extends well beyond the perfection he puts on a plate.
The servingware, the dining room, the inn itself—all reflect his
excellent taste. And the meal itself is a journey through ingredients
and flavors that becomes in itself an exotic vacation.
Broadway, Saratoga Springs
chef Max London brings a Mediterranean sensibility to his long-overdue
restaurant, where you enjoy a tapas approach to dining in relaxed
but elegant surroundings. Enjoy anything from a small plate of white
anchovies to a personal pizza to a hanger steak, inside or at a
patio table on Saratoga’s Broadway.
World Home Cooking Co.
Route 212, Saugerties
yet to figure out what, exactly, American food is, but we’re confident
that New World Home Cooking Co. continues to define it. And the
influences extend beyond our borders as chef-owner Ric Orlando zings
his dishes with exotic peppers and fruits. Great place for vegan
and vegetarian items, too.
a reservation. More than 40 years of serving the area’s best steaks
without ever buying an ad means that the Payne family has it nailed.
It’s about excellent meat, cooked right—and served in you’re-part-of-the-family
surroundings. You’ll leave with leftovers because you’re going to
save room for dessert.
Beekman St., Saratoga Springs
Tim Meaney’s farm-to-table approach guarantees the best flavors;
his cooking approach takes the traditional—like a pork chop or chicken
breast or eggplant slice—and brings out unexpected aspects of its
flavor, all of it handsomely presented in an artistically appointed
Hotel, 534 Broadway, Saratoga Springs
to the restaurant’s e-mailed newsletter and you’ll get a weekly
temptation like no other as owners Cheryl Clark and (chef) Paul
Parker describe what’s in store for the coming week, inspired by
fresh (and as local as possible) ingredients and an old-world culinary
flair reimagined for contemporary palates.
International: Avenue A.
Delaware Ave., Albany
Un-Hui Filomeno has a passion for bold flavors, and her restaurant
runs the geographical gamut, serving Japanese miso soup alongside
Portuguese caldo verde, New Orleans jambalaya and Barcelonan
paella, Franco-American steak au poivre and a killer
Korean chap chae.
Route 45, Earlton
to be a culinary guinea pig? If you can even get a reservation this
summer, you’ll enjoy chef Damon Baehrel’s creative excellence as
course after he’ll-choose-it-for-you course arrives, small bites
of flavor that add up to a richly satisfying meal. Boasting fresh
garden ingredients and locally sourced meats, the meal is a daily
Rosa Road, Schenectady
you think of a bistro as a small restaurant with simple fare, you
rule out many so-named restaurants. Here, chef Michael Cella offers
a Mediterranean-inspired menu for a party with friends, intimate
dining or tapas at the bar, with an excellent wine list to complement
Wine Bar and Bistro
Lark St., Albany
like being in the wine cellar itself, with snug, sort-of- underground
rooms in which to tope, and an innovative tapas menu for gustatory
accompaniment. There even are some outdoor tables if you seek the
open air. The selection is extensive, with many specials, and the
servers are happy to help you choose.
Restaurant when Someone Else Is Paying
at Saratoga National
Union Ave., Saratoga Springs
high-end steakhouses invite you to dine in elegant surroundings
as you enjoy prime cuts of rib-eye, sirloin, tenderloin and, if
you’re truly dining à deux, a 40-ounce porterhouse for not quite
a hundred bucks. The Albany restaurant offers Japanese Kobe beef
for $15 per ounce; both restaurants will start you off with imported
caviar and fresh raw bar selections.
Restaurant Worth a Drive
and Main streets, Canajoharie
Lancaster St., Cherry Valley
forgotten city, an artistic town. Canajoharie’s Church and Main
and Cherry Valley’s Rose & Kettle are both run by husband-and-wife
teams who take advantage of the rural surroundings to offer the
freshest food. And each dining experience is enhanced by historic
old buildings that house these restaurants, well worth the travel
time—and worth exploring the surroundings once you’re there.
Wolf Road, Colonie
longtime favorite dominates a rapidly dwindling field. The ambiance
is so-so, but the food ventures far beyond the usual chop-suey-house
fare and includes one of the best vegetarian menus in the area.
And the prices have remained at an unusually sensible rate.
Central Ave., Albany
dining in a strip-mall site that offers the ambiance of a fast-food
joint—and then your bowl of khao soi arrives and you’re transported.
Along with such mainstays as pad Thai and an array of colorful
curries are sushi and other pan-Asian dishes, prepared with commendable
skill and attractively presented.
Central Ave, Albany, NY
creates Vietnamese cuisine the way it should be: subtle. Without
overwhelming spices or décor (it resembles more of a strip mall
than Asian paradise), Van’s delivers elegant flavors with fresh
ingredients. Try the Pho (noodle soup with various protein options),
or the three-meat-delight: perfectly seasoned grilled shrimp, fried
summer rolls, and sliced pork on a mountain of vermicelli, with
ginger and peanuts.
Hoosick Road, Brunswick
witnessed many years of Steve Chang’s architectural work-in-progress
that has become a garden retreat in the midst of East Troy. In addition
to a Chinese menu that includes the area’s best hot-and-sour soup
are dishes from Vietnam, Japan, Korea, Thailand and other Asian
countries, and you can even enjoy a faux-Polynesian pu pu platter
Japanese Noodle House
Central Ave., Albany
find an oasis here. When life proves oppressive, we refresh ourselves
with a bowl of nabeyaki udon, a glorious noodle soup bursting
with chicken and vegetables and shrimp tempura. All the traditional
dishes—teriyaki preparations, rice compotes, yakisoba and more—are
carefully crafted. And there’s terrific sushi, of course, assembled
by Saso himself.
Wolf Road, Colonie
steakhouses have exploded around us, with their attendant displays
of spatula tossing and onion-ring volcanoes. Koto places it in the
context of an elegant series of dining rooms, with a reliable menu
of other Japanese fare, including some of the handsomest bento boxes
Van Vranken Ave., Schenectady
year’s winner for Best Japanese is now this year’s winner for Best
Sushi. Twenty-three years of artistry by the assured (should be
insured) hands of sushi chef Jiro Omiya add up to exactly what it’s
meant to be—simple, fresh and consistent. Rolls, sushi and sashimi
are traditional, and the presentation is tastefully minimal, letting
the banquet before you speak for itself. Try a Dragon Roll, a Union,
or a refreshing Salad Roll, just to name a few. If it’s pieces you’re
into, the Hamachi (yellowtail) is always buttery and on point. And
if you’re lucky enough to visit the friendly family and staff on
days when they happen to have Shiro Maguro (white tuna) or Bonito
(a seasonal—early fall—small tuna seared and accompanied with a
touch of ginger and scallion), you can consider yourself on cloud
Grand St., Albany
Jim Rua presides in the upstairs banquet room; his son Franco is
the chef downstairs. Together they carry on a quarter-century tradition
of offering the area’s best Tuscan-inspired fare, served with a
personality unique to this restaurant.
4th Ave., Troy
about institutions! You know Testo’s from the restaurant’s locally
marketed sauce. At the restaurant, John and Chuck Testo run a 32-year-old
family business that assures you of the friendliest, most family-oriented
dinners—at great prices, too. The ziti Alfredo with broccoli will
cure any ill.
4th St., Troy
perennial winner, and for good reason. They make their own sauce
(and sell it next door). They make a killer crust (they’ve been
perfecting it for well over half a century). And they bake it in
a wood-fired oven that gives the pizza an unmistakeably excellent
Eastern Parkway, Schenectady
of the institutions that make life in Schenectady bearable, the
Fireside couldn’t be more accommodating. Old-school pizza, but some
exotica (like ham, mesquite chicken, Genoa salami) has crept in.
Large dining rooms upstairs and down and a full menu besides.
Route 20, New Lebanon
in doubt, order pizza,” suggests a sign on the wall, and as you
watch the thin-crust pies fly in and out of the wood-fired oven,
you’ll have no trouble deciding that that’s the way to go. A white
pizza with barbecued chicken is one of the best, and don’t overlook
the calzones and stromboli.
Maple Ave., Voorheesville
delicious crust piled with hearty toppings and fresh cheese, this
pizza is like a Tolstoy novel: dense, complex, and profoundly fulfilling
(but easier to wash down with Budweiser). It’s a pizza that separates
the men from the boys.
E. High St., Ballston Spa
not just a trip back in time, although you’ll swear Ike is still
in office when you walk through the door. It’s one of the few places
where you can start with an order of superb potato pancakes, then
go on to a knockwurst plate, or enjoy the schlacht, schnitzel,
spätzle and more.
Taste of Greece
Lark St., Albany
perennial winner, A Taste of Greece has established itself as a
Lark Street institution. This comfortable, friendly restaurant has
always been known for top-shelf service, and Greek cuisine that
includes all the classics including spanakopita, souvlaki and moussaka
as well as gyros, delicious salads, dips and appetizers. You must
try the grilled octopus, one of our favorites. Opa!
Mexican: Casa Oaxaca.
Philip St., Albany
is the watchword here. Casual. Owner James Santaski and chef Francisco
Vazquez, himself Oaxacan, offer a small but authentic menu of south-of-the-border
specialties, the best of which is the superb mole, a labor-intensive
puree of nuts and peppers finished with native chocolate.
Johnson Road, Latham; 47 Caroline St., Saratoga Springs; 2788 Hamburg
Karavalli empire has spread, thank goodness, and the varied menu
that’s offered ranges throughout the regions of India. The ubiquitous
lunch buffet is given classier touches, and the place is justly
famous for its rice-and-lentil dosai.
River St., Troy; 185 Lark St., Albany
hole-in-the-wall Lebanese Troy mainstay now has an Albany hole in
the wall on Lark St., and it’s got the best hummus, excellent falafel,
and array of native salads and stews and an amazing garlic paste
to enjoy on crisped pita wafers.
15th St., Troy
the prices have crept up—whose haven’t?—but Ali Baba’s delightful
Turkish menu includes wonderful kebabs, authentic gyros (known here
as a durum wrap), and a big puffy bread called lavash to enjoy with
a garlic-yoghurt dip. Also try the curried chicken pizza!
Troy Schenectady Road, Latham
cauliflower and eggplant have never tasted as good as they do here
in their respective entrees, and that doesn’t begin to cover the
grilled kebabs, the rice palows, the Afghan pasta dishes. A friendly
place unexpectedly located in a Latham mall, Afghan Grill also does
a lunch buffet with a selection of favorite items.
Caroline St., Saratoga Springs
Yund’s honeymoon trip to Barbados was a culinary eye-opener, and
inspired a menu of Caribbean-themed cookery that includes jerk chicken
and pork, chicken Barbados (served with a banana, coconut and curaçao
orange sauce) and even coconut mashed potatoes.
Fulton St., Troy
to know the cuisine—and addictive versions of jerk or curried chicken—at
the bargain-priced lunch buffet. Then try the oxtail, the tripe
and beans, the curried shrimp or the many other creations of Jamaican
native Ricardo Brown, whose friendly restaurant also has one of
the liveliest soundtracks in town.
Plaza, Delaware Ave., Delmar
used to be merely Middle Eastern (and superbly so), but chef-owner
Joseph Soliman has synthesized into his menu dishes inspired by
the cuisines of Italy, Greece, France and regional America, served
in ever more elegant surroundings. Once you find the place.
Route 146, Clifton Park
you start assembling your pizza, you’ll be a mildly aware that you’re
not piling meat on top of it, and you’ll barely miss the meat as
you turn to the other menu items. It’s not really a vegetarian restaurant:
It’s an Italian restaurant that left out the meat. Great wine selection,
North Greenbush Road, North Greenbush
let the name intimidate you. The hummus is garlicky, yes, but that’s
as it should be. Beyond that is a Mediterranean menu with Italian
touches that chef-owner Bill Assad prepares with palate-pleasing
dexterity. Don’t forget an order of GLC chips: potato chips with
lemon and feta.
Ontario St., Albany
Custer is a French-trained chef who went to the other side of the
tracks, so to speak, and now serves up the region’s best pulled
pork, beef brisket and more in what used to be Emil Meister’s market.
And grab yourself some sweet potatoes and collards greens as well.
Lark St., Albany
like Justin’s for lunch. And dinner. The weekend brunch is pretty
awesome too. But Justin’s simply has no peer between the hours of
11 PM and 1 AM, when its café menu offers a varied selection that
pleases showgoers and late-shifters looking for something more interesting
than pub fare. Sure, there are burgers, sandwiches and salads, but
also corn fritters, crab cakes, tempura shrimp, baked goat cheese
with greens, and the ultimate comfort combo, meatloaf and mac and
cheese. And we’ve never known the kitchen to close early, so this
is food you can count on at an hour when your choices are otherwise
Delaware Ave, Albany, NY
Street has been waiting for a place like Café 217 for ages: a place
with tasty food, on the cheap, at very late hours. If it’s 5:30
a.m., you want something more than a coffee and donut, head to Café
217, with hours starting around dinner and ending after the breakfast
crowd. Between vegetarian eggs benedict, chipotle sweet potato hash,
BLTs with turkey bacon, even meat loaf, Café 217 serves up tasty
comfort food for late-shifters.
Pizzeria & Ristorante
Route 29, East Galway
just been tapped for a Wine Spectator Award of Excellence, which
you don’t expect at a pizza joint. But there’s much more than just
pizza here. A full-fledged Italian-themed menu is accompanied by
a wine list that features nearly 300 well-chosen vintages, many
available by the glass, classified by area and/or by grape.
Brew Pub: Brown’s Brewing Co.
River St., Troy
pleasant and tipsy world traveler told us that from his decades
of restless wandering he has found that Brown’s Extra Special Bitter
is the hands-down the best ESB anywhere. And we can tell you that
come Sunday afternoon, you’ll find fellow world-weary travelers
lounging on the back deck, well-fed and two beers in, with a huge
grins on their faces.
River St., Troy
offer the best pub food, it’s got to be a great pub. The Ale House
does this unselfconsciously and with gusto, with a classic bar in
front and the dining room lurking almost as an afterthought beyond.
Chicken wings, ribs, burgers and daily specials are featured along
with a changing menu of specials. Also live music and lots of good
else can you tuck into a juicy steak (and habit-forming fries) and
a generous pour, while rubbing elbows with the rich and famous,
or at least expense-accounted, glitterati of the Capital District?
On any given afternoon, you’re likely to see Sen. Bruno, Mayor Jennings,
or any number of pinstriped legal eagles, lobbyists and association
execs. Chef Jamie Ortiz masterfully handles the menu, which, while
not exactly innovative, delivers just what you want to serve alongside
your powerbroking, namely, expertly-cooked choice cuts of red meat,
crisp salads and. . . . Did we mention the stellar wine list?
Washington Ave., Albany
an iron gate and down the walk to front door set well back from
busy Washington Avenue, you’ll find top-quality freshly made soups,
salads, sandwiches, wraps and creative specials, with plenty of
vegetarian options. The food is great, the prices are reasonable,
and to top it off, the staff work so efficiently that even when
there’s a long line ahead of you, you’ll be surprised at how quickly
you get served.
State St., Schenectady
the favorite source of cheesecake in Schenectady, the Blue Ribbon
also has one of those you-can-order-anything menus that promises
no-frills food that’s efficiently prepared and served with no budget
breaking involved. Welcoming and reliable with an unusual emphasis
Freeman’s Bridge Road, Glenville
premixed, portion-controlled, frozen ingredients is the motto here,
and it’s reflected no better than in the hand-hewn burgers, whether
dressed up as daily specials (Cajun, blue cheese) or redirected
into meat loaf. This will remind you why a burger and fries used
to taste so good.
Deli & Caterers
Union Ave., Schenectady
at lunchtime and you’re swept into a line, your order is determined
and your sandwich is assembled in record time—all while the folks
behind the counter are clearly enjoying themselves. A Brooklyn-born
friend of ours swears the hot pastrami here is even better than
Marketplace & Eatery
Hamilton St., Albany
repeat winner, this cozy little joint tucked away on quiet Hamilton
Street does have a few tables and a lovely patio for eating on the
premises, but it’s also a great place to grab a delicious gourmet
meal to go. Get there early for the gourmet sandwiches on ciabatta
bread, and check out the sumptuous array of prepared foods—grilled
salmon, crab cakes, salads, eggplant lasagne, pasta pesto, roasted
vegetables, and so on. Or start your day with a good strong pressure-brewed
coffee and an egg-and-cheese sandwich on a croissant—there’s none
better in the region.
Subs: Andy & Sons Importing Co.
& Sons Importing Co.
Delaware Ave., Albany
you order a sub from Andy’s, you better be prepared. A generous
(almost to a fault) portion of top-level meats and veggies, with
the fixings and dressings of your choice, on a delicious homemade
roll. Plenty of specialty subs, too. A lunch or dinner fit for a
lumberjack—or a very hungry state worker.
Little Hot Dogs
Congress St., Troy
may be famous for those delicious little hot dogs, but they don’t
get any more famous than at Famous Lunch. The greasy hole-in-the-wall
has 75 years of wee-dog-making experience to its name—these puppies
have even been shipped around the world. Top the dogs (and burgers
and fries) with a ladle of zippy sauce, and finish it off with a
cup of famous rice pudding. Not to mention, you’ll feel like you’re
eating lunch with a throng of your grandpa’s cantankerous buddies—and
all for under five bucks.
Nott St., Schenectady
long resisted sharing this place, but it’s a secret too good to
keep. Peter Pause puts out a traditional breakfast each weekday
from 6 to 11 (lunch from 11 to 2) that includes a $5 three-egg special
(sausage, home fries, toast). Pancakes are excellent, and you can
get French toast made with their homemade Italian bread.
Madison Ave., Albany
weekday breakfast menu is tasty enough, but on weekends it expands
to embrace such tempting creations as pesto benedict with grilled
tomatoes and zucchini, berry- and pecan-stuffed French toast, and
plenty more. Through fires, ownership changes and renovations, the
quality, consistency and overall scrumptiousness of the Café Madison
brunch has remained a constant. And while you’re here, check out
the dinner menu.
you start at the omelet station, you might miss the Belgian waffle
station, especially if you took advantage of the fresh bread and
Danish display. And then there’s the chef’s carving station to consider,
the bounty of fresh fruit, cold meat, vegetables, cheese. Which
doesn’t even take into account the eggs Benedict, the blintzes,
the seafood, the beef . . .
Western Ave., Albany; 402 Broadway, Saratoga Springs
because they’re round, it doesn’t make them bagels. When we count
out the supermarket offerings, it gets down to boiled versus steamed.
Uncommon Grounds bagels are steamed. Not as crispy, perhaps, but
they’re huge, moist, and when they label it a garlic bagel, be assured
you’re going to find plenty of garlic. Or onions. Or sesame seeds.
Or . . . everything.
Broadway, Saratoga Springs
mighty Starbucks starts folding its tents; Uncommon Grounds lives
on. That’s because real people serve real, freshly roasted coffee
in a space that begs you to settle in and start that conversation.
Or finish that novel. We like the expanded Saratoga store with the
added lounge space, but the Albany branch also maintains its charm.
Broadway, Saratoga Spring
we tell you here can adequately prepare you for the experience of
that first mouthful of a Mrs. London’s dessert. Sure, it looks great
behind the counter, whether it’s a lemon meringue tartlette, cherry
clafoutis, eclair, napoleon, savarins or any of the many other freshly
crafted confections that beckon. Pastries and the world’s best bread
also are available, and you can enjoy them in the store’s café.
Hamilton St., Albany
you love downtown Albany, cheesecake, and kitsch, you can’t do better
than this small establishment in Robinson Square. Their hours are
generous, and for $5 you can enjoy a piece of cheesecake and a beverage
at one of two small tables. You can choose from enumerable flavors
such as Purple Nurple, Frankencake, and Chocolate Stout. Often there
are off-menu choices listed on the chalkboard or you can order a
10-inch cake of your own concoction. Yum!
Edible Art Gallery
Lark St., Albany
this sunny, recently renovated bakery, there’s artwork on the walls—and
in the display cases. Among the selection of sugary confections—from
puff pastries with nuts and cheeses to lusciously layered cakes
and torts—are edible artworks such as yellow-fondat chicks created
by artist-baker Claudia Crisan. There also are 13 flavors of homemade
gelato, and at a dollar per scoop, you can taste-test to your sweet
Spring Ave., Wynantskill
true gourmandizers of hard ice cream, there is no better destination
than Moxie’s. Try their fabled Blue Moon ice cream and venture a
guess at the secret ingredients. The red-and-white landmark has
been a summer destination for generations of Capital Region dessert
hounds, and Moxie’s takes great pride in its homemade scoops and
homespun atmosphere. As a testament to how seriously they take their
ice cream: Moxie’s has five different types of vanilla, differentiated
by the bean’s geographical origin. You can try all of the vanilla
varieties in an “around the world” flight, which is tastefully served
up with a dollop of blue moon and a bottle of water—to “cleanse
your palate.” Nice.
Soft Ice Cream
Ice Cream Man
Route 29, Easton
is the representation of real frozen custard, and the Ice Cream
Man makes a custard that is pure tongue velvet. The chocolate is
dreamy, and the vanilla is a tonic that will slap your cynicism
into submission. Both flavors seem to drip thicker as they luxuriously
melt than soft ice creams made from mixes. The Ice Cream Man, which
knows its way around hard ice cream, too, serves up nonfat custard
as well, but skipping on fat when it comes to ice cream is akin
to not inhaling.
Western Ave., Guilderland
would not expect, tucked away in a suburban shopping plaza, a small,
tastefully decorated restaurant with an eclectic menu to also boast
the best gelato around. But it’s true. Served with tiny shovel-like
spoons, the gelato at the front of Aromi D’Italia stops diners in
their tracks—and luckily reminds them to save room for dessert.
Try the Romeo and Juliet: vanilla gelato with tiny flecks of chocolate.
lucky are we? The smoothies are a cool, healthy, luscious afternoon
respite, and the Mamas make us weak in the knees.