Xin Fu

I recently tried Xin Fu, a new Chinese-Japanese restaurant on Route 7 in Latham. Though the food was excellent, I found the portions to be a little small.

The inside of the restaurant is elegant, comparable to Koto or Hana. The menu is slightly lacking. There are vastly more Japanese options than Chinese options. The service was fast and efficient.

I had wonton soup and chicken with broccoli. The wonton soup was one of the best I have ever had. I loved the softness of the wonton dumplings, and the strong flavor of the soup. The chicken with broccoli was delicious. The sauce was a little greasy but very flavorful. The dish offered an equal portion of both chicken and broccoli, but needed more of it. Though this was a dinner portion, there was less than a pound of chicken breast. Diners looking for a hearty meal may be disappointed.

Overall, this was a very good restaurant. The food was tasty, though the portions were a little bit small. I would put the taste of the food on par with the fine Chinese restaurants of the area, such as Emperor's and Ichiban.

Bob and Ron's Fish Fry

I went to Bob and Ron's Fish Fry with a couple of co-workers and thoroughly enjoyed myself.

I ordered the fish fry which I thought was very good. For $4.00 it was a substantial sandwich with a large portion of fresh fish. The delicately fried fish and tartar sauce combined together beautifully. I sampled the onion rings but found them bland. A co-worker explained it may have to do with the ban on transfats in Albany County. The rest of the food at the restaurant looked excellent though.

I loved the ambiance of the place. It almost feels like Jumping Jack's in Scotia, though it is not outside of course. It was nice being able to look at the fish being breaded and fried while I was ordering. I can understand by Bob and Ron's is an institution in Albany. They offer their customers good food and excellent service at a reasonable price.

Blue Ribbon Diner

I tried the Blue Ribbon Restaurant on Labor Day, and was quite impressed. I ordered one of the Monday specials, Fish and Chips. The special comes with soup and salad.

The fish and chips was a delicious combination of freshly fried haddock and crispy fries. The portion of haddock was about a half a pound, which I found a little stingy. However, the quality was excellent. The chunks of fresh haddock were very flaky and melted in my mouth. The fries were not made from scratch, but they were thick cut and tasty.

What stands out about this restaurant was the excellent service. The waitress made every effort to accomodate our group. She brought out samples of the daily soups to help us decide, and advised us about the menu. The cashier was also very pleasant, asking about our dining experience and urging us to come back.

Overall, this was an excellent experience. The courteous staff made us feel at home. Though the Blue Ribbon isn't a fish restaurant, they make an excellent fish and chips.

Juicy Burger

I tried the Juicy Burger in Ballston Spa with my girlfriend. The food was decent, but a little pricey compared with Five Guys or Fuddruckers.

The menu is structured a little differently than either of those chains. The basic burger is $5.00 and does not even come with lettuce. It is simply a hamburger on a bun, nothing less, nothing more. There are condiments on the side if you wish. If you want lettuce or tomato, you will have to upgrade to the Build a Burger, which is $7.50. The Build a Burger allows you to load perhaps 15 toppings on your burger, from bacon to sauteed onions. Fries and a drink can be ordered a la carte; there are no meal options.

I ordered the Build a Burger with sweet potato fries, and it was excellent. It was either one third or one quarter a pound of beef, on a large roll. I found it to be a little greasy, but very tasty. The sweet potato fries were good, not excellent. They were covered in salt, which I found a little unnecessary. I was excited that they had sweet potato fries; Fuddruckers did not have those until recently and Five Guys does not have them at all.

My meal came out to a little more than $12. Fudds will give you the burger meal deal for under $10; Five Guys is also under $10. $12 seems a little unreasonable for a meal without waiter service. For $12, I would prefer to have a nice meal at Chili's or Quintessence.

Golden Phoenix

The Golden Phoenix in Niskayuna is the best chinese buffer in the area. Like all Chinese buffets, it is very sparse inside. However, there is a great variety of fresh food. If the food was healthier, and less expensive, I could eat there every week.

Not only is the food excellent, there is a large variety of it. Along with the favorites, such as sesame chicken and lo mein, there was also salt and pepper shrimp and pineapple chicken. There was also a nice selection of sushi, from the conventional California rolls to a sushi shrimp tempura roll. The sushi alone would have made a good meal. Add to it Chinese food and a Mongolian bar and I could have eaten well beyond satiety.

One problem I have with this place is that the Mongolian bar asks you to put on your own sauce, rather than putting the sauce on for you. I am not a chef, and I do not know the ingredients in many of the sauces, so I made my dish way too spicy for my tastes. Next time I will ask for the chef's advice before creating my dish.

I give the Golden Phoenix two thumbs up. The variety and quality of their food was superior to any Chinese buffet I have been to in the Capital Region

J Bob Barbecue

J Bob Barbeque is in a very humble building on Route 50 in Ballston Spa. You will recognize it by the bright red color of the building and the huge smoker outside. The parking lot may not be very full, but don't let that dissuade you. Despite the humble exterior, this restaurant serves up some excellent barbecue.

We had the sampler, which included pulled pork, ribs, wings, cole slaw, beans and corn bread. Everything was excellent. Since this is Tennessee style barbecue, it is dry rub and does not have sauce like us Yankees like are used to. However, J Bob does supply the table with three bottles of different barbecue sauces. The sweet one was my favorite. All of the meats were very lean and moist. I particularly liked the wings, which had a strong smoky taste. I was less fond of the pulled pork, which did not have much taste to it.

The cost of our meal was $26, which was a bit pricey for the pound or so of meat that we got. However, I did appeciate the variety of food. If we were looking for value, we could have both ordered pulled pork sandwiches at $7.50 each. Overall, we had a very good experience at J Bob.

The Ripe Tomato

I went to the Ripe Tomato in Malta tonight and I left satisfied as always. The portions are large and the food is fresh and excellent.

I ordered the chicken piccata, which came with bread and soup or salad. The bread is top-notch. It is either fresh-baked on the premises or brought in every day. The olive oil for dipping is a nice touch. I had onion soup, which was also excellent. The chicken piccata came with four medium-sized chicken cutlets which were moist and delicious. I appreciated all of the mushrooms and capers in the delicately-seasoned sauce. The side of pasta is al dente, and the tomato sauce is flavorful.

The atmopshere is cozy with exposed beams, low ceilings and paper tablecloths. The dish was $17.95, which is a bit pricy. However, with chains cutting back on portions, it is nice to get a nice portion. The Ripe Tomato is the way restaurant dining used to be.

Shane's Rib Shack

I was quite excited to try Shane's Rib Shack in Clifton Park because I love good BBQ food. This place is conveniently located and reasonably priced. The food is good and the atmosphere is fun, however, the restaurant did not live up to its billing.

I ordered the chicken dinner, which came with two sides and texas toast. The chicken looked like it came out of a e-z bake oven, with the painted-on grill marks. It did have a nice, smoky taste to it though. I had onion straws and french fries as sides, and was not too impressed with either. Neither was particularly crunchy, and both tasted as though they might have been sitting for awhile.

Jose Malone's

I went to Jose Malone's on River Street in Troy this Troy Night Out with my girlfriend. The restaurant offers large portions and a comfortable atmosphere. I can definitely see myself coming back to this place.

Jose Malone's is ideally located right next to Ryan's Wake, Revolution Hall, and some other bars on River Street. There are two municipal lots close by which seemed to have plenty of parking. The restaurant is described as 'Irish-Mexican,' but it is more like a Mexican restaurant that happens to make corned beef. Mexican adornments like a sombrero line the walls of the restaurant. Almost all of the customers were eating Mexican dishes. Perhaps this is a restaurant with an identity crisis.

I gave the Irish food a shot because I so frequently dine at Moe's and other Tex-Mex places. I ordered the corned beef and cabbage, which I give two thumbs up. The dish came with five pieces of very lean and flavorful high-quality corned beef. The sides were mashed potatoes, carrots marinated in tequila, and cabbage. I was a little disappointed with the cabbage, which I found very greasy. However, cabbage is not a dish I typically enjoy. The mashed potatoes had real potatoes in them with the skins on, but they were a little dry.

I was surprised that, not only does Jose Malone's charge for chips and salsa, they also charge for refills. I found this a little stingy for a restaurant of this caliber. However, the salsa was freshly made and excellent. But, when a restaurant is looking to get established, it is the little things that count. This is one thing Jose Malone's should reconsider.


I went to Justin's on Lark Street and I feel that they definitely have great food for a bar.

I ordered the fried catfish sandwich with fries and coleslaw, all of which was delicious. When even the cole slaw tastes home made, you know you are in for a treat. The catfish was lightly fried and battered and absolutely wonderful. A generous fresh filet was heaped on a roll with an interesting avocado mayonnaise spread. The fries were hand-cut and had a little of the skin still on. Even the cole slaw was wonderful. It was not drowning in mayonnaise, and the chunks of cabbage and carrot blended beautifully.

Justin's is not only a great place to hang out, but also a wonderful dining experience. For just under $10, I feel that Justin's is far above it's competitors such as Chili's or Friday's.

Hot Dog Heaven

I went to lunch today at Hot Dog Heaven, and I am glad I did. It may not be heaven, but they offer a good meal, and a comfortable atmosphere at a fair price.

I like two things about the atmosphere at Hot Dog Heaven. First, the only person who I have ever seen tending the grill is the owner, who makes everyone feel at home. Second, if you sit by the grill, you get a great view of Lark Street. It is indeed a picture window.

I ordered the eggs, hash browns and toast, all of which were above average. As promised on the menu, the food does take a little longer than fast food, but that is because it is made to order. The eggs scrambled eggs was a bigger portion than I would get at many diners. The has browns were made from scratch with delicious chunks of potato and some bits of onion. Even the toast was nice and thick and generously buttered.

Unfortunately, Hot Dog Heaven is not open nights or on weekends, otherwise, I would probably be there much more often.

Buffalo Wagon

Heather and I went to the Buffalo Wagon this weekend, and I was pleasantly surprised. The recent reviews in Metroland and the times union were not too good. Though we ordered relatively simple fare, we were both satisfied with the meal.

Perhaps the greatest deficit of Buffalo Wagon compared to Emperor's, Ichiban or Hana is its location. It is right off of Wolf Road on Metro Park Road. Those who are not familiar with Wolf Road could easily pass it. In fact, we passed it the
first time around.

Heather noticed that almost all of the clientele in Buffalo Wagon were of asian descent. Perhaps this is because the menu contains real chinese food, like sauteed pork intestine, as well as the americanized dishes, such as sesame chicken. Buffalo Wagon dabbles a little bit in many asian cuisines -- Chinese, Japanese and Thai. We were so overwhelmed by the menu, the waitress came over to our table three times before we decided what to order.

We ended up ordering two classic americanized chinese food staples -- sesame chicken and roast pork chow fun. The sesame chicken had a mild sauce which it took my tongue awhile to get used to. The portion was adequate, and the chicken
was high quality and not overly breaded. This is one dish the mall chinese restaurants often get horribly wrong, but the Buffalo Wagon seems to do just fine with. The chow fun was not very greasy and had a smokey flavor which i love.

The Buffalo Wagon is definitely worth another trip. The pricing is similar with other chinese restaurants in the area, though they offer more expensive fare as well. The lunch menu specials include bento boxes which are always fun.


Heather and I dined at Phoenicians on Central Avenue in Colonie on Friday night, and we were glad we did. The food was excellent and the service was friendly. We are both fans of this relatively new Lebanese restaurant.

This is not a large restaurant, but it is newly built and very clean. The walls have painted on them a mural of scenes from Lebanon. From our seat, we would see the vertical rotisseries in the back cooking what would become our dinner. The staff is very friendly; the owner was visiting every table shaking hands with the customers. I had never seen anything like it, and I enjoyed it.

We both ordered the schwarma, which proved to be a good choice. This was just the right portion of food -- enough to be full but not enough to be bloated afterwards. The chicken schwarma was served with rice, salad, hummus and tzatziki sauce. The presentation was beautiful, the duller colors of the chicken and rice contrasting with the bright tomatoes and hummus. The shavings of chicken were nicely spiced and just delicious. The rice was moist and flavorable, the salad fresh and covered in olive oil. I usually do not like tzatziki sauce, but I was dipping my pita bread in it for the entire meal.

This small restaurant has proven that in any economy, if you offer fresh food and good hospitality, you will get customers.

Pinhead Susan's

Pinhead Susan's was one busy restaurant on Saturday night, in contrast to the rest of Schenectady, which was a little slow. Pinhead's produces great food at a reasonable price.

The atmosphere is that of an Irish pub. The entrance has a couple of stories about how the restaurant got it's name. There is no waiting room inside, but I suppose most people would just sit at the bar before their table is ready. The interior of the restaurant is surrounded in wood, which gives it a very rustic feeling.

The Irish fries (sweet potato fries), are a must-order at this restautant. They were just the right size and consistency. Some places tend to cut them too thin, so you do not get enough sweet potato, or too thick, in which case they come out mushy. These were just perfect, not crisp but not mushy. I would have been happy with just these fries as my entree.

The turkey club was not better than a sandwich I could have gotten at Denny's. I was disappointed by the small size of the sandwich. Each quarter of the sandwich has perhaps a slice or two of turkey breast on it, with a half a handful of lettuce and a strip or two of bacon. The sandwich was tasty, but nothing special. Certainly the Cheesecake Factory sandwich would trump this one.

Prices are very reasonable at Pinhead's. My friend ordered a Guiness Burger, and she was surprised that there is a restaurant out there where you can get a burger and fries for $8.00. The waitress insisted that good food does not have to come with high prices.

In my next visit to Pinhead's I would definitely order something different. I would try a corned beef sandwich, or perhaps the Chicken a la Susan, which looked delicious.

Uncommon Grounds - Part II

Review coming soon.

chicken salad and asian chicken soup
bacon, egg and cheese on an onion bagel

Capital Q Smokehouse

Capital Q Smokehouse was rated one of the best barbecue restaurants in the Capital District. Though they did have good food, I was not wowed by this restaurant.

The restaurant is located in the student ghetto of Albany. If you are not in your 20's, you may feel slightly out of place in this restaurant. When I was in the restaurant, the crowd was exclusively college-age individuals. Dollar bills on the wall by the cash register had greek letters written on them of the various frats and sororities of the local colleges.

We ordered the pulled pork in this two-pound portion, assuming we would get a better deal ordering by the pound than each having a sandwich. We may have gotten a large jug of meat, but we didn't enjoy it too much. The meat was of high-quality and was not fatty, unlike Pig Pit. However, the North Carolina vinegary taste of the meat was not to my liking. I had left-overs the next day, and I almost did not finish them. This is slightly unusual behavior for me.

two pounds of pulled pork

With our 2 pounds of pork, we ordered a couple of sides. The winner among the sides was the sweet potato fries, which were excellent. They were freshly-made, and worth the wait.

sweet potato fries

There are different barbecue flavors at Capital Q, so next time we might try one of those. However, I am not running back to this establishment.

Garden Buffet at Saratoga Gaming and Raceway

On Saturday night, I decided to combine my love of Saratoga with my love of buffet eating. The Garden Buffet is the cheaper buffet in the Racino, however, at $16.00, it is no bargain. Even though I ate a bunch, I did not feel like I got my money's worth. However, one has to expect that everything will be marked up in Saratoga.

The buffet has food from many lands: American, Asian, Italian, and Japanese. I was impressed to see a sushi chef busily cutting rolls, and several cooks carving roast beef and turkey. The sushi rolls were very good, especially considering this was not a Japanese buffet. The prime rib was also good, juicy and flavorful but a bit on the rare side. They had large, juicy pork ribs and oven-roasted chicken legs and thighs.

The buffet did not have a lot of variety. There were perhaps 50 different items, far less than a typical Atlantic City buffet. The salad bar was bare-bones, with lettuce, tomato, onion and beets. There was no bread, egg salad, or tuna salad. There was not a single seafood item, except for breaded cod and shrimp, which were clearly frozen.

The service was not the greatest. Our waitress had to tend to the gamblers, as well as the buffet, which I found strange. We were eating at around 7pm, and there were many other people eating at the buffet. It took perhaps half an hour for my friend to get a refill on his drink.

The dessert was a disappointment. The baked goods were cut into tiny bites, dare I want to gorge myself as any normal American would at a buffet. They had lemon squares and strawberry shortcake, which were both good. The food was obviously bought wholesale and not cooked on-premises. There was no soft-serve ice cream, which I consider to be the topper to any good buffet.

If I was at the Racino, and was hungry, I would probably leave and stop by PJ's in the summer, or the Ripe Tomato in the off-season.

The Bayou Cafe

The Bayou Cafe in Glenville is one of my favorite restaurants. There is a great ambiance in there, combined with great food and an extensive menu.

The Bayou achieves the difficult balancing act of being a bar and also a family restaurant. It is one of the few restaurants located in Glenville, a suburb of Schenectady, and therefore serves a lot of families. It has a very comfortable feel inside. Chips and fresh salsa are put on every table before customers start eating their meal. The salsa is mild but full of tomato.

The menu has American, Cajun and Mexican options. I do not know of any other restaurant in the area which has Cajun offerings.

I ordered the Barbecue Brisket which was a special. I have been on a barbecue kick lately, so I figured I would give it a try. Of course, it was not as good as something from the Pig Pit, but it was tasty in its own right. It was covered in a sweet, syrupy barbecue sauce. The brisket was very tender, and the portion was acceptable, but not huge. The brisket came with seasoned potatoes and macaroni salad. The potatoes were a strange pairing with the brisket, but they were fresh and tasty. I would much rather had fries or even a baked potato. I had cole slaw rather than the macaroni salad, and it also was fresh.

For a hometown place in the suburbs, the Bayou has a lot to offer. Great atmosphere, food, menu are just three of the reasons why the Bayou is always packed.

Chico's BBQ

I went to Chico's BBQ, past the Route 20 and 146 intersection in Guilderland. I was a little disappointed, but perhaps boneless buffalo wings were not the thing to get at Chico's.

The ambiance suggests that Chico's is a serious barbecue place. There were motorcycles parked outside the smoker in front of the restaurant. Inside Chico's there is the same rustic, rugged feel. The crowd seemed to be a mix of working class men getting a beer and families looking for a good meal.

The chicken was no better than anything one would get from any restaurant. They were all white meat, but a little dry. Overall, this was a 8 out of 10 on the wing scale.
boneless buffalo chicken wings from chico's
My wings were $8.90, which is slightly more than the Wings of Albany meal I enjoyed so much. Considering I got a coupon for a large ribbon fries that expires at the end of March, I may try Chico's again. I would get pulled pork, or something else that gets made in the smoker.

Reopening of Nathan's in Colonie Center

Nathan's is reopening tomorrow, March 25, in Colonie Center. The space will be used by three chains: Arthur Treacher's Fish and Chips, Kenny Rogers Roasters and Nathan's. How that little storefront will churn out all of that food is something I am eager to see.

Wings at Albany

One of my favorite eateries in Albany is Wings over Albany, on Western Avenue right outside of Crossgates Mall.

Wings has a simple ambiance, very similar to Five Guys. The wall is adorned with articles praising the place. The tables and chairs are made of steel, and there is a paper towel holder roll on the table. The simple atmosphere and the paper towels indicates that the diner is in for some serious eating.

I ordered the paper airplane (7 wings), which is one of the cheaper offerings at Wings for $5.49. Though inexpensive, this is a very satisfying meal. These wings are more like a drumstick than a regular wing. They are extremely fresh, meaty and juicy. The chicken used is very high-quality. This is not your typical wing joint. Wings cares about serving you the freshest wings. They also have tons of sauces to choose from. chicken wings from Wings over Albany

If you are looking for a satisfying and tasty meal, Wings is the place to go. This is not the place to go on a first date, but it is solid, quality food.

Bountiful Bread

I had a salad at Bountiful Bread today, and I was reasonably satisfied with my meal. The food is a little costly, but if you want a salad made of fresh ingredients, Bountiful Bread has it.

Bountiful Bread has a casual relaxed atmosphere of a nicely appointed coffee shop. There is a large plasma screen in the restaurant, and there is free water. The food is self-service, and it is not always speedy. I have noticed certain cost-saving measures. The silverware is now plastic and there are no more fresh lemons in the free water.

I had the chopped cobb salad and it was delicious. The tomatoes were ripe, the grilled chicken was moist and juicy. I especially love the olives. These are not canned olives; these are the real deal. They are large and salty, and they add a lot of flavor to the salad. The fresh vegetables are bursting with flavor. The salads at Bountiful Bread are large, so please do not attempt to eat this unless you are on an empty stomach.

My only gripe is that Bountiful Bread does not have honey mustard dressing, which is my failsafe dressing. They could use a wider variety of dressings. I went with a balsamic vinagrette, which was OK.

Cajun Grill Cafe

To spice up my routine, I ate at the Cajun Grill Cafe in Colonie Center. It is above average mall chinese food.

The ambiance of the storefront is above average. Unfortunately, there is a man outside of the storefront handing out free samples. He is not quite as pushy as the women who stands outside of Oyishi Japan. The storefront is clean and modern-looking, and slightly nicer than China Max or Oyishi Japan.

The meal that I ordered is the two meat, one side for $4.50 deal. It is not a bad deal. I got the fried rice, honey chicken and bourbon chicken. The portion is reasonable for lunch, and perhaps a bit small for a dinner. The bit of fried rice that I had was moist and tasty.

The meat portion is all meat; there is no broccoli or other vegetables to take away from the protein. The chicken is served in small cubes which are nicely marinated in sauce. The chicken was not fatty, but it was mostly dark meat. Though the chicken is not fried, it is probably fairly high in calories. The honey chicken has a nice sweet flavor. It is not gourmet, but fairly good for mall chinese food.

I would recommend Cajun Grill Cafe to those seeking out chinese food in Colonie Center. For under $5.00, this is a good alternative to Arby's or Mr. Subb.

Avante Pizza

I went for a salad tonight at Avante Pizzeria on Sand Creek Road in Albany. I have tried the pizza at Avante, but never the salad. I had a large chicken salad. The salad was quite good, but there are better salads out there.

The ambiance at Avante is a little depressing. Though there are tables at Avante, the restaurants customers mostly pick up the food. The ambiance is more like a cafeteria than a restaurant.

What impressed me most about the salad was the large amount of grilled chicken in it. There was perhaps a pound of chicken in the salad. This salad came with more chicken than perhaps any restaurant in the area. Chopped into small bites, the chicken was moist and flavorful.

grilled chicken salad at avante pizzeria
The rest of the salad was not quite as good. The lettuce came from the ends of the head. All the lettuce was iceberg. Other than lettuce, the salad has finely chopped carrots, tomatoes and onions. The onions were a bit bitter. I appreciated the large piece of italian bread that came with the salad.

For $8.99, this salad was way overpriced. The small salad is onlt $5.00, and it comes in a 7" tin rather than a 9" tin. The salad would be a nice compliment to the excellent pizza. However, if you want to go out to eat and have a salad, both Chili's and Bountiful Bread have a better salad and better ambiance.


Tonight I dined at Beff's on Everett Road in Albany. Beff's is a well-known bar with a rustic atmosphere. Though Beff's has been around a very long time, I was a little disappointed by my meal. The food was adequate, and the portions were small.

Beff's does have a lot of items on its menu. It has burgers, pizza and sandwiches. There is something for everyone on this menu, whether you want a snack or a full meal. I opted for the latter. I assumed Beff's has good bar food, so I wanted to explore a more exotic menu item.

I tried the Tom Turkey, which I was assured was not processed, but real turkey. Beff's is true to its word. Though the turkey was real, it was a bit dry. I would have appreciated a bigger portion than the quarter-pound given to me. The lack of turkey was compensated by a large side of mashed potatoes covered in gravy and stuffing. Both were very good.

At my next trip to Beff's, I would probably probably try the pizza, the wings, or the sweet potato fries.

Oyishi Japan

I occasionally like to get the california roll at Oyishi Japan at Colonie Center.

The sushi is made fresh to order. There are a couple of pre-made rolls, but they do not taste old. They are quite large and fresh, with an ample amount of avocado and crab. The rice is sticky and moist. The rolls are not the dried out rolls you may get at the seafood section at Hannaford or Price Chopper.

For $3.49, these rolls are an excellent, healthy snack while mallwalking. Hannaford or Price Chopper's sushi rolls will typically run you around $5.00, however, they are smaller and not as fresh-tasting. Oyishi Sushi offers a solid sushi roll at a very reasonable price.

Oyishi Japan has a varied menu: bubble tea, sushi, tempura and teriyaki chicken. However, they are perhaps most well known for their teriyaki. I did not think I would find bubble tea this far from NYC, but it is true, Colonie Center has bubble tea. Someday I will have to try it.

One of the workers outside the food court stand will constantly push samples of the teriyaki chicken. I find this frustrating because I cannot come within 40 yards of the storefront without having a sample being pushed on me. It is good food, but if I want the food, I will ask for it. I think this unfortunate situation lowers my ranking of the eatery.

Smokey Bones BBQ

I went to Smokey Bones BBQ on Central Avenue in Albany on Friday, and I definitely enjoyed my experience. The food is a solid 9 out of 10, though it still fails to compare to the Pig Pit in Cohoes. However, if you want a solid barbecue meal in a restaurant, this is the place to go.

I ordered the two entrees (pulled pork and smoked brisket) and two sides (mashed potatoes and french fries). I was not a big fan of the pulled pork. It was a dry rub and there were a lot of spices in their that masked the flavor of the meat. However, it was a lot less fatty than the Pig Pit. The smoked brisket was excellent. It was covered in barbecue sauce which was sweet. The fries and potatoes were both homemade and both better than average. I only wishes they had given more of both. The portion was average rather than heaping.

The ambiance is also pretty good. The restaurant was able to easily accomodate our large party, though they do not accept reservations. There are tons of TVs everywhere, so it feels more like sitting in your living room than a restaurant. The waiter was very friendly and helped explain the different options on the menu.

For $13.95, I felt like the amount of food and the quality were reasonable. I enjoyed a nice sampling of some fresh barbecue food. If you are looking for a good meal out, you cannot go wrong with Smokey Bones.

Five Guys Hamburgers

I went to Five Guys Hamburgers in Clifton Park because I has smelled the fries from a distance and had to try them. I sure was glad I did. This was one of those meals where everything tasted great and I left full but not stuffed.

Five Guys has a very interesting ambiance. The decor is very simple inside. There are bags of peanuts left out so people can take a handful of peanuts as an appetizer. This is a good idea, because who doesn't like a free appetizer, however, I like to feel like I am eating in a restaurant rather than a barn. Five Guys does create a bit of a warehouse-like atmosphere, which is fun, but not conducive to a date.

The thing I love about the burgers at Five Guys is that many of the fixins are free. I got my cheeseburger topped with lettuce, tomato, barbecue sauce and grilled onions, all free of charge. The grilled onions and the cheese are a great combination. The burgers are good, but nothing out of this world.

The fries are the star of the show. I ordered a large to share with my girlfriend, and I would say a large does feed about 2 people. The fries are fried in peanut oil which really does bring out the taste of the potato. They are not shoestring fries like McDonalds, yet they are not as thick as steak fries. Not too greasy, crispy and slightly salted, the fries are perfect. If I was not health-conscious, and I liked off Exit 9 of the Northway, I would have these fries at least every week.

Lastly, I liked that Five Guys has unlimited fountain drinks, which includes four flavors of iced tea. Five Guys is rather costly. A cheeseburger, fries and a drink will run you around $10, which is more similar to Fuddruckers than McDonalds. However, you are paying for quality, free fixins, and unlimited fountain drinks including iced tea. For fast food with no price tag, Five Guys is as good as it gets.

Maurice's Sandwich Shop

I dined at Maurice's sandwich shop on Wolf Road for lunch on Friday. Maurice's is known for their roast beef sandwiches, and it is easy to see why.

What makes this place different is the roast beef. This is roast beef your mother would make if she is a good cook. It is not the processed kind Arby's or Mr. Subb serves. The meat is so soft it practically melts in your mouth. There is the gentle hint of the dry rub seasoning that they use to coat the top of the meat with. The meat is rare but not raw. My favorite part of the sandwich is the bun, which is dipped in gravy.

The roast beef sandwich is a meal to be savored. Maybe I am exaggerating a bit, but good food is hard to find. It costs $5.25, and only comes with a half-sour pickle, which makes it a little bit pricier than Arby's, Bella Napoli or Mr. Subb. With a drink and chips, you are at $9.00. However, I have not yet found a better place in Albany to go for a roast beef sandwich.

The major drawback of Maurice's is their hours. They are only open until 4pm Monday through Friday and they have limited hours on Saturdays. With all the customers Maurice's gets during lunch, why stay open for dinner? It is kind of like the Saratoga track; if it was available all the time, it wouldn't be as good.

Maurice's roast beef sandwich with pickle

Moe's Burritos

I went to Moe's on Wolf Road for one of their burritos. I love Moe's because it is a great value and I convince myself that the combination of rice, beans and vegetables is healthy. Well it is not quite healthy but I always leave full and that is what I love about this place.

Moe's is basically the Mexican food equivalent of Subway. You choose a burrito, taco or salad, you choose your veggies and your sandwich maker assembles your meal. It is fun to watch, and it assures me that what I am getting is fresh and made-to-order. There are no surprises when you open the wrapper.

The atmosphere in Moe's is always fun. It caters to the 18-35 crowd. The sandwiches are named after TV moments from Seinfeld and Friends. For example, there is the Art Vandalay, which is named after a character mentioned on Seinfeld. The staff will yell out, "Welcome to Moe's" when a new customer comes in. The soda, salsa and tortilla chips are unlimited. Moe's also offers fresh-brewed sweetened or unsweetened iced tea. Moe's does not charge customers extra for these niceties.

However, the thing that bug me about Moe's is that the food never quite tastes warm; it is always lukewarm. The burrito shell is put into a steamer, so it always clings to the rice and beans. The food would taste so much better if someone put the assembled burrito on the grill for a couple of seconds.

Bella Napoli

I went to Bella Napoli tonight to see if their subs are as good as their pastries. I have to report that they are.

I had the hot roast beef sandwich on a sesame roll. The roll was piled high with fresh, warm meat. The meat was a little dry and could have used some au jus, but I probably should have ordered the French dip if I wanted gravy. The sesame roll was fresh and toasted and melted in my mouth.

The sandwich was only $3.99, which puts it in league with Arby's and Mr. Subb. However, I would much prefer this sandwich to the Neba. The Neba roast beef tastes slightly artificial to me, plus the sandwich is not piled as high as the Bella Napoli sandwich. Arby's tastes more artificial than Mr. Subb, however, you would probably get more meat on an Arby's sandwich than at Bella Napoli.

If you are looking for a sit-down meal that is afforable and tasty, Bella Napoli is a good place to go. The service is not fast, but sitting in the restaurant is a pleasant experience. The bakery does have it's regulars, which is a testament to how good the place is.

They also have excellent pastries. I attached a picture of one of them.


I went to Grandma's on Central Avenue because my friends wanted to go. The store is festooned in St. Patrick's Day decorations, which was kind of fun, but also kind of tacky. We debated where the restaurant gets all these decorations, and what they do with them when the holidays are over.

First, I have to give props to the awesome waiter we had. He was cracking us up the whole time. He made the experience very memorable. Otherwise, I am not a fan of the Grandma's experience. The menu and the atmosphere caters to the senior population. Though I have never been to the Cracker Barrel, I am sure it provides a better experience for a homemade meal.

Grandma's is clearly one of those places where you have to know what to get, because some of the dishes are just not very good. For example, the half roasted chicken looked like a very small portion, whereas the meatloaf is a huge portion.

I had the turkey sandwich, and it was a little disappointing. They would not substitute my potato chips for fries. The turkey was a little dry, and I could have used some more of it. But it was real turkey, not processed turkey, so I give them credit for that. The sandwich was $6.95, which is reasonable for what you get.

Grandma's is known for their desserts. I sampled the peach praline pie, which was quite tasty. It was sweet, and gooey and had the right touch of pecan goodness. The serving was not large enough to warrant charging $4.00. One of my friends had the chocolate cream pie, and it was 80 percent whipped cream, which was ridiculous. He left most of it over.

Nothing but Noodles

I went to Nothing But Noodles in Clifton Park. I had the Pad Thai and my girlfriend had a pasta dish. Usually one would think a place that has such a varied menu would not be able to make everything good.

The Pad Thai had the same excellent flavor that one would find in a Thai restaurant. I appreciated the chopped peanuts on top and the lime. However, I felt that they could have put a meat in the dish to make it more filling. There were pieces of egg, which was obviously not real egg. I felt the portion was a little small for the price though.

The Pad Thai and a beverage at Nothing But Noodles is around $10, which is not really a bargain.

Friday's Pecan-Crusted Chicken Salad

I went to Friday's in Clifton Park last night, and I was looking for something different than my usual Cobb salad. I settled on the Pecan-Crusted Chicken Salad, which was listed in the Friday's favorites section. This was one of the best salads I ever had.

The combination of the pecans and dried cranberries make this salad taste really good. The pecan-crusted chicken was also good, though I wish it was served warm rather than cold. The chicken was all white meat, and it was not greasy or over-breaded. The salad is made with iceberg lettuce, which is not very healthy, but it is tasty. I went with the honey mustard dressing rather than the vinagrette, which I thought complimented the salad very nicely.

This is an excellent dish. The first time it came to the table, however, there was hardly any lettuce in the salad. The house side salad had more lettuce in it. I asked the waitress to take the salad back, and she quickly fixed the problem.

For those looking for a salad at Friday's, the pecan-crusted chicken salad is a salad to love.

The Standard

The Standard is a new restaurant and cocktail bar located across from Ruby Tuesday's in Crossgates Mall. It is absolutely beautiful on the inside. The decor gives a modern-day spin on the 1920's.

I ordered the Polynesian salad, because it is healthy and has a cool name. The salad was absolutely enormous. It is built like a sandwich, with several layers of won ton in the middle. It took me a good half an hour to finish the whole thing. I would say the portion is equivalent to or larger than the salads at the Cheesecake Factory.

Though I love the Asian chicken salad at the Cheesecake Factory, I did not like this salad. The only real flaw I could find in it was that the grilled chicken strips were overcooked. Otherwise, all of the ingredients were of high-quality. I appreciated that the restaurant used all romaine lettuce, which is healthier than iceberg. The salad could have used more papaya chunks as a natural sweetener. Also, there were no tomatoes in the salad.

Perhaps I should have ordered something else. The Parmesan-encrusted chicken that my girlfriend ordered looked delicious. Even though I am no fan of Parmesan cheese, the dish looked delicious dish. The chicken breasts were tender, and the angel hair pasta was fresh.

The prices at the Standard are reasonable. My salad was $12.95, which is excellent considering the large portion I got. I will definitely give the Standard another try.


I had dinner at Laney's on Albany-Shaker Road and I must say I like that place a lot. Besides the fact that they have great food, they have huge portions. Huge portions always do it for me.

Laney's has a little bit of everything -- American food, Italian food and sandwiches. The atmosphere is casual but cozy. The restaurant feels like it has some history to it. The parking lot is always crowded, so come early.

I had a dinner entree, which came with pasta and the salad bar. The salad bar does not have as much variety as Ruby Tuesday's, but the ingredients are of higher quality. I do like how they have romaine lettuce, homemade bread and fresh butter. Most salad bars offer only iceberg lettuce and store bought bread.

My entree was breaded cod. I was impressed that the fillet was over a pound. I find that few restaurants give a large portion of something expensive like fish. The pasta was also excellent. The marinara sauce was fresh, and I ended up putting the excess sauce on the fish. Pasta is usually not one of my favorites, but I gobbled it down pretty quickly.

Overall, I really like this place. My dinner was $18.95, which is more than I usually like to spend, however, I felt it was worth it. I got a nice heart-healthy piece of fish. Plus, I dined in a place that was not a chain. I will definitely visit Laney's again.

Ruby Tuesday's

I had dinner at Ruby Tuesday's in Crossgates on Friday, because I could not get into the Standard. I have to say that overall, it was a good experience.

I love Ruby's salad bar, because it has so much variety. I am a big fan of the Waldorf Salad, which is basically apples, walnuts, mayonnaise and sour cream. Some of the other extras this salad bar has are egg salad and sunflower seeds. They also have a variety of dressings with names on the spoons. I appreciate that I know what I am getting.

For my entree, I ordered a blackened fish sandwich with chile sauce, which was fairly good. The fish was moist and the sandwich essentially fell apart in my hands. The fish tasted fresh and was not too greasy. It was a little spicy but I assumed chile sauce would be spicy.

My only dislike about Ruby's is that everything comes on these small rectangular plates. I suppose the restaurant is trying to be unique, however, it is just a way to make the customer think they are getting more food than they think. I got a small portion of fries.

Though Ruby's has bottomless fries, I really did not feel like looking like a glutton and asking for a second portion. I would have preferred one large portion of fries at the beginning. Red Robin also has this bottomless fries gimmick, and to them I would say, "Give me a large portion of fries at the beginning, and you do not need the bottomless option."

Carl R's

I ate at Carl R's in Glens Falls, NY tonight on the way back from West Mountain. I give it very high marks.

To start, chips and salsa are brought to the table, free of charge. The salsa is full of large bites of tomato. It is definitely fresh made, unlike Chili's watery salsa.

I ordered a buffalo chicken salad which I felt was fairly good. My only regret was that the portion of buffalo chicken on the salad was rather small. The presentation of the salad was strong, with four celery sticks lining each corner of the plate. A large amount of grated cheese was put on the salad. The vegetables were fresh and did not taste like they came out of a bag. The salad was reasonably prices at around 9 dollars.

I shared a brownie sundae with a friend, which was also very tasty. The brownie was warm and covered in rich hot chocolate. The vanilla ice cream was very rich and creamy.

NY Grill

I have eaten at the NY Grill in Colonie Center twice, and I give it very high reviews. The food is not cheap, but it is fresh and tasty. The menu has a great deal of variety, with both American and Greek entrees. There are a lot of fried foods, and also some good salads.

I had a fried chicken sandwich, which was $4.00. It was made fresh to order, so it came out piping hot. The chicken patty was all white meat, and very tasty. The inside was juicy and the outside was crispy. The sandwich was topped with lettuce, tomato and mayonnaise. The kaiser roll was large and fluffy. The value meal costs $2.00 more and comes with fountain drink and fresh, crispy shoestring fries. This meal was far superior to anything I have ever eaten at McDonalds or Wendy's.

One disappointment I have with the NY Grill is that breakfast is only served until 12am on the weekdays. Hopefully someday I will get an egg sandwich or a Western omelet from the NY Grill and report on it.

The salad from the NY Grill is about $6.00. A picture is attached

Sapienza Pizza

Tonight I ate at Sapienza, a pizza place right next to the Times Union Center in downtown Albany. The place was crowded, so I knew I was in for a treat.

The pizza is one of the best I have tasted in this area, and similar to the pizza I would find in downstate NY, which has excellent pizza. The crust is thin and there is a lot of cheese on the pizza. Overall, the taste is a nice blend of mozzarella cheese and olive oil. The slices are huge.

The price is high for pizza, but not bad for downtown Albany. Two slices of pizza and a medium fountain drink is $6.00. At Mild Wally's in Pine Hills, Albany you can get two slices and a soda for $3.00. However, downtown Albany is pricey because the politics makes it a destination for people around the state.

Whenever I attend an event at the Times Union Center, I head to Sapienza if I want pizza rather than Jonathan's. They give larger slices and the price is about the same.

Red Robin

Tonight I had a Crispy Chicken Salad at Red Robin. Though the portion size was good, the taste of the salad was not as good as Chili's, or either Wendy's for that matter. The salad is perhaps not the best item to order at Red Robin.

Taste: the crispy chicken in the salad was a little dry, and the pieces were very small. I could have had fresher chicken on my salad had I got the salad at Wendy's. The other ingredients in the salad were of comparable quality to Wendy's and not as good as restaurants like Friday's or Chili's. The lettuce also tasted like it came from a bag.

Portion: The portion size was good, though not as large as Chili's.

Cost: $9.99 is comparable with other restaurants of this kind.

Deli and Brew

I had a large roast beef sandwich today at the Deli and Brew on Route 4 in Troy, right outside Hudson Valley Community College. This was one of the tastiest roast beef sandwiches I have ever had. The roast beef and cheese were freshly sliced and piled high onto the sandwich. This is more meat than even a double meat sandwich at Subway. Possibly a pound of roast beef and American cheese was placed onto the sandwich. The onions were not bitter and the pickles were excellent (not pickle chips, but long Claussen stackers). It was definitely not a Weight Watchers entree, but it was delicious. For $8.49, this sandwich provided me with two meals. This place is almost worth the 20 minute drive out to Troy.

Mr. Subb - The Neba

Mr. Subb has brought back the Neba, a hot roast beef sandwich. The Neba is good, but not great. It is better than Arby's, but not quite as good as Maurice's.

The Neba comes with a large portion of moist, flavorful roast beef. When you order the Neba, the server will ask you if you want "tiger sauce" which tastes like mayonnaise with horseradish. It is tasty, but takes away from the flavor of the roast beef a little bit. The Neba would be better if it came with a side of au jus. The sandwich comes on a hard roll.

For $3.99, the Neba is comprable to Arby's and Maurice's. Arby's and Mr. Subb both taste artificial to me. Maurices is fresly sliced, and the bun is dipped in au jus sauce.


I had a hamburger combo at Fuddrucker's today. The restaurant was quite empty tonight. I am not sure if it is because of the slippery roads, but the prices do not help. A 1/3 pound hamburger combo is about $8.50.

The burger has excellent flavor. It seemed quite small for a 1/3 pound; it did not nearly cover the bun. The burger was moist and juicy. The fries were average. The seasoning was good, but they were definitely not fresh cut. For the cost, I was hoping for a large portion of fresh fries.

One of the benefits of Fuddruckers is the fresh and bountiful fixins bar. The pico de gallo and the banana peppers are definitely unusual for a burger joint. The lettuce and tomato looks extremely fresh.

The great thing about the combo meal is that it comes with a cookie. I love ending my meal with a cookie. The cookies are small, but they are fresh and warm.


I went to Emperors tonight with my girlfriend. I must say Emperors is one of the best Chinese restaurants in the area. It is as good as Ichiban. It is of similar or better quality than downstate Chinese restaurants.

For appetizers, we ordered won ton soup and a spring roll. The won ton soup was a large portion with large, meaty won tons. The spring roll was also large and crispy. It tasted as if it had just been pulled out of the fryer.

For dinner, we had orange chicken and roast pork chow fun. The orange chicken was a pleasant surprise. Chicken dishes in Chinese restaurants have one of two flaws: either the chicken is dark meat and fatty, or the chicken is heavily breaded. Emperor's orange chicken is large chunks of white meat that are not over fryed. There is the taste of breading, but one is not overwhelmed by it. The chow fun is perfect -- greasy noodles with rich, fatty pork. The pork was not shredded; real chunks of pork made it into the dish.

The meal was finished with a fortune cookie that was fresh and not stale. Emperors clearly has their act together. They score an A+ for me. Dinner at Emperor's is a little more expensive than Chili's, but sometimes Chinese food is just what the doctor ordered.