Love that Salad Creations!

At least once a week I end up in Clifton Park around Exit 9.  It is a busy area with tons of food options, most of which are chain restaurants.  From my options, I always seem to choose Salad Creations.  It is convenient, reasonably priced, and just plain tasty.  Of course, I also love salad.

Salad Creations is located in the Clifton Park Plaza strip mall, right next to Marshall's.  The place has a very inviting feel.  It is spacious and has a lot of large windows in front.  Inside, the walls are painted in pastel colors and pictures of (what else?) salad are hanging from the walls. 

When you enter Salad Creations, you are immediately greeted by your salad creator who is smartly dressed in a chef's cap.  He takes your order and asks you whether you would like a junior size or a full size salad.  I always go for the full size -- it is just a little more money and a lot more food.  He makes your salad right in front of you, and adds salad dressing to taste.  If you don't like any of the salads on the menu, you can always make your own. 

The salads over at Salad Creations are pretty good.  This is a full size chinese chopstick salad.  It is a pretty big meal for around $8.00.  The lettuce is always fresh and crispy, and I love the wontons and the Asian peanut dressing.  It is making me hungry just looking at it!  My only complaint is that there could be larger strips of chicken in the salad. 

In my opinion, Salad Creations is a hit!  Everyone is looking to eat healthier these days.  True, not all salads are healthy, and certaintly the one I featured probably has more calories than a Lean Cuisine.  However, I feel much more comfortable eating this than I would a Subway sandwich or a Big Mac.  The quality is better and it has lots of veggies!  They need to open one of these along Western Avenue in Albany.  I am sure it would do quite well. 

Crispy Basil: A new pizza place in a very crowded market

My girlfriend and I tried the new Crispy Basil restaurant, inhabiting the old Friendly's on Western Avenue.  It is the second Crispy Basil in the area.  As I drive along that stretch of Western Avenue every day, I have peeked at the Crispy Basil parking lot and have noticed that they do not attract much business.  I was somewhat concerned about whether or not our food would be good, but I wanted to try something new.

Crispy Basil has tons of coupons in this month's Coupon Clipper magazine.  One of the coupons is two salads for $11.99.  My girlfriend and I were in the mood for something relatively healthy after working out at the gym, so we figured we would take advantage of this great deal.

The restaurant is fairly well appointed on the inside, especially for a pizza place.  It is a casual fare restaurant than a fine dining experience.  There is no waiter/waitress service.  There is seating for around 20 people.

Upon entering the restaurant, the first thing we encountered is the display case of pizza.  The pizza in the display case did not look too appetizing.  It did not look inedible, but it looked like it had been sitting there all day.  That confirmed my idea that business is slow at this establishment.

We ordered our salads from the owner and picked up two drinks from the refrigerator.  We handed him our coupon but he allowed us to keep it, which we both thought was very nice of him.

Both of us got very nice sized salads, as you can tell from the picture below.  Mine was a chicken salad with the chicken tossed in mild buffalo sauce.  The lettuce was high quality romaine, which I appreciated.  The chicken was fresh off the grill and in plentiful supply.  I liked my salad a lot.

Overall, we had a very positive experience at Crispy Basil.  Now that we still have our coupon, we will go back again for salads.  I will not be buying my Super Bowl pizza from them though.  I will get it from Price Chopper, which surprisingly enough has excellent pizza for a supermarket.

Montreal Poutine is worth the calories!

I first came across Montreal Poutine at the Saratoga Race Track this summer.  I wandered by several times, allured by the smell of the fresh-cut french fries.  I did not give way to temptation this summer though.  I figured my trips to the track were expensive enough without me having to buy french fries.

Tonight, I dropped my girlfriend off at Crossgates and I noticed a Montreal Poutine in the food court area.

Business appeared to be booming.  I had to try it.  I did not have the poutine, however.  I had a smoked meat sandwich, which cost around $6.00.  That is a pretty good deal for the mall.

I have not had smoked meat in awhile, so I do not have anything to compare it to.  It was a very good sandwich though.  Very fatty, but very good.  The meat was so soft, tender and flavorful.  It tasted exactly like corned beef, but a little moister.

It is not something I can eat every day, but once in a while, I would like to stop over at Montreal Poutine for something different.  Maybe next time, I will even try the french fries.  They have sweet potato fries too, which is a healthier alternative.  I give Montreal Poutine a thumbs up!

Found a new favorite seafood place

My girlfriend and I were looking for a good non-chain seafood restaurant in the Capital Region.  They can be a little hard to find.  Reel Seafood is good, but they are kind of expensive.  We decided to check out Salty's Pub and Bistro in Clifton Park.  A friend was having a meetup there, and she knows her food, so we figured we would take a chance.

Salty's is located off of Exit 8A on 215 Guideboard Road in Clifton Park.  It is a nondescript shop in a nondescript strip mall.  Inside, Salty's has a very friendly atmosphere.  About half the space is allocated to the bar, and half is allocated to the bistro.  Even on a Monday night, it was a little noisy, which we did not mind too much.  However, those who enjoy a quiet dining experience, beware!  Wood trim abounds in the interior, giving the restaurant a warm, cozy feel.  Pop music plays in the background.

Because Salty's looks kind of plain from the outside, I assumed the menu would be quite limited.  On the contrary!  Salty's has a variety of dishes, and an extensive seafood menu.  My girlfriend and I were very excited.  I decided to order Salty's Famous Fisherman's Platter.  I had high hopes, and Salty's exceeded my expectations! Out came a generous portion of fried seafood wrapped in a bread shell of some kind, with coleslaw and a baked potato.  I tossed aside the shell (too many calories), and headed straight for the fish. First, I bit into the scallops.  My taste buds were so happy when I bit into the juicy, fresh seafood.  I instantly said to my girlfriend, "We have to go back to this place!"

For a nondescript place, Salty's sure took me by surprise.  This just confirms in my mind that it is not always the fancy places that have the best food.  I would go to Salty's over Reel Seafood or Red Lobster any day.

Jewish soul food at Ben and Bill's

There are very few places in the Capital Region where one can go for a good pastrami sandwich.  One of those places is Ben and Bill's Deli in Price Chopper.  I had never been to Ben and Bill's before.  Having spent the day in Saratoga Springs, I figured I would stop over in the Saratoga Springs Price Chopper on Route 50, which is one of only two Price Chopper's which has the Ben and Bill's Deli.  It was well worth the trip.

Ben and Bill's makes authentic New York style deli sandwiches.  I cannot think of too many places in the area that makes Jewish deli sandwiches.  Gershon's is one, and they are wonderful.  However, I was in Saratoga Springs today, so I figured I would soothe my longing for Jewish deli at Ben and Bill's. 

I stepped up to the counter, and ordered a half pastrami, half corned beef sandwich.  In my earlier years, I would order a whole pastrami sandwich, but now that I am older, I wanted to eat a little healthier.  I do not know how much healthier corned beef is than pastrami, but at least I was making an effort.  To my delight, the employee pulled one brand new fresh pastrami and one corned beef out of the oven, and put both meats in the deli slicer.  I drooled as I saw the greasy meats being placed onto my sandwich.  I was excited to eat this tasty meal.  It came in a little box with a pickle on the side and a bag of fresh cooked potato chips. 

I was not disappointed.  The meats were moist and delicious, but perhaps a bit too fatty.  The grease from the meats blended in with the rye bread and mustard to make a delicious concoction.  The sandwich was much more than I should have eaten;  however, I ended up finishing it.  I wanted to 'try' the potato chips, so I opened them up and they were so delicious, I ended up finishing the bag. 

The one thing that Ben and Bill's does not have going for it is its ambiance, or lack thereof.  Ben and Bill's is smack dab in the middle of Price Chopper, albeit a very nice Price Chopper.  There are pictures of Jewish celebrities and pictures of NYC in the dining area which create the impression that you are in a Jewish deli, but really it still feels like you are in a Price Chopper rather than an authentic Jewish deli.

The sandwich, pickle, potato chips and a seltzer cost about $10, which is not bad.  I forgot to show the cashier my Price Chopper card, otherwise, I would have gotten a little bit closer to that precious $.10 off on gas.  I truly enjoyed my meal at Price Chopper.  I would definitely go back in a couple of months (or weeks) and get another pastrami or corned beef sandwich.  Next time, if I indulge and eat the whole sandwich, I will not eat the chips. 

Caffe Vero is a quintessential coffee shop

Today, I went to Caffe Vero on 260 Lark Street in Albany with some friends.  It is located in between the flower shop and Bombers Burrito Bar.  I am very impressed by this coffee shop.  The only drawback is that there is not more room inside for people to sit down. 

My girlfriend and I got to Caffe Vero on Sunday at 10:30AM.  Caffe Vero has a tiny storefront, so we almost passed by it.  Inside, the atmosphere of Caffe Vero is very inviting.  Obviously, a lot of work has been put into the interior of the store.  The store boasts all-wood floors.  On the left-hand wall is pictures of coffee, and on the right hand wall is art work for sale.  There is a series of smalll round tables spread around the restaurant. 

As you enter the restaurant, the counter lies in front of you.  The menu at Caffe Vero is very simple.  Caffe Vero is not like Starbucks, where you can choose from maybe 40 different coffees and teas.  There are less than 20 drinks on the menu at Caffe Vero, and perhaps 10 choices of pastry.  There are no breakfast sandwiches, or deli sandwiches. 

Though Caffe Vero does not have a large menu, everything that they do have appears to be very good.  I had the apple struessel muffin and a iced Jasmine tea.  The apple streussel muffin was home made and contains many chunks of apple.  It was moist and delicious.  My only regret was the fact that it was not a little bit bigger.  The iced jasmine tea was also excellent.  It tasted sweet and crisp.  It was not overloaded with ice like the Dunkin Donuts iced drinks.  A 16 ounce cup of iced tea is $2.00, which makes it a little cheaper than Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts.

Unfortunately, I did not have the coffee because coffee is too strong for my stomach.  However, the coffee did look delicious.  Caffe Vero does coffee the way I would imagine Starbucks did coffee in the early days.  The baristas are in control of the french press, so they brew the coffee according to their expertise. 

Caffe Vero is a wonderful coffee establishment with a warm atmosphere and great drinks and pastries.  My only wish is that the restaurant be a little larger and have larger tables so that larger parties of people could get together.  I imagine Caffe Vero will have a very large fan base in Albany. 

The Side Door Cafe is not just a bar...

My girlfriend and I both live in Guilderland, so we both spend a lot of time on Western Avenue.  That being said, I pass by the Side Door Cafe on 1656 Western Avenue at least twice every day.  I had often gone in for drinks on the weekend to listen to Mark the Shark host karaoke. 

The Side Door Cafe is a bar first and a cafe second.  The bar can seat around twenty people and on the wall there are at least five big screen tv's.  It has a very comfortable atmosphere.  A nice mix of middle-class people of all ages sit at the bar.  Past the bar, there is a separate dining area with about ten tables.  The dining area does not have a dedicated waitress -- one of the bartenders doubles as the waitress in the dining area. 

My girlfriend and I decided to head over to the Side Door Cafe to try the food.  The food is definitely above average, though not spectacular. 

The first time we went, I wanted to eat something relatively healthy, so I had the buffalo chicken salad.  I got a fairly large portion consisting of two large handfuls of romaine lettuce and a sliced fried chicken cutlet dipped in buffalo sauce.  It was quite tasty.  My girlfriend had the grilled chicken sandwich with pasta salad and she also enjoyed her dish. 

The second time we went to the Side Door, my girlfriend had a rough day, so she wanted to get a beer and something to eat.  We ended up sharing the chicken quesadilla.  The chicken quesadilla was wonderful!  First of all, it was huge, probably ten inches in diameter.  It was wonderful, gooey deliciousness.  I am not much of a cheese eater, but I definitely enjoyed this quesadilla.  The quesadilla was stuffed with chicken and an assortment of cheeses.  It came with a small cup of salsa and sour cream, standard fare.  On a scale of 1 to 10, I rate this chicken quesadilla a '9.'

I would definitely go back to the Side Door Cafe.  It is conveniently located and has a comfortable atmosphere.  Next time, I would like to try the pizza.