I’ve reviewed books here before (not recently, however, I have added a review board on my Pinterest, and every so often I toss up 5 or 6 more books if you are checking out things to read). I figure, for a new twist, I will mention a couple restaurants. Why not share my experiences? Course, I have no idea what makes a food critic. The closest I have to a Michelin Star is…uh…nothing? And Spirit makes my food, and I tell ya, I think Ann Burrell would be all over his ass about his lame knife cuts, but hey, he is only a cat. Most of these are (worthwhile) day trips.
The Tavern At Diamond Mill, Saugerties. My companion knew of this place, had seen it before in passing. So on a return trip from the Ren Faire in Tuxedo, we stopped in to see what the menu was like. Mind you: Ren Faire. We were dressed down, we were a bit dusty and sweaty. The patrons in this country club atmosphere gave us less than welcoming looks….but the staff? The staff instantly greeted us and invited us in, and seated us (we were like, sure, what the hell!), and we were treated like royalty. It is a bit pricey for me, and of course, I’d already spent like a fiend at the Faire. Besides, it was still a hot, humid day and after Faire food, we weren’t looking for something super heavy, so we got a variety of appetizers, and they were incredible. An artisan bread and cheese plate, and lobster mac’n’cheese, I believe one of my companions also got soup, and I got mussels. Everything was fresh, and bountiful, and full of flavor. The Prince Edward mussels came in a massive bowl that appeared endless: every time I thought I was on the last of them, I found I’d hit not the bottom of the dish, but another layer of mussels (and then of course: the amazing broth, combined with dunking the artisan breads…WOW!) Definitely give this place a try. And to torment you, and myself, here is a link to their brunch menu, which is absolutely on my bucket list to get back and try:
Anyway, 5 stars, all the way, including outstanding service and an exquisite view of the falls.
Kuma Ani, Albany. Okay, so this one isn’t a day trip. It’s right here at home. But if you love your sushi, particularly the all you can eat style, this is the place for you. Unlike other places I won’t name, this restaurant is brightly lit, the staff is friendly and helpful, and you get what you order. There’s a kitchen menu and a sushi/sashimi menu, and both are plentiful and delicious. There is also a regular menu, but the only thing I’ve ever tried was a taste of a companion’s fish cheeks (a bizarre entree, that I saw once on Chopped, and oddly enough, tender and delicious). The rolls are thick, fresh, bursting with flavor (volcano is a favorite of mine). Sometimes there are specials going, like fresh oysters at $2 each (they are YUM). It’s often packed, and the place itself is tiny, so if you plan on bringing a large party, best to call ahead. Also because of its size, it is very limited on beverage choices…tea, canned soda, etc, and no liquor license last I knew, but I have heard that they’ve since gotten it. 4.5 out of 5 stars, and that only because of the drink choices.
The BrickHouse Tavern & Tap, Latham. Another local place, but this is a chain. It sits where Joe’s Crab Shack was, and ironically, is owned by the same company. I would call it a typical hang-out place, with a few odd menu choices, but nothing special. I’ve only been twice, and the first time was unimpressed. I got fish’n’chips, which were extremely fishy and heavy on the black pepper. Made me think that the fish was starting to go over, and someone was trying to cover that with pepper. Companion got a cheeseburger, which was not the usual sort but kind of a burger-sub crossbreed….long and rectangular. It didn’t look very good, but he enjoyed it, and our tastes on beef are very different. The second time I liked it a little better. The calamari appetizer was pretty good (the sauce had a nice bite), and this time I tried the shrimp and chips, which was much better. Overall, good enough for a bite to eat (not a huge menu, but again, this seems more of a hangout than a dining-out venue), but nothing spectacular. 3.5 out of 5 stars.
Virgil’s BBQ, mulitiple locations. Granted, none of these locations are day trips. I’ve been to the one in New York City, the first time many years ago when it was little more than a hole in the wall. Now there’s one in the Linq in Vegas and one in the Bahamas. It’s also quite large, they deliver, they cater…my gosh they’ve grown! But, I put it here because if you’re in the City for a show or convention, this is the place to go. They’ve grown, but they’re still fabulous, and of course, the menu has grown as well. A million years ago my companion and I were down for the weekend to see Spamalot, and I’d seen recommendations on a gaming board, so we tried it. He got a chicken po’boy that could have fed a family of four, and I had lamb medallions that had me writhing in joy on the floor. More recently, we were down a couple years ago for NYCC, and I don’t even remember what everyone got, as we were drinking and sampling each others’ entrees (I know I got a pick 2 or 3, with ribs and chicken). Everything was still as awesome as I’d remembered. Just know that they are bigger now, but also a lot busier; it was quite packed on a Thursday night around 9:30ish, but it’s right in the path of many theaters. 4.5 of 5 stars.
Side note, a couple other places I wanted to review have sadly closed. Cafe Nola right here in Schenectady is permanently gone…unpaid taxes. The Hop, in Beacon, which is crazy good, is closed until further notice, so I have no idea what that’s about; hoping it’s temporary (they’d moved recently and were doing a booming business, so /shrug). The Grog Shoppe in Schenectady closed after a very long run (heard a lot of complaints that it had gone downhill in recent years, but I know it was one of the few places I could get a burger done the way I like it, and I’d never gotten bad food there).