Have I ever mentioned on this blog that I loathe chain restaurants? I highly dislike eating at chains (I won’t name names, but I really don’t like most of them), so whenever I go out to eat you can find me at a local establishment. I’m not very picky when it comes to food, but I do like to have a good selection of somewhat healthy/delicious meals. Although I admit, sometimes going out to dinner, you just have to induldge once in a while.
Here are my top five faves, in no particular order:
Albany Pump Station – Downtown Albany
I always think of the Pump Station as a place to celebrate. I came here in 2007 with my graduating class the night before my college graduation. I ate here after running two races in one week (in 90 degree weather) to celebrate. I ate here the day after my first half marathon to celebrate my accomplishment. The food here has never disappointed me. The fact that they brew their own beer is also a major plus. AND their lobster mac and cheese not only won the 2010 First Mac & Cheese bowl, it is the best mac and cheese I’ve ever tasted. Seriously.
El Mariachi – Downtown Albany: Hamilton Street and Washington Avenue
I crave El Mariachi’s food on a regular basis. Their food might be the most authentic Mexican food I’ve ever had, but then again I haven’t had “real” Mexican food, so I can’t really compare. All I know is that it is good. Their margaritas are delicious and come in all different flavors. I’m partial to the Pomegranate one myself. They also have a large selection of vegetarian items, and their mole sauce is to die for. Oh yeah, and their meals are served with chips and salsa, which are highly addicting. And their outside patio at their Hamilton location is like an oasis in the city, perfect for those warm summer nights when you want to enjoy a margarita out on the patio!
Smiths’ Tavern– Voorheesville, Albany County
I’ve been going to Smith’s Tavern since I was a baby–literally. My parents frequented this place with my sister and I went we were little kids, when our mom had to cut our pizza into small chunks so we could eat it, and when we wouldn’t eat anything but cheese (and half without sauce, for my sister). Now, they have amazingly delicious gourmet pizzas with neat names, and you can order whatever toppings you want. The cheese is fresh and delicious, and the crust is crispy on the bottom and doughy on the inside: perfection.
New World Bistro – Delaware Avenue, Albany
This place also reminds me of celebration, except with more of a modern and trendy flair. I love the interesting menu items that feature local ingredients, and the fact that it is a vegetarian/vegan and food allergy friendly restaurant. I’ve never had a disappointing meal here. Although make sure to make reservations, since it tends to get crowded! Albany needs more places like this. Their desserts are also bigger than my head, making them more than enough for two people to share, particularly on a hot date. 😉 Take this magic cookie ice cream sandwich, for example. Yeah, enough said.
Cafe 217 – Delaware Avenue, Albany
Cafe 217 is one of the only places I know have that have great food and great hours. They are open all night during the weekends, which is perfect when you are out and about in Albany! Its proximity to Lark Street is nice, and its never crowded! Their pancakes are a favorite of mine, especially with chocolate chips and raspberries. One time I got an amazing dessert special, the Samoa ice cream sandwich, Girl Scout cookies with ice cream sandwiched between them. It was like Heaven on Earth. This place is comforting, and I love it!
The Runners Up:
The Midtown Tap & Tea Room – New Scotland Avenue, Albany
Justin’s – Lark Street, Albany
Aashiana, Indian Buffet – Central Avenue, Albany
Crisan Bakery – Lark Street, Albany
Yellow Rock Cafe at Indian Ladder Farms – Altamont, Albany County