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Building the Ballot – Wrap Up

March 26, 2012

Let’s have a party Albany. We are just about done building the FUSSYlittleBALLOT 3.0 and today we are going to power through the rest.

Can I get a woo hoo?

As usual, let’s just take a moment to remember the goal of today’s post. Every year the Times Union polls the Capital Region about what’s best in the area. Only a small fraction of residents respond, but their responses help to define our region and continually cast it in a negative light. Smaller but better restaurants get left in the cold as people’s loyalties are split, and mediocrity reigns supreme.

However, if we could all agree to vote on a slate of businesses that may not be our own personal choice for The Best, but that we all recognize are certainly among the best, then a few great places might be able to break through.

Today, we knock off the very last few and make sure everyone has had a chance to weigh in on each category. In the past the TU questionnaire has been posted in April. And believe it or not that’s just next week. So I want to make sure that when the time comes, we can hit the ground running.

So without further ado, please put your thinking caps on, and get ready to give me your best.

Remember, these are just my top three picks. They are neither intended to be definitive or authoritative. In some cases, like this first one I’m shooting a bit from the hip and being driven as much as ideology as anything else. As opposed to some people, I’m perfectly fine voting for a place I haven’t personally experienced. We’ll talk more about that last statement in the near future.

Best restaurant to open in the past year
Surely I’m forgetting something important. Let it be known that I am not forgetting the Gastropub, but rather I’m leaving them off.

3) Olde English
2) All Good Bakers
1) Hungry Fish Cafe

Best restaurant for kids
This category should be called Best restaurant for families. Because kids are always going to prefer ice cream, pizza and robotic rodents to actually eating food. But there are plenty of places to take them where they aren’t underfoot and you aren’t tempted to slit your wrists, like:

3) Pizza King
2) Ala Shanghai
1) Ralph’s

Best Indian/Pakistani restaurant
It’s hard to argue with South Asian street food and snacks you can’t find anywhere else. Parivar is a gem. Besides that a good cheap buffet and other regional Indian specialties. India is a big country, and it’s great to have a place in the region that acknowledges this and brings us some dishes that are lesser known in this former British colony.

3) Aashiana
2) Karavali
1) Parivar

Best Mexican/Central/South American restaurant
When choosing among the food of Central and South America, I’m almost going to always pick Mexican.

3) Flores Family Restaurant
2) Mr. Pio Pio
1) La Mexicana

Best sports bar
Don’t hate me just because we follow different sports.

3) Olde English
2) Wolff’s
1) The Ruck

Now what are yours? Please let me know your TOP THREE so I can try and work them into the FUSSYlittleBALLOT 3.0. Also, don’t forget to check out the below and make sure you weighed in on the other pressing matters of the day (from weeks past).

The Markets
Wine & Beer
Ethnic Markets
In a League of Their Own
Sandwiches & More
Regional Specialties

The next time we talk about this, I’ll be presenting you all a slate for us to rally behind. It’s going to take some compromise and personal sacrifice. But I’m hoping 2012 is our year. If not, there’s always 2013. Because we’re not going anywhere.

15 Comments leave one →
  1. March 26, 2012 10:05 am

    Woot! Love making onto your lists, Daniel B. :)

  2. March 26, 2012 10:39 am

    Best Restaurant to Open in the Past Year:

    1. All Good Bakers
    2. Gastropub
    3. Ole English

    Best Indian/Pakistani
    1. Curry House
    3. Lazeez

    Best Sports Bar

    1. Wolff’s Biergarten
    2. Lark Tavern (before 10p.m.)
    3. Legends’ on Lark

  3. March 26, 2012 10:40 am

    Whoops, accidentally logged in under the wrong WordPress account!

    Best Restaurant to Open in the Past Year:
    1. All Good Bakers
    2. Gastropub
    3. Ole English

    Best Indian/Pakistani
    1. Curry House
    3. Lazeez

    Best Sports Bar
    1. Wolff’s Biergarten
    2. Lark Tavern (before 10p.m.)
    3. Legends’ on Lark

  4. -R. permalink
    March 26, 2012 11:58 am

    I agree to the letter with your assessments in both the Mexican/Central/South American and Indian/Pakistani categories. As I have no offspring, the kiddie eats category has no resonance for me (along with sports bars…sensory overload annoys me, so I typically avoid watering holes with more than 4 or 5 displays). As a personal pet peeve, I would like to add that supposed ‘fine-dining’ establishments that contain flat-panel displays ghoulishly looming over their tables ought to have their credentials revoked — decide: bar or restaurant. I enjoy (for example) The Point, but the f**king TVs that one can never quite eradicate from one’s visual field just irritate the hell out of me, much like the preponderance of patrons therein who won’t engage in conversation because they are too engrossed with their phones or pecking away at their little keyboards. Grrrr……

    And while I don’t get out as much as I should, the best new restaurant I have tried in the past six months or so has been Mingle (despite the name). I really enjoy the palette of flavors being produced from that kitchen. I have also enjoyed The Merry Monk quite a bit, as well as the Gastropub (which I have some quibbles with, especially with regard to bang-for-your-buck), but the food I’ve had has been quite nice. The Ilium Cafe in Troy has been doing some special things as of late, and their dinner menu is well worth considering. I will, however, staunchly disagree with any Baumgartner offering. He’s a good businessman and an affable gent, but his food is a demonstration in utter mediocrity, and panders to the common demographic; he does know his beer though, and for that many sins can be forgiven but sadly not his food. Finally, should AGB really be included as a restaurant? I know they do more than bake, but so does Uncommon Grounds for example, and I would not consider them a restaurant in the truest sense of the word.

  5. March 26, 2012 1:14 pm

    Best new eatery: Hasn’t All Good Bakers been around a while, just in a different location?
    My top pick here would be Prime Bar + Grill in Clifton Park (Angelo has yet to turn out a bad product, I find). Nowhere else new really stands out in my mind.

    Best Indian/Pakistani:
    3. Zaika
    2. Shalimar, Troy
    1. Karivalli, Latham (or Saratoga Springs, but I figure Latham’s likely to get more votes)

    Best Mexican(ish):
    3. …. y’know, it’s hard enough finding good Mexican places around here without coming up with three of them.
    2. Cantina, Saratoga Springs (upscale/fancy Mexican)
    1. El Mexicano, Saratoga Springs (really good, solid Mexican food, which is pretty hard to find around here)

    • March 26, 2012 8:28 pm

      KB, we opened on Quail St. in April of 2011, so we’re right on the cusp.

      Although I certainly see R’s point of view, considering Nick’s offerings of salads, soups and sandwiches I would hope people view us as at least a cafe, if not a full-on restaurant, in addition to being a bakery.

  6. March 26, 2012 2:24 pm

    New Restaurant:
    3) Olde English – such a cool place
    2) Merry Monk – can’t beat Wednesday’s BOGO mussels
    1) Taiwan Noodle – I am addicted to the spiced pork and egg noodle soup

    Best Indian/Pakistani
    3) Shalimar (Clifton Park) – my first Indian buffet in the area so I am biased
    2) Parivar
    1) Aashiana – the best by far

    Sports Bar:
    3) Hill Street Cafe – my neighborhood hangout with some of the best bar food in the area
    2) Wolf’s Biergarten – Peanuts, futbal, darts, wursts, great bear=fun
    1) Graney’s – Lots of TVS, local spot with good food and without the corporate atmosphere

    Mexican/Latin American:
    3) Salsa Latina – The Latin dishes shine more bright then the Mexican, but all around great value
    2) Mr. Pio Pio – also the real stuff (Ecuadorian) but agree that Mexican cuisine is superior
    1) La Mexicana – the real stuff

    • Kerosena permalink
      March 26, 2012 4:21 pm

      Can I just place the same votes as Josh K.? I agree on all categories, and have also found it hard to order anything else at Taiwan Noodle. The minced pork with egg is just so good.

  7. Jessica R permalink
    March 26, 2012 5:43 pm

    Best Restaurant to Open in the Past Year
    3) All Good Bakers – I checked, and they opened in April of 2011, so I guess they just fit the bill of “last year”
    2) Tara Kitchen in Schenectady – this just opened last month, so many haven’t been there yet, but the food is awesome!
    1) The Merry Monk – I’m so happy to have a half-authentic Belgium beer place in Albany!
    I haven’t been to Mingle yet, but I’m guessing they would probably end up in my top three if I had.

    Best Restaurant for Kids
    I really have no right to input here, but….
    3) Jack’s Drive In, Wynantskill
    2) Jumping Jacks Drive In – Can’t go wrong with places where people eat outside, and kids can be more boisterous without bothering others.
    1) Wolff’s Biergarten. Just because I love seeing families eating pancakes there on the weekends! It is actually pretty welcoming to families before dinner time, and what kid doesn’t want to sit at a picnic table and eat peanuts?

    Best Indian
    3) Ghandi
    2) Shalimar, Troy
    1) Karavali, Latham
    I haven’t tried Curry House or Parivar yet.

    Best Mexican
    3) Jose Malones – I know it’s not very authentic, but it is very fresh, and they change their menu around the seasons
    2) The ladies at the Troy Farmer’s Market
    1) El Mariachi 2 – Good atmosphere and food. Great Mole sauce, which is what I look for. From what I hear, one of the owners is Spanish, so the Spanish dishes are also authentic.

    Best Sports Bar
    3) McGeary’s – simply because they are nice enough to host the Bills Backers each Sunday!
    2) Wolff’s Biergarten
    1) Recovery Room, Troy – Just being honest here – this is where we go during Football season, to easily watch all the games at once. The food is not horrible, either.

  8. Josh K. permalink
    March 26, 2012 6:28 pm

    Yeah McGeary’s should be of note for being the home of the Albany Bills Backers with perfectly executed burgers and six dollar pictchers of Saranac Black Forest

  9. March 26, 2012 9:31 pm

    Best Restaurant to Open in the Past Year
    3) All Good Bakers
    2) The Merry Monk
    1) Taiwan Noodle

    Best Restaurant for Kids
    I think I’m disqualified from this one? I’ll survey my friends with kids.

    Best Indian
    3) Lazeez
    2) Aashiana
    1) Karavali (Latham)

    Best Mexican/Central/South American restaurant
    (I need to come back to this one.)

    Best Sports Bar
    3) Wolff’s
    2) Hill St Cafe
    1) McGearys

  10. Amy permalink
    March 27, 2012 12:30 pm

    For Best Mexican/Latin American, I’d vote for

    3) Casa Dominicana (for some great mofongo)
    2) Salsa Latina
    1) Mr. Pio Pio

    and best Indian

    2) Parivar
    1) Karavalli Latham

    no opinion about the others

  11. Mike R. permalink
    March 29, 2012 11:59 am

    Best Restaurant to Open in the Past Year:
    3. Gastropub
    2. Mingle
    1. All Good Bakers

    Best Indian/Pakistani:
    3. Shalimar (Delmar)
    2. Aashiana
    1. Parivar

    Best Mexican/South American/Central American:
    3. Mr. Pio Pio
    2. El Mariachi I
    1. El Mariachi II

    Best Sports Bar:
    3. Swifty’s
    2. Hill Street Cafe
    1. Wolff’s

  12. March 29, 2012 6:47 pm

    Also, thanks for the votes!!! :)

  13. mattVSmatthew permalink
    March 29, 2012 6:55 pm

    Ok, I’ll bite – why no love for Gastropub?

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