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March 30, 2012

We all have our favorite places to eat, drink, and shop for food and drink. Every year the Times Union asks us which are the best in the Capital Region, and we dutifully submit our picks to the paper. And you know what happens? Every year the results of the poll are disappointing.

Last year, the poll proclaimed our best sandwiches come from Subway and our best hamburgers from Five Guys.

Some of you may be so fed up with the poll that you’ve stop submitting it entirely. I was frustrated too, but instead of giving up, or simply accepting it, two years ago I decided to do something. I created the first FUSSYlittleBALLOT, which was a slate of excellent businesses from around the region, that I culled from multiple sources including the Times Union’s own reviews and trusted online sources (tempered with my own judgement). Never has the ballot been just one person’s opinion.

But even back then when the blog was smaller, the effort still seemed to have some impact around the edges of the poll results. You see, not that many people actually respond to the Times Union survey. In 2011 it was fewer than 15,000. So even if just a few thousand people cast their votes for a common slate, those amazing hidden gems in the area can be propelled into the spotlight. And despite this being the internet age full of sites like Yelp and Urbanspoon, people still take notice of the paper’s poll. Cracking the top three is huge.

This year the FUSSYlittleBALLOT is a bit different, as I’ve limited its scope. No longer does it try to be all encompassing. Now it focuses just on food and drink. Also there are no protest votes for a Wegmans or Whole Foods. Most importantly, I looped readers into the process early. We have been having ongoing conversations here about the best things in the region since early February.

I’ve synthesized all of those conversations and comments down into one list, and I’m happy to present it for your consideration today. My sincere hope is that you will join us in this effort. You do this by not just voting for the full slate of businesses below, but by forwarding this ballot to your friends, relatives and colleagues all over the globe and asking for their participation too.

It sounds ridiculous, but I’m not joking.

The point here isn’t to help out great, small independent restaurants. That’s a side benefit. What I’m hoping to do is change people’s minds about Albany, both internally and externally. There is good food here. And the more successful and well known the good places get, the better the next wave of competitors will be. The point here is to raise the bar. The point here is to instill some regional pride. The point here is to make a difference.

I’m excited because we are starting out on the right foot. After a fair bit of nudging from our Open Letter to the Times Union and the dozens of co-signers, the paper made some significant structural changes to the 2012 Best of the Capital Region questionnaire. It just goes to show, that sometimes when you participate in a crazy grass-roots campaign things happen.

Now without any further ado, here is the slate for your consideration.

Page 1 – Goods and Services
1. Best Local Grocery Store – Hannaford
2. Best Wine Store (single location) – All Star Wine & Spirits
3. Best Beer Store (single location) – Write in: Hoosick Street Beverage Center, 2200 19th St. Troy, NY
4. Best Bakery (single location) – Mrs. London’s
5. Best Italian Market – Cardona’s
6. Best Ethnic Market That’s Not Italian – Asian Supermarket
7. Best Farmers Market (single location) – Troy Waterfront Farmers Market
8. Best Health Food Store (single location) – Honest Weight Food Coop
9. Best Standalone Butcher (single location) – Roma, 9 Cobbee Road, Latham

Page 2 – Dining
1. Best Restaurant to Open in Past Year – All Good Bakers
2. Best Family Restaurant (single location) –  Write in: Jumpin’ Jack’s, Scotia
3. Best Fish Fry (single location) – Write in: Off Shore Pier, East Greenbush
4. Best Hamburger – Write in: Max London’s, 466 Broadway,  Saratoga Springs
5. Best Pizza (single location) – Defazio’s Woodfired Pizza
6. Best Sandwich Shop (single location) –  Andy & Son’s Importing
7. Best Chinese/Japanese/Korean Restaurant – Ala Shanghai
8. Best Indonesian/Thai/Vietnamese Restaurant (single location) – Kinnaree
9. Best Indian/Pakistani Restaurant (single location) – Write in: Aashiana,  31 Central Avenue  Albany
10. Best Mexican/Central/South American (single location) – Mr. Pio Pio
11.  Best Italian Restaurant (single location) – Café Capriccio
12 . Best Ice Cream – Write in: On the Farm, Latham
13. Best Hot Dog (single location) – Famous Lunch
14. Best Sports Bar (single location) – Write in: Wolff’s Biergarten, 895 Broadway, Albany
15. Best Coffee Joint (single location) – Caffe Vero
16. Best Diner – Write in: Dan’s Place Two

That’s really all there is. If you enter all of those businesses into the poll, you will have answered enough questions to win that spiff iPad the paper is giving away.

Now if you wanted to see something really amazing you could check out page 5 of the survey that covers local media.

One of my regular readers and occasional commenters is the answer to question 1, Lydia Kulbida.
Down at question 6 you can vote for All Over Albany, who have supported the FLB tremendously.
And look there at question 7. My name is right there. You don’t even have to write it in? Holy moly.
Honestly, I’m a bit stunned. Pleased, but kind of amazed. Still, if you like what I do, I’d love your vote.

Thank you for your consideration.

If you have any questions or concerns, please ask. I’d rather have the chance to win you over, than to have you just shake your head and leave. And over the next few days and weeks, I’ll explain how we got to some of these decisions. However, they are all pretty much consistent with the comments left over the past few months.

Online voting is open until noon on April 20. I hope you’ll vote for the above slate here and use the nifty little buttons underneath this post to spread the word.

– – –

Here’s the full text link to the poll for those who like to cut and paste:

– – –

And after you’ve voted, maybe you would be interested in sending an email to your friends, colleagues and family and ask for their support with this initiative too. You can send your own thoughts, or use the letter I’ve drafted for your convenience.

38 Comments leave one →
  1. Chrystal permalink
    March 30, 2012 9:10 am

    How was Off Shore Pier left off the choices for the best fish fry? That omission doesn’t even make sense since they obviously modified the questionnaire due to the FussylittleBlog campaign and Off Shore Pier was the obvious favorite on the FussylittleBlog Tour de Fish Fry.

    I totally voted for you.

  2. March 30, 2012 10:34 am

    I’ve done as you asked.
    I’d like to see a few votes for the New York State Military Museum in Saratoga Springs. Yep, it’s not the best museum in the district, but we need the help.

  3. March 30, 2012 10:34 am

    Looks like a great slate, happy to support it! And, looking forward to trying the handful of places I haven’t been to yet.

  4. March 30, 2012 10:36 am

    I have to admit I feel a little bit weird voting for a place I haven’t been to myself. But if people really think Subway and Five Guys have the best of anything in this region, a little white lie won’t hurt anyone, right? Plus I trust your (and your readers’) judgment in coming up with this ballot.

  5. March 30, 2012 10:44 am

    Gotta say, I’m writing in The Brown Bag as best burger. They’re relatively new, but they make damn good food.

    If you’re filling in more of the survey, give a shout out to Little Troy Park in Charlton for best beach.

    And if you missed Gogol Bordello at Northern Lights on April 1, 2011, you very well may have missed the best concert in the past year in the area.

    • March 30, 2012 10:47 am

      Shameless plug for “Fiddler On The Roof” for best local musical. Hey, my kid was in it. ;-)

    • March 30, 2012 10:53 am

      Best thing in the Capital Region not included on the ballot: Best Beer Bar – The Ruck, Troy

      • March 30, 2012 5:00 pm

        I think that can be honed into a more specific category in which The Ruck is the incontestable victor: Best place for beer and wings.

  6. Silvia Lilly permalink
    March 30, 2012 11:09 am

    Such a leap of faith, Daniel, your endorsing Cafe Capriccio! I am going to diverge from some of your selections because I’m not much of a follower generally, but if I don’t have an opinion I’m happy to support your choice. Burger, though? I had one at New World recently and it may have been the best one I ever ate!

  7. March 30, 2012 11:38 am

    I’m sure they’ll figure it out, but it’s Jumpin’ Jack’s, not Jumping.

    I’d love to know who really cares about high school sporting events and “athletes,” aside from their parents.

    Best print journalist leaves out Kathleen Moore of the Gazette? It’s a travesty.

    I honestly can vote for you for best local blogger. You’re certainly the best choice given. :)

    I wish I could write in multiple people for best tweeter, though. So many good options out there!

  8. March 30, 2012 12:47 pm

    I got you Daniel!
    I also added a category:
    Best Local Food Manufacturer:
    Casa Visco (biased!)
    Pereccas (my vote)
    R & G
    Or the dozens of talents at the farmers Mkt in Schdy or Troy!

    • Hamsterdam permalink
      April 2, 2012 7:36 pm

      I’d vote for Casa Visco for any number of things.

  9. Angelos permalink
    March 30, 2012 1:19 pm

    Second on the Gogol Bordello show.

    But for high comedy, everyone should vote for the Kings of Leon show that NEVER ACTUALLY HAPPENED!

  10. Kerosena permalink
    March 30, 2012 3:23 pm

    Okey-Dokey! Placed my votes in line with the slate, and emailed six friends asking them to check it out.

  11. Kate H permalink
    March 30, 2012 6:28 pm

    I’ve printed up the list and am getting ready to complete the poll. Most of your suggestions I agree with, some I’ve picked my own and the ones I haven’t been to I’ll bow to your superior judgement.

    • Kate H permalink
      March 30, 2012 6:49 pm

      And where you get to pick your own category I went for Best New Local Event – the From Scratch Club food swaps!

      • March 30, 2012 9:56 pm

        Kate- WOW! Thank you for plugging our food swaps! THANK YOU!
        Daniel: A ‘big congrats’ is in order for the “best blogger” nomination- you sure do deserve it! Great company!
        As for the list, I made my own choice but about 1/3 are the same as yours. I picked HWFC for both grocery choices and absolutely hands-down the best ethnic grocery is indeed Asian Supermarket.

  12. March 30, 2012 9:55 pm

    Thanks for the slate. Don’t see anything I really disagree with. I’m voting the straight Daniel ticket, as they used to sort of say…. :)

  13. March 30, 2012 10:02 pm

    Thanks for the slate, Daniel… looks good to me. I’ll do my part and vote the straight Fussy ballot, as they used to sort of say…. :)

  14. mrrafe permalink
    March 31, 2012 4:22 pm

    Based on the explanations here and on Table Hopping, I didn’t understand we were supposed to wait for the FLB ballot to be finalized instead of voting individually in the TU project, so I went ahead and voted there while waiting for the FLB ballot – which I therefore can’t submit now. My reading comprehension level is high so I suspect others likewise missed the point.

    Anyhow, several of my individual choices corresponded with FLB’s, so it could’ve been worse.

    In future, I look forward to using the FLB ballot now that I understand what it is, although I’d like to see it omit all the places that specialize in dead meat and dead fish!

    • techcommdood permalink
      March 31, 2012 6:06 pm

      I understood to wait for the slate. I guess my reading comprehension level is higher. ;)

  15. April 1, 2012 6:19 pm

    Admittedly, I voted off slate on a couple of these and voted my conscience, though stuck to it for the most part. On the one I did not was best sandwich shop. I voted for Andy’s, even though I think Genoa is better, because I cannot stomach seeing Subway win AGAIN. It was for the greater good, because I definitely think Andy’s is a very close second, and I actually prefer going there for coldcuts to Genoa for a number of reasons.

    As usual, though. most of these would be what I would choose on my own, anyway.

    In regards to best local high school sports event, I strongly encourage all of you to vote for the Boys State Basketball Championship in Glens Falls. The region came dangerously close to losing this a couple years ago, and it is a HUGE draw and boon for our local/regional economy during a time of year that’s considered sleepy. Plus, it is A LOT of fun. Admittedly, it’s been years since I’ve been myself, but I remember it being charged with some great energy, and I have it under good authority that has not changed.

    Profussor – as always, thanks again for putting this together. This isn’t an easy task at all, and it was particularly labor intensive this year. I did enjoy being part of the conversation on this. We all have strong opinions on what we deem “the best,” and I’ve now got a new list of places I want to try. :)

    Also, on an unrelated note, apparently the surveyors didn’t get the memo that Andrew Badera moved to Chicago last year.

  16. Ed Gilhooley permalink
    April 2, 2012 9:44 am

    The Vineyard Wines & Spirits in Schenectady for best wine shop. Many hard to find wines, and staff that takes the time to help you pick out what wine to pair with the dinner you’re planning.

  17. Jessica R permalink
    April 3, 2012 12:16 pm

    “If you have any questions or concerns, please ask. I’d rather have the chance to win you over, than to have you just shake your head and leave. And over the next few days and weeks, I’ll explain how we got to some of these decisions”

    I was going to wait for the explanation, but not sure when that post will come. The only item I still can’t really get behind is All Good Bakers for Best New Restaurant. I just don’t think of them as a restaurant, but more of a bakery, even though I realize they make sandwiches, and i would definitely consider going there for lunch. As another commenter mentioned, Ultraviolet Cafe or other coffee shops do the same, but I wouldn’t consider them traditional restaurants – with table dining and waitresses. Can you win me over on your choice for this category?

  18. April 3, 2012 8:51 pm

    If people think Genoa is better than Andy’s, then I need to go to Genoa. Where is it and when are we going?

    • April 3, 2012 10:11 pm

      You tell me? I’m game for pretty much whenever. I was skeptical, too, given it’s placement in one of the yuppiest suburban neighborhoods in the Capitol District, but it’s really awesome. Though, as I said, Andy’s is a close second … I just feel quite strongly about how delicious and underrated Genoa is. :)

  19. Rhea permalink
    April 4, 2012 3:48 pm

    Troy Riverfront for best urban stroll.

  20. maryonhudson permalink
    April 5, 2012 10:17 am

    Will mostly vote the slate, it comprises many of my first choices (eg Mrs London’s, Honest Weight) and block voting makes sense for places I can honestly say I like (Roma, Off Shore Pier) even if there is somewhere I prefer. I’m holding off voting and scuttling round to try some that I haven’t, as I can’t vote for something I haven’t tried (Mr Pio Pio, Kinnaree). I also can’t vote for something I really don’t like (All Good Bakers – lovely people – tried their baking a few times a Delmar Market, have been up to the new location once – really, really want to like their products, but I just don’t)

    • April 7, 2012 8:11 pm

      I’m sorry we couldn’t please your palate with what you have tried so far, maryonhudson and thank you for your kind opinion about us as people, As we’ve progressed through the years, there have certainly been a few “off days” where sometimes a product (in retrospect) didn’t seem up to par. Please know that we are always working on improving (and maintaining consistency once we’ve achieved the desired approval from our own taste testing and customers’ comments). Your specific feedback (preferably in person or via email at allgoodbakers (at) gmail (dot) com) would be welcomed. We understand that sometimes people just don’t like something (I personally consider myself somewhat of a “picky” eater and we know we can’t please EVERYone), but if we can make improvements, we will always try. There have been occasions in the past when polite feedback has helped us provide a better product so we honestly welcome hearing your thoughts! Thanks for your participation in this discussion.

  21. April 5, 2012 11:06 pm

    Welp, I voted. I didn’t agree with many of the choices, but at least I didn’t agree with who you suggested we DON’T vote for. Thanks for spearheading the effort.

  22. stanfordsteph permalink
    April 9, 2012 4:16 pm

    I would suggest Tara Kitchen in Schenectady for Best New Restaurant. Had a fabulous meal there the other day, compared to my recent “meal” at All Good Bakers, which was very disappointing.

    • April 9, 2012 9:23 pm

      Oh no Steph! I’m so sorry you didn’t enjoy your meal at AGB. Please let us know how we can improve! allgoodbakers (at) gmail (dot) com, if you’ve got the time and feel the inclination. We value hearing your constructive feedback.

  23. April 10, 2012 11:44 pm

    I just want to say thank you for continuing to call attention to this Daniel. I saw much improvement in the TU survey this year! I appreciate your efforts to encourage the Capital Region naysayers to explore and find what awesome places we have here. I feel like I always have an additional battle being from and a huge advocate for Schenectady. I feel like I’m always convincing the Troy and Albany diehards that it can hold it’s salt. Some already mentioned here: Capiello’s, Perecca’s, Tara Kitchen, Vineyard Wine & Spirits, plus Pizza King, Nisky Co-op’s meat counter, Wagon Train BBQ…too many to list. Interested to see how this year’s TU poll pans out!


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