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Troy’s Hidden Treasures?

March 26, 2013

Wow, I’ve fallen behind. Yesterday I was compelled to write about the start of Passover, so I completely forgot to mention the big news from the weekend. The highlight was Steve Barnes including the FLB in his Sunday column suggesting that restaurants should reduce their portion sizes and increase the quality of their ingredients.

I am thrilled, positively thrilled, that he’s come forward as an advocate for a position I’ve held for a long time. The more people we have banging the drum, the more likely we’ll be to change people’s minds.

But this weekend there was also a significant dust-up of mom-bloggers about the new KFC kids meals. I’m sure you’ll be surprised to know I have some strong feelings both on the product and its promotion.

Saturday also marked the launch of Albany Distilling Company’s Quackenbush Still House Rum. I’m excited that I now have one of the few bottles in my possession, but the vessel remains sealed. It’s been too busy around here to even pop the cork and inhale its vapors.

And just yesterday there was an awesome announcement about the Charles F. Lucas Confectionery and Wine Bar expanding into an adjacent building. Granted, it’s one that needs a lot of work, but Vic (bless his heart) sees nothing but potential in the crumbling bricks of Troy.

However, before we can even start with any of the above, there is another piece of Troy news that needs to be addressed first.

Whatever happened to the Troy Record’s 2013 Reader’s Choice poll results?

If you recall, way back when, there was a ballot. I even took Jessica R’s picks and endorsed most of them for your consideration. And then nothing. I had expected the results awhile ago, but totally couldn’t find them by searching the website or Google. Maybe I’m an idiot. But if I am, I’m a crafty idiot, because I sent a tweet to the paper and they sent me a link to the results.

So? How did we do in Troy? Well, we called ten correctly. But there are clearly some anomalies in the results. Some of the readers picks aren’t terribly surprising. Regardless of how good the Placid Baker is in Troy, it would take a flood of biblical proportions to wash away the deeply held love for Bella Napoli in the community. Others aren’t egregious enough to cause me to throw myself on a sword. I like the butchers at Roma, and readers prefer Fred the Butcher. I can live with that.

Other acts of aggression will not stand. Here’s how the first category played out:

Food & Beverage Retail
Bakery – Placid Baker – DENIED (Bella Napoli)
Banquet Facility – Franklin Plaza – NAILED IT
Beverage Center – Hoosick St. Beverage – NAILED IT
Butcher Shop – Roma’s (Latham) – DENIED (Fred the Butcher)
Farmers Market – Troy Riverfront Farmer’s Market – NAILED IT
Farmstand – Golden Harvest – DENIED (Brunswick Farmstand)
Wine & Liquor Store – Village Discount Wines & Lqrs, Wynantskill – DENIED (Exit 9)

Let the record show that the Brunswick Farmstand does not have a distillery on premise. That makes it inferior by default. That, and the lack of the best cider donuts east of the Hudson. But it’s hard to get too worked up about this selection either.

Food & Drink (Part 1)
Asian – Red & Blue Asian Bistro – DENIED (Plum Blossom)
Barbeque – Dinosaur Bar-B-Que – NAILED IT
Beer Selection – The Ruck – NAILED IT
Breakfast/Brunch – Illium Cafe – DENIED – (B-Rads)
Burgers – The Brown Bag – DENIED (Forty One Sports Bar)
Caterers – Nighthawk’s Kitchen – DENIED (Old Daley Catering)
Coffee Shop – The Charles F. Lucas Confectionery & Wine Bar – DENIED (Francesca’s)
Deli/Subs – Deli & Brew – DENIED (Mr. Subb)
Dessert – Sweet Sue’s – DENIED (Verdile’s)
Diner – Duncan’s Dairy Bar – DENIED (Alexis Diner)

Here is where things start breaking down. Plum Blossom, like Bella Napoli I understand. B-Rads has a loyal following, and I’m willing to entertain the notion that a negative experience on my first visit could have been a fluke. But Forty One Sports Bar? This place isn’t even on my radar, maybe it should be. Francesca’s for coffee should certainly be a priority on my Troy to do list. However, next year I fully expect The Confectionery will take the coffee category, but as of this poll, I’m guessing that people didn’t even know the amazing wine bar was also a killer coffee bar as well.

For the record though, Mr. Subb doesn’t make the best anything.

Food & Drink (Part 2)
Family & Kids Dining – Gus’s – DENIED (Papa’s Corner)
Fine Dining – Illium Cafe – DENIED (Papa’s Corner)
Fish Fry – Gene’s – DENIED (Ted’s)
Fried Chicken – The Flying Chicken – NAILED IT
Happy Hour – The Ruck – DENIED (Forty One Sports Bar)
Hot Dogs – Famous Lunch – NAILED IT
Ice Cream/Gelato – The Snowman (esp. Butter Pecan) – NAILED IT
Indian/Pakistani – Shalimar – NAILED IT
Italian – Minnesalle’s – DENIED (Papa’s Corner)

Wait a second. One restaurant takes top honors in Family & Kids, Fine Dining and Italian? The only explanation for this is that Troy Record readers have no idea what “Fine Dining” actually means. Because places that are good for kids are rarely the fine dining establishments. While it may be bogus, now I really want to go to Papa’s Corner and see this miraculous restaurant for myself.

Oh yeah, and there’s that mysterious Lansingburgh Forty One Sports Bar again. What gives? The ‘burgh is all of a sudden a hip, hot and happening sports bar town?

Food & Drink (Part 3)
Margaritas – Jose Malone’s – NAILED IT
Martinis – Daisy Bakers – NAILED IT
Mexican – La Mexicana Restaurant & Market (Schenectady) – DENIED (Jose Malone’s)
Neighborhood Bar – Charles F. Lucas Confectionery & Wine Bar – DENIED (Forty One S.B.)
Patio Seating – Dinosaur Bar-B-Que – DENIED (Papa’s Corner)
Pizza – DeFazio’s – DENIED (LaBella)
Salad – Spillin’ the Beans – DENIED (Jimmy’s)
Sports Bar – The Ruck – DENIED (Forty One Sports Bar)
Steaks – Lo Porto’s – DENIED (Paolo Lombardi’s)
Wings – The Ruck – DENIED (Ale House)

I’m guessing that the professional patrons of the Lucas Confectionery & Wine Bar have better things to do with their time than vote in some online poll. Plus it’s still relatively new. But without a doubt it is the best neighborhood bar I’ve seen in a long long time. One day it will get its due. And there’s Lansingburgh’s Forty One Sports Bar again, twice. Not to mention another winning spot for Papa’s Corner whose patio eclipses that of Dinosaur’s right on the Hudson River. I’m skeptical.

That skepticism grows as De Fazio’s is shortchanged in favor of LaBella’s for best pizza, and The Ruck falls to The Ale House for best wings. Up is down, black is white. Cats and dogs, living together. Mass hysteria.

Deep breath.

Here’s the thing. Despite a few key disagreements, this poll still has merit and value. Its purpose is to bring attention to the places that a lot of people in Troy really love. So I’m looking forward to trying Papa’s Corner and Forty One Sports Bar. I hope they are ready, because my expectations are now pretty high. The poll also put Francesca’s back on my radar, and it would be good to get in there too.

Still, Troy needs to be careful. Because while there may be some interesting places in their paper’s Reader’s Choice list, it’s a crime that the local population doesn’t fully appreciate the brilliance of De Fazio’s pizza or The Ruck’s wings.

I’m not pressing charges. This year, I’m letting you off with a warning. Next year, you might not get so lucky.

14 Comments leave one →
  1. Theresa518 permalink
    March 26, 2013 9:35 am

    I had to google Forty One Sports Bar….and I live here! I have been there and the food is surprisingly good, the space is open and very clean. Lots of televisions and always has horse racing and lottery. They allowed smoking inside and I was turned off by that but it has been a few years since I have been there and that might have changed. Really popular with locals so I can see how they placed well in the poll.

    Papa’s Corner is a mystery. Best outdoor seating with a view of 787? I have driven by but never given it much consideration. Francesca’s is a traditional “coffee shop” and she is a great cook…I think the poll respondents took liberties with the category.

    Thanks for being a great advocate for Troy and Happy Passover!

  2. March 26, 2013 10:11 am

    Oh come off it…

    “For the record though, Mr. Subb doesn’t make the best anything.”

    Wrong. Mr. Subb makes the best “sandwich chain” subbs/sandwiches available locally. This isn’t saying much as they are pretty much only competing in the genre with Subway (maybe also with the various gas station sandwich/sub joints…). There is a divide in my mind between these sorts of dubious sandwich spots and all of the various independent vendors that everyone pats them selve’s on the back for preferring. So when you look at Mr. Subb in this light, they absolutely make some of the best of that sort of crap.

    Heck, there are always diamonds in the rough. They use the Old World Provisions, New York State National brand roast beef ( http://www.oldworldprovisions.com/index.php/old-world-provisions/our-products/roast-beef ) . Many of our beloved independent sandwich joints use crappier roast beef then that. If you are absolutely going to have to eat “sandwich meat” then the New York State National stuff ain’t half bad… Also, Mr. Subb uses stuff that at least attempts to approximate bread. Their “hard rolls” are absolutely not the worst example that I have seen in the genre…

    It is cute to throw an insult at Mr. Subb, but there is a place for these sorts of local/regional sandwich chains, and they are sort of a tradition in Upstate NY (Jreck’s, DiBella’s, Mr. Subb, etc…). A Mr. Subb sandwich is to sandwiches as Utica Club is to beer.

    I can already hear the logic you are going to use to counter this argument in my mind, so you need not restate your whole “philosophy” thing about “why” you would eat at Mr. Subb in the first place, blah, blah, blah… I get it. We have differing opinions. Also, for the record I have eaten exactly 3 Mr. Subb sandwiches in the past 5 or 10 years, so I am White Knighting for them on principle alone.

  3. Elyse permalink
    March 26, 2013 10:13 am

    It sounds like 41 Sports bar had a little campaign going to get some visibility. Whatevs.
    Are you really surprised about the Alehouse wings? People love them. Are Rucks wings really that much better?

    • -R. permalink
      March 26, 2013 12:20 pm

      Are the Ruck’s wings better? I think this a matter of personal preference – I like the Ale House’s wings better than The Ruck’s, but I can see where both have merits. Put another way, these two establishments easily produce some of the finest chicken wings known in these parts – you really, honestly can’t go wrong with either; both are brilliant in their own way.

      • Isaiah permalink
        March 26, 2013 3:25 pm

        Hot wings are one of my favorite foods, I’ve ordered from the ruck/alehouse probably atleast 20 times since moving to troy. Honestly, neither of them are that phenomenal. I can make a tastier, crispier wing at home. It’s crazy but I Love New York at the top of Hoosick actually has better wings, in my opinion. (Well kind of, they’re hit or miss. They’re either okay or AWESOME.)

  4. Kerosena permalink
    March 26, 2013 10:22 am

    Papa’s Corner was recently sold. It was a longtime favorite of my mom’s family. I haven’t been since the changeover. It is most definitely not fine dining. It’s a very “family” sort of place with an excellent staff. They go out of their way to make customers feel welcome. You really feel like they’re happy to see you (and your kids and your grandma, who they greet by name) and honored to have your business. I think this genuinely pleasant, comfortable vibe goes a long way with customers who aren’t Mr. Dave :)

    • Kerosena permalink
      March 26, 2013 10:47 am

      Ooops, didn’t intend to pile on Mr. Dave today; just meant to point out that a lot of people like Papa’s style of service.

  5. March 26, 2013 10:30 am

    It’s nice to see what seems like just one large chain (Mr. Subb) on the list, albeit an egregiously disgusting one. Sorry Dave. Gross.

    • March 26, 2013 12:31 pm

      Yes–no McDonald’s for best burger, so that’s something, right? (At least until people fall in love with the fancy new one on Hoosick St.)

      And I second your assessment of Mr. Subb. Once was enough for me. Not even the tater tots can make me want to return.

  6. Jessica R permalink
    March 26, 2013 12:02 pm

    I agree that it seems Forty One Sports Bar and Papa’s Corner had strong campaigns by their customers. I’m surprised the Ruck didn’t do better, as they also promoted the poll on their facebook page. I guess social media wasn’t enough.

    And I have to agree that both the Ale House and the Ruck have great wings – I can’t complain about either winning that category.

  7. Brooke permalink
    March 26, 2013 12:27 pm

    Is the sports bar in the Burgh the old Pips?! Where is this place I’ve never heard of before now?! Mr. Subb? Um no thank you! Papas as ‘fine dining’? Yeah, not so much. Totally not a fan of the Dinosaur but I can’t see how they lost out on the patio category to them! I am kinda shocked by most of the winners on this list.

    • Theresa518 permalink
      March 26, 2013 6:07 pm

      Yes, it was Pips. I totally forgot the old name. Have not been there since the change.

  8. March 26, 2013 2:11 pm

    A lot of it comes down to audience. Traditionally the Record’s readership base has skewed older, and more “old school.”

  9. March 26, 2013 2:15 pm

    Case in point: “Hearing aid store” and “senior living” were categories.
    Also, the poll results don’t seem to be formatted for mobile, which is a shame.
    (Full disclosure: I did a stint as a Record staffer.)

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