Gone in 2016
Celebrity deaths don’t phase me all that much. The famous live on. Sure David Bowie might not make any more albums, but I can listen to Big Brother on YouTube whenever I want. It’s a bummer that Carrie Fisher won’t be around to appear in Star Wars Episode IX, but her body of work endures. Postcards from the Edge can be streamed on Amazon right now for four bucks.
It’s the end of the year, so I’ll avoid all the heavy political weighted stuff about other senseless deaths both at home and around the world. Those I find to be much more taxing.
Anyhow, the food blogger in me wants to use this opportunity to talk about the deaths of beloved local restaurants. Personally, I find those much more tragic than the loss of the stars of stage and screen. George Michael was a major part of the soundtrack of my teenage years, and I’ll never forget him, but I’ll always be able to tap my foot to the rattling guitar chords that open up Faith.
The same cannot be said for the local institutions that closed their doors in the past year. Like people, no restaurant lasts forever. Many don’t make it past the first year. And restaurants close all the time.
I wanted to take a few minutes to offer remembrances to a handful of notable places.
If you are curious about a full accounting of what restaurants closed in 2016, Steve has been building a comprehensive list, here.
Bob & Ron’s
Sure, the Latham location may have been ill-conceived. One could say that the brand died when it left its iconic building on Central Avenue in Albany with its iconic anachronistic neon sign. But it’s the fried clam strips I’m going to miss most of all. I still have yet to find another joint that deeply breads its clam strips so the resulting clam meat is tender, while the outside remains super crisp. If you know of any, I’d love to hear about them.
The Brown Bag
Say what you will about Terry and the speed of service at his late night Troy burger shop, the guy cared deeply about his food, and he could crank out a dynamite bacon, egg, and cheese. The Brown Bag was a fixture on the corner of Fourth and Ferry, and I’d argue responsible for expanding the nice part of downtown Troy further south. That makes him a pioneer. And credit should be given where it is due. Its presence helped to launch The Flying Chicken. Plus now we have Sunhee’s around the corner and Superior Merchandise Co. across the street.
Was a strip mall the best place for this small regional French restaurant? Probably not. Albany Jane used to love The Epicurean in its original location. She would make the trek out to celebrate special occasions, and rave about the food. I only went a couple of times once it moved to Latham. And I found it to be fine, but not rave worthy. Still, the closure is a loss. A place that used to be a standard bearer of great food has shut its doors.
The Grog Shoppe
Regret isn’t something I often experience, but I do regret never stepping foot into this old time Schenectady joint. The name of the business always charmed me. From the archaic term “Grog” to the fancified spelling of “Shop” the sign on State Street never failed to grab my attention and fill me with wonder. “What kind of old school treats are waiting at The Grog Shoppe?” Well, now I’ll never have the chance to experience them directly.
Mingle on the Avenue
When Mingle announced its expansion plans, I was nervous. That said, I get nervous easily. Growth is important for businesses. However, too much growth can be deadly. Growth and change are risky. And while the Saratoga Springs deal may have looked good on paper, I feel like in some ways it was doomed from the start. Mingle was a great place, run by great people, and I’m not the only one who misses it.
I refuse to believe that this Jamaican restaurant is dead. Because much like David Khan of Burger Centric fame, Orchid’s has a way of popping back up again every time it closes. But I’m not sure if the place can ever recapture the magic of its original gas station location in Rotterdam. Part of its appeal was how unexpectedly good the homemade food was from this totally inauspicious and unpretentious setting.
World of Beer
Chains can be loved too. Although I’m sure you’re saying, “Hey, World of Beer isn’t dead. You can just visit any one of the chain’s other locations.” And that’s true. But what I loved about World of Beer was having a late night place with good WiFi where I could work in peace and sip a delicious craft beer. These days little pecks is pretty good for that, but World of Beer was much closer to my house, so I miss having an option that’s in my neighborhood.
There are other notable passings too. I’ll miss The Malt Room and Bread and Honey. And I regret never making it to Dorato’s or Cupz. Every single one of these places was somebody’s dream, and it’s important to remember that.
This is the time of year when people start thinking about New Year’s resolutions. I’d like to ask you to remember not to take our local establishments for granted. They survive because people make the conscious effort to spend money in their doors.
It’s not enough to just love a local restaurant. It’s important to go there and enjoy it. Otherwise, it may not last the winter, much less the year. 2017 is going to be hard enough without any of my favorite local places going out of business.
Hopefully, everyone will do their part to support the places that make the Capital Region great.