Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Latest B. Good opening Thursday in Stuyvesant Plaza

GUILDERLAND -- As I reported earlier this month, B. Good, a Boston-based restaurant chain that made its first foray into Vermont in 2017 in Burlington and then into New York State in March in Latham, is expanding its Capital Region footprint by creating a venue in Guilderland's Stuyvesant Plaza.

Now, the company has jannounced the new venue will open for business this Thursday near the Frank Adams Jewelers store.

B. Good also is working on acquiring a third Capital Region location, probably in Niskayuna.

CEO Chris Fuqua said, "We look for our most likely customer base. For us, that's high traffic areas with moms or kids, young urban professionals looking for healthier options, high lunchtime traffic areas and areas that have the ability to be open for business for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Our key clientele is the mom with kids making a purchasing decision to have her family eat better, which is why we are excited about Stuyvesant and Latham."

B. Good now has nearly 70 locations in 13 states plus Canada, Germany, and Switzerland.

Albany's venerable Orchard Tavern adding Guilderland site

GUILDERLAND -- The portion of Star Plaza that for three decades was home to Dorato's Restaurant will be extending a different bit of local restaurant history when it becomes the second location of the Orchard Tavern, an Albany favorite since 1903.

Chris Montefore, who purchased the Orchard early last year, tells the Times Union's Steve Barnes he has signed a lease at Star Plaza for a projected September 1 opening of his new venture. Montefore is quoted as explaining, "We’re a destination. You have to know where we are, or somebody has to have told you how to find us.”

So, faced with an aging client base, he decided to expand his nusiness footprint. Thus, Guilderland, where the Indian restaurant Dharani succeeded Dorato's for 2+years. Once all town permits are received, Montefore plans a renovated lunch and dinner venues seating about 125, and offering a menu largely the same as at the original Orchard.

Star Plaza is located at 2050 Western Avenue at the intersection with Route 155. The original Orchard Tavern is located at 68 North Manning Boulevard, a few blocks north of Central Avenue.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Upscale menu to debut at Queensbury Hotel's Park 26

Colin Miner
I have long complained about the dearth of decent dining rooms in local hotels, especially those with attractive atmosphere and plenty of free parking.

At one time, The Desmond in Colonie had Scrimshaw, a true fine dining spot that earned a lengthy string of top awards but gradually went downhill and finally was closed. Around the corner, the Marriott on Wolf Road had the esteemed Ashley's, winner of more than a dozen consecutive Mobil 4-Star Awards until a corporate decision was made to abandon fine dining in favor of pedestrian cuisine. The various entities that have inhabited what presently is the Hilton Albany had a few brief moments in the sun. And, such boutique hotel dining spots as 79 State Street in Albany have teased local foodies.

Now, as we see a mild resurgence in fine dining at hotel dining rooms here and there around the country, we can be looking to the venerable Queensbury Hotel in downtown Glens Falls -- now in its 93rd year -- to set the pace in the Greater Capital Region. It's a place I've always rooted for, an attractive downtown spot that caters to tourists, locals, Lake George visitors, but one that usually has disappointed, foodwise.

That is where chef Colin Miner will debut a decidedly upscale menu on Thursday, May 30, at the hotel's restaurant, now named Park 26, its umpteenth incarnation in a spectacularly uneven culinary history. It became that last November, but the menu was a pedestrian one despite its effusive self-praise on its website that did little to set it apart from the competition. The hiring of Miner is supposed to alleviate that.

Beef tartare dish
Miner's background is an interesting one. A name unfamiliar to most foodies in the Capital Region, he began receiving some thumbs-up reactions at the Wine & Dine for the Arts festival in Albany in January. The 29-year-old native of Warrensburg, who sharpened his culinary skills cooking in Chicago restaurants -- including the Michelin 3-starred Grace -- was hired by businessman Frank Mineo to run the kitchen at a restaurant he was developing under the name Gaslight, to succeed Bistro Tallulah in Glens Falls.

However, that project fell through, and Miner did stages in the co-owned kitchens of Boca Bistro and Forno Bistro in Saratoga Springs. Now, as head of Park 26, here are a few dishes he's been experimenting with, certainly things not seen at other local hotel dining rooms:
• Beef tartare, cured egg yolk, celery, rye bread crumbs
• Salmon tartare, basil oil, strawberry emulsion, pickled scallion, salmon skin
• Whey-poached pollock, wheatberry grits, tomatillo relish, marinated cabbage
• Cast iron New York strip, braised red cabbage, butter-poached potatoes, red wine demi
• Baked Alaska -- grilled pineapple sorbet, house graham cracker, green almond simple syrup, dehydrated toasted marshmallow
Park 26 hours: 7 to 10 a.m., noon to 2 p.m., 5 to 9 p.m. Thursday-Sunday; 7 to 10 a.m., noon to 2 p.m. Monday-Wednesday. Phone: 518-792-1121.

Monday, May 20, 2019

Former Bistro Tallulah chef-owner dies at 43

Shawn Whelan
UPDATE: Shawn Whalen's obituary was published today in the Glens Falls Post-Star. It is available online.

GLENS FALLS -- Shawn Scott Whalen, chef-owner of Bistro Tallulah in Glens Falls until its closing last year, has died at the age of 43.

A preliminary obituary in the Post-Star newspaper said he passed away last week, but gave no cause of death. It said calling hours will be held from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. this Thursday at the Baker Funeral Home, 11 Lafayette Street, Queensbury. A memorial service will follow at 1 p.m. at the funeral home, and a graveside service will follow at Pine View Cemetery.

Whalen, a well-reviewed chef who was a native of Fort Ann, Washington County, opened Bistro Tallulah in 2007 after returning to the area from New Orleans where his house was badly damaged by Hurricane Katrina.

Since Bistro Tallulah, located at 26 Ridge Street, closed without public explanation early last year, the venue has remained vacant. A new restaurant project was announced for the spot, but later fell through, as I reported back in March. Frank Mineo, who purchased the building from Whalen, said at the time that he hoped to lease out the turnkey operation, but nothing has yet come of that.

Schenectady's Manhattan Exchange announces closing

Manhattan Exchange
SCHENECTADY -- Another Union Street restaurant bites the dust.

Owner Deb Lamalfa, owner of Manhattan Exchange, today announced on Facebook that, "After 16 years in this community, we bid you farewell." The pub, which actually has been in operation for three decades or so under Lamafa and previous owners, will close after service on Sunday.

Without supplying details, she refers to "the new entrepreneurs, we wish you all the success that we had and many years of happiness." Thus, Manhattan Exchange may not have seen its final days at 607 Union Street, near Union College.

In the past few years, a succession of restaurants have closed in that neighborhood, including Bier Abbey, Chez Nous, and Cafe Nola.

Best sandwiches in the U.S.? Here's a list, for what it's worth

This deli may be home to NY's No. 1 sandwich.
An Italian deli in Manhattan's West Village has what a new list purports to be the best sandwich in all of New York State.

Yes, another "best of" list, complete with all the usual foibles of such compilations.

This list was compiled by People magazine and The Infatuation, an online restaurant guide, to cover what they designate as the best sandwich in each state and the District of Columbia.

The methodology, according to the magazine, considered the online guide's "on-the-ground expert reviews and recommendations from writers and editors, along with independent diner feedback -- paying special attention to eateries serving regionally-inspired dishes and using locally-sourced ingredients."

The New York winner -- Faicco’s, located at 260 Bleecker Street -- has a reputation for popular takeout hero sandwiches. The one cited by the survey is The Italian, filled with prosciutto, ham, capicola, and soppressata, plus fresh mozzarella, lettuce, tomatoes, and roasted peppers.

Doesn't sound like anything unusual, and I can think of numerous places in the Capital Region that have far more imaginative sandwich offerings. Need a few examples? The vegan popcorn mushroom po boy at Berben & Wolff's in Albany; a boiled Danish ham with cucumbers, roasted peppers, and muenster cheese on marbled bread from Gershon's in Schenectady; the All American Hero, breaded chicken cutlet, slow-roasted pork and bacon topped with American cheese and roasted garlic mayo, served on a ciabatta roll, from Carluccio's Italian Deli in Troy.

Many more of the sandwiches on the list also are seemingly commonplace. Need a few examples? A fried chicken sandwich in Utah; a limburger cheese sandwich in Wisconsin; a  breaded pork sandwich in Iowa; a plain fish sandwich in Hawaii. Not that there is necessarily anything wrong with those particular sandwiches, but to declare them the best in the entire state?

Nah.

Albany's Tanpopo Ramen to debut Schenectady spot on Friday

SCHENECTADY -- It's not called Tanpopo 2.0, but it could be regarded as such.

An outpost of Tanpopo Ramen and Sake Bar, which originated in the former Miss Albany Diner in Albany's Warehouse District four years ago, will open on Friday at 1625 Union Street, a venue previously home to a Hot Harry’s burrito spot.

Owner Dave Zheng said in a Facebook announcement posted today, "We want to [say] thanks for all the royal [we assume he means loyal] Tanpopo supporters patiently waiting for us to opened up the restaurant. It’s official, we are opening the restaurant up on Friday ... ."

The menu will be the same as at the original Tanpopo -- the beer and wine license will cover sake -- but it will be served in a much larger venue compared to the original cramped diner. Zheng says it will seat about 70, plus nine more at the bar, and has a private events room.

Hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday to Thursday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday, noon to 10 p.m. Sunday. Phone: 518-347-8886.

Saturday, May 18, 2019

Saturday Special: A Long Island legend gets a facelift

The streetside approach to Claudio's in Greenport, LI. (photos provided)

The Capital Region has its "ancient" -- by American standards -- restaurants, such as Jack's Oyster House in Albany and Manory's in Troy, both founded in 1913. But, their longevity pales in comparison to that of Claudio's, established in 1870, located on the North Fork of Long Island, and authenticated by the National Restaurant Association as the oldest, same-family-run restaurant in the United States.

Well, until last March, that is. That's when the Claudio family sold the Greenport harbor establishment to a group of business partners, thus ending the family line of ownership. The original building dates to 1845, the restaurant, to 1870. And, major changes are being made.

Several years ago, co-owner Bill Claudio said the next generation of Claudios was not interested in running the restaurant, a frequent stop for visitors to North Fork wine country, so it was put up for sale at an asking price of $12 million.  He and other members of the family had taken over operation of the restaurant 27 years ago from William Claudio Sr., who had owned it since 1930. No public word has been made on what the business finally sold for.

The charming maritime restaurant was established by Manuel Claudio, a Portugese merchant sailor who gave up the whaling life to establish a presence in the fishing-and-tourist village that through the generations grew to include Claudio's Marina, Claudio's Clam Bar, Claudio's Liquors, Claudio's T-Shirts & Souvenirs, and even Crabby Jerry's, which inexplicably eschews the Claudio name. In addition to the restaurant, the clam bar -- an al fresco dining spot -- and Crabby Jerry’s -- a walk-up window spot dispensing a menu heavy on lobster-in-the-rough, salads, fish frys, sandwiches, etc. -- were part of the sale package.

On my last visit to Claudio's restaurant, I was fortunate to encounter clear skies for a nice view of Greenport Harbor, a gentle breeze, not too much of a crowd, and an exceptional bartender whose precision martinis were a perfect complement to a perfect day. To those unfortunate enough never to have visited the Claudio's complex, I urge you to put it on your list.

The Victorian bar post-Prohibition.
One side of the establishment looks out over the harbor. The "blind'' side is dominated by a Victorian-style bar salvaged in 1886 from a New York City hotel being demolished. The romantic -- in retrospect -- days of Prohibition rum-running and America's Cup sailing competition touched Greenport heavily, and there is pictorial evidence of those days all around the walls.

I still have my notes about our most recent meal there. Wonderful clams casino using tiny local Little Necks with bacon, garlic, cheese, peppers and spices. Succulent broiled fresh swordfish steak with herbed butter, and an equally succulent fresh flounder in white wine sauce. Pepper-and-herb crusted mahi-mahi. A true New York-style cheesecake. A tangy key lime pie. Good coffee, fine drinks and good service.

So, now that the new owners have 14 months of ownership under their belts and have begun implementing changes in preparation for the start of the 2019 season on Memorial Day Weekend, what can visitors expect?

The menus are in their final development stages,  but we're assured some of the Claudio's classics will remain. Such dishes as Oysters Claudio, made with local oysters, wild spinach, aged cheddar, and applewood smoked bacon; locally-sourced diver scallops, lightly caramelized and served with potato-horseradish purée; the 22-ounce, bone-in, grilled rib eye steak with a twice-baked potato and charred broccoli. The wine list, bumped up by a few dozen labels last season, is expected to grow even more this year with a lot of the prime Long Island wineries' products being included.

And, the venues themselves? Or, shall we say venue itself? The clam bar now is called Claudio's Waterfront, and with the restaurant and Crabby Jerry's is being managed as more of a cohesive unit than as three separate elements.

The new owners have done away with the banquettes in the main restaurant building's downstairs and added high-top tables to give the once-cramped bar area a more open feeling. The formerly non-descript second floor now includes a wine room with waterfront view, a lounge area, and a full-service bar. The clam bar area has been refreshed and a stage added for musical acts. Plans for outdoor seating are pending local government approval.

Given the infusion of energy from new owners, an influx of new capital, and an adherence to maintaining the balance between history and needed upgrades, it appears Claudio's is well placed for a lengthy extension of an already-lengthy lifespan.

CLAUDIO'S
CLAUDIO'S WATERFRONT
CRABBY JERRY'S
111 Main Street
Greenport, Long Island, NY
Phone: 631-477-0627
Website: claudios.com 
Hours: 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Note: Claudio's accepts reservations; Waterfront and Crabby Jerry's do not.

Schenectady's Pho Queen restaurant moving to Jay Street

SCHENECTADY -- Pho Queen is on the move. No, not to food truck status. Just a new bricks-and-mortar location.

The Southeast Asian style restaurant is closing after business hours today at 602 State Street where it has operated for three years, and plans to reopen in larger quarters at 96 Jay Street next Friday, May 4. The new location had been home to Bel Cibo: An American Bistro until it closed last November.

Pho Queen's menu specializes in Thai curries, dumplings, classic pad Thai, the title pho bowls, gluten free dishes, and offers catering services and cooking classes as well.

No mention is made of the location change on the restaurant's website or Facebook page. I presume its hours of operation at the new site will remain the same: Tuesday 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday-Friday, 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday, closed Sun day-Monday. Phone: 518-313-0993.

Friday, May 17, 2019

Opening & Closing & Developing & Etc.

• A roundup of the latest news briefs about people, places, and products on the food-and-beverage scenes in the Greater Capital Region and Western New England.

OPENING

288 Wine & Tap, with a menu strong on Mediterranean dishes and a line of chocolates from Fruition Chocolate Works of Ulster County, is in soft-opening mode at that Lark Street address in the street-level space formerly occupied by DeJohn’s Pub that has been vacant since 2014. It is owned by Ali Celik, a Realtor who owns the building and the next-door vacant building that once was the home of Legends Sports Lounge. Celik also owns Mercato’s Restaurant in Delmar. The Albany address was home to the "new wave" music venue 288 Lark in the 1970s and '80s. As Celik explains the venture, he "purchased this long-vacant landmark and historically preserved the building in 2017. The construction and renovations were completed in 2018. The end result is that 288 Lark is not quite the same as before, but hey, neither are you!"


Bonnet & Main, the latest cafe in the Northshire Bookstore in Manchester Center, VT, is expected to open for business on Monday. Owners Fiona Morton and Suzanne Fontaine have work completed on kitchen renovations, new furniture in place, floors refinished walls painted, and food delivered. The design is conducive to leisurely visits, with tables with four chairs, some long tables, a raised table, a large round table, and couches and chairs provide a variety of seating options. Local artists' work will be displayed, with the first installation from painter Shelli DuBoff. The installations will change about every six weeks. Hours: 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. Hours may be expanded during the summer months. The bookstore and cafe are located at 4869 Main Street.

DEVELOPING

The Proprietor's Lodge restaurant and wedding venue on Pontoosuc Lake in Pittsfield, MA, is finding its plans to add a covered wedding platform at the facility. Based on complaints by neighbors, the Community Development Board has deemed the owner to be in violation of his special permit agreement. Residents also presented photos of patrons parking along the residential street and in a nearby public parking lot. The board decided to halt all further permitting for the project until owner Eric Taylor can show the property is back in compliance.

Survey: Vermont restaurant visitors spend most per capita

Restaurantgoers in Vermont are always on the lookout for a bargain, but that doesn't mean they are stingy.

According to a recent survey by the software provider Womply,  consumers spend the most in Vermont, where Womply found the average ticket to be $38.22.

A few other findings in the study of 2018 transaction data at 42,223 local, non-chain restaurants across the U.S.:
• Independent restaurants do best in Rhode Island, taking in 48% more in daily revenue than the national average, with average revenue of $18,83.

• Independents in Mississippi make an average of just $708 each day, 44% less than the national average.

• On any given day, the average small restaurant made $1,272 from 45 transactions with a ticket size of $28.38.

• The busiest small restaurants, the study found, are in North Carolina, with 63 average daily transactions.

• The most profitable days for local restaurants in 2018 included the day before Mother’s Day, Mother’s Day, Cinco de Mayo, and St. Patrick’s Day.
Womply runs what it terms "the front office” -- or, the customer-facing part of the company -- for more than 150,000 small businesses in all 50 states and across 400 industry categories. Its software is powered by transaction and online review data for millions of small businesses.

Red Coach reunion set for Sunday in Queensbury

The old Red Coach signage.
QUEENSBURY -- Reunions are commonplace for school graduating classes. But, for former restaurants? No so much. However, former employees of what for decades was the Red Coach restaurant on Route 9 have organized an anniversary party to be held Sunday.

During its first 20 years in existence, beginning in May 1949, the restaurant was Alfonso’s, but for the next 30 it became an icon under the Red Coach name before it closed in 1999. The building several years later became home to a Johnny Rockets restaurant at Six Flags Great Escape Lodge & Waterpark.

All former Alfonso's and Red Coach staff are invited to the 2 to 6 p.m. Sunday event at Jack's American Bistro, 30 Upper Glen Street. A cash bar and hors d’oeuvres are planned. A $10 reservation desposit is required. For details, contact Gloria Gilman at 518-747-1251 or Dolores Balcolm at 518-792-5257.

The Post-Star, based on a history of the restaurant provided by event organizers, writes, "Alfonso’s was built of Adirondack white pine by Hugh Sullivan Builders of Lake George. Dining was elaborate at and attire was glamorous -- cocktail dresses, jewelry, the popular “little black dress,” and fur coats. Men had to have a jacket and tie (a paper jacket and a tie would be provided if you arrived without either). Diners arriving inappropriately dressed would be seated on the terrace.

"A fire occurred in 1956 during the dinner hour and forced the evacuation of about 300 diners. Although four firefighters and the owner, Chef Alfonso, were hospitalized, no one was seriously injured and the restaurant reopened in several months. Alfonso’s closed in the mid-1960s and local entrepreneur Charles R. Wood purchased the property.

"Restaurateur Carl R. DeSantis leased the building and, in May 1969, opened a Red Coach [a popular line of restaurants at the time]. For the holidays, the staff began decorating on the day after Thanksgiving, with the lobby looking like fairyland, featuring a huge flocked, white tree decorated with white lights, wooden reindeer, red bows and candy canes for the kids to take. Sugarplum wreaths, selected by Barbara DeSantis, filled the mantelpieces over the fireplace. There were four Christmas trees, one in each room, lots of flowers and many businesses and groups enjoyed holiday parties."

Chain Links: Latest news about the big names

Your connections to the latest news items affecting chains operating in the Greater Capital Region or reported to be looking into locating there.

Starbucks celebrates return of summer beverages 

McDonald’s gives franchisees option to shrink all-day breakfast offerings

Burger King parent plans 40,000 restaurants in 8–10 years

Chuck E. Cheese's sales soar ahead of merger 

IHOP, Denny's, and the changing face of family dining

Can Friendly's rediscover the magic?

Buffalo Wild Wings resurgence well under way

Taco Bell is opening a hotel this summer

'Remsen Street Spring Fest' this Saturday in Cohoes

COHOES -- The 5th annual "Remsen Street Spring Fest" is set for this Saturday on the city's main thoroughfare.

The music/food/crafts/arts festival is sponsored by Don Russell's Spindles On Remsen wine bar. Russell also created Harvest Fest and Winter Fest in the city to encourage locals and visitors to explore the downtown area.

The Spring Fest block party will run from 1 to 6 p.m. along Remsen Street between Columbia and Howard streets.

“When people get done with these events, they can visit other businesses and sit down and have some dinner and continue their afternoon into the evening in downtown Cohoes,” Russell told local media. As the free community festival’s grows each year, he hopes to expand it to include more downtown streets.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Update: Yanni's Too gets the go-ahead for new building

The current Yannis Too. (file photo)
COEYMANS -- The Town of Coeymans Planning Commission has approved by a 6-0 vote with one abstention plans to replace the current Yanni's Too seafood restaurant with a new, larger structure.

Representatives for chef Mark Yanni, who owns the restaurant with his wife, Laurie, had presented plans in March for a new 460-seat structure that would replace the current 20-year-old, 246-seat building that has been flooded several times.

Yanni’s Too is located at 16-20 Marina Drive in this Albany County town, on riverfront property owned by Carver Realty LLC. Carver Laraway, owner of the Port of Coeymans,  purchased the property last year. The restaurant project received Zoning Board of Appeals approval in March.

Yanni founded a 10-table restaurant at 131 Main Street in Ravena in 1989, then opened Yanni’s Too in 1999 and went on to make that his sole restaurant.