Friday, November 16, 2018

Halfmoon commercial project would add 2 new restaurants

Blue-shaded area covers proposed commercial project site. (Google Maps)
HALFMOON -- If developer Scott Earl's plans for a Route 146 commercial project come to fruition, the town will gain at least two more restaurants.

Earl's project, which was presented to the Halfmoon Planning Board this week for the first time, is named the One-Four-Six Marketplace, a shopping complex off the northeast corner of the intersection of Route 146 and Old Route 146, opposite a Lowe's.

The total retail space would be 112,500 square feet  in a 20-acre commercially zoned complex.

The plans call for at least one full-service restaurant, a fast-food restaurant with a drive-thru area, three retail buildings, three office buildings, and a bank with a drive-thru. They would be served by a 798-space parking lot, plus green space.

Primary access is planned from Route 146. Initial plans call for modifications to Route 146 and Old Route 146 with a new road providing vehicle access into the shopping center. The north side of Route 146 would be widened to add an additional lane for westbound traffic that. A right-turn lane into the retail center would be added to Old Route 146, and a secondary entrance would be added off Cemetery Road. Such road changes will require approval by the state Department of Transportation.

No specifics are mentioned in the plans as to prospective tenants.

Zio's at the Trolley Stop to open in Troy, Schenectady

The Troy site for Zio's at the Trolley Stop. (Google.com photo)
The founder of Zio’s at the Trolley Stop, a restaurant featuring Southern Italian cuisine, has revealed the first two locations of 10 restaurants he plans to create nationwide by 2022, and two of them are in the Capital Region.

The first will be at 40 River Street at Washington Street in Troy's South Central neighborhood where work already has begun. No opening date has been announced.

The second location will be in Schenectady's Mohawk Harbor development near the Rivers Resort & Casino. It will occupy approximately 4,400 square feet of space at 2 Harbor Center, including an outdoor patio with a restored dine-in trolley. It will open early in 2019, according to the developer, The Galesi Group announced this week.

Ithaca native Joe Bennett is behind Zio's at the Trolley Stop. He has experience operating restaurants in Upstate New York, and named the restaurant for a word he grew up with from the Italian side of his family -- Zio, meaning uncle. Using his family recipes, Zio’s simple Southern Italian menu will offer homemade pasta, pizza, craft beer, and wine.

"I am impressed with all the new development happening at Mohawk Harbor and downtown Schenectady. The City is moving in a great positive direction and I just want to be a part of it,” Bennett said in a news release. Of the Zio's restaurants he said, "It’s going to be a place to come laugh, drink, and eat good quality food."

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Opening & Closing & Etc. (Vermont edition)

• The latest reports from the Greater Capital Region on restaurants and food vendor openings, closings and transitions, as well as occasional entries from Vermont, the Berkshires, and the Catskills.

OPENING

• Zach Corbin, owner of the Peter Havens Restaurant in Brattleboro, VT,  for the past six years, has opened another business next door -- PH Fine Provisions, a butcher shop-grocery run by Chris Barry, who co-owned the now-closed North End Butchers in Black Mountain Square. The remodeled space on Elliot Street had been home to Jasmine's Bakery which shared a commercial basement kitchen with Peter Havens Restaurant. Bakery owner Jasmine Bernier closed the business in April in anticipation of having a baby. PH Fine Provisions, which is selling for takeout only, offers meats, sandwiches, craft beer, wine, non-alcoholic beverages, salad and soup specials, maple syrup, and specialty items for cooking at home. By the way, Peter Havens Restaurant reopened today after a week-long vacation closing.

Hogback Snacks, a roadside eatery in northern Vermont whose owners hope to fill the local void left by seasonal spots that close during the winter, has opened in Johnson, VT, taking over the building on the outskirts of town that had been home to the Long Trail Tavern, a long-gone bar with a checkered history. The owners are Carrie Ferguson and husband Akash Parikh -- who also own the Hearth & Candle restaurant at the Smugglers' Notch Resort, and Carrie's brother Chris Ferguson and his wife, Allison Tafurui who also own the Downtown Pizzeria & Pub in Johnson. Head chef David Wilcoxen has put together a scratch menu reminiscent of summer casual fare -- fried seafood baskets, lobster rolls, oyster po'boys, jerk chicken sandwiches, cheesesteaks and the like. The casual venue also offers pinball and classic console video games such as Ms. Pac-Man and Tetris. Hogback Snacks is located at 1015 Route 15. Hours: Open Thursday through Monday for lunch and dinner. Phone: 802-730-8138.

• The Stone's Throw pizzeria has opened in Fairfax, VT, in a building formerly home to the Foothills Bakery. Silas Pollitt and Tyler Stratton, natives of the area who returned to open the business, are the co-owners. Stratton co-owned pizza restaurants in the Boston area. Pollitt worked in Austin, TX, in the Whole Foods Market chain's flagship store. Their pizza menu has quite a few departures from the norm, offering such toppings as kimchi, pork belly, and leeks; braised short rib, roasted pear, and hazelnuts; and with mixed local mushrooms, broccolini, and sage. And, of course, they offer the more traditional toppings such as cheese, pepperoni, sausage, onions, mushrooms, peppers, and the like. They also offer salads, desserts, beer, and wine. Stone's Throw is located at 1123 Main Street. Hours: Open every day but Monday, with dinner Tuesday through Friday and lunch and dinner on weekends.

• As I reported on Wednesday, Jr's Original will open at 348 Main Street in Winooski, VT, on Monday in the same building as the new Pho Dang Vietnamese Café just north of downtown. Co-owner Bogdan Andreescu said the 49-seat Italian eatery will resemble the old Junior's Italian which operated in Colchester for 25 years until closing last August, with a basic Italian-American menu, where he began working as a teenager. He also plans to revive a Junior's holiday tradition -- a free dinner on Christmas, served from noon to 3 p.m., for people in need. Jr's Original's hours: Monday through Saturday at 11 a.m. and Sunday at 4 p.m. Phone: 802-800-1513.

Chain Links: The latest news roundup of big brands

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

McDonald’s makes more healthy changes to Happy Meal

How Dunkin’ plans to beat coffee rivals on speed 

Menu Tracker: New items from Dave & Buster's, KFC, more

Wendy’s looks at getting customers to trade up 

Launching 'Burger King of Tomorrow' design nationwide 

Red Robin wants to get back to being Red Robin

Epicurean Humor

A gallery of artwork honoring those who draw conclusions. 



Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Opening & Closing & Etc.

• The latest reports from the Greater Capital Region on restaurants and food vendor openings, closings and transitions, as well as occasional entries from Vermont, the Berkshires, and the Catskills.

OPENING

Sarge's Tavern, the successor to Jody's Tavern which closed last summer when the owner retired, is scheduled to open Thursday at 42 Old Schuylerville Road in Easton, Washington County. Then, a grand opening celebration will take place on Saturday with live entertainment starting at 8 p.m. The menu offers standard tavern fare -- mostly wings, wraps, burgers, and finger foods. Hours: 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and from 11 a.m. to midnight on Fridays and Saturdays. Phone: 518-507-6150.
Jr's Original will open at 348 Main Street in Winooski, VT, on Monday in the same building as the new Pho Dang Vietnamese Café just north of downtown. Co-owner Bogdan Andreescu said the 49-seat Italian eatery will resemble the old Junior's Italian which operated in Colchester for 25 years until closing last August, with a basic Italian-American menu, where he began working as a teenager. He also plans to revive a Junior's holiday tradition -- a free dinner on Christmas, served from noon to 3 p.m., for people in need. Jr's Original's hours: Monday through Saturday at 11 a.m. and Sunday at 4 p.m. Phone: 802-800-1513.

DEVELOPING

Flatbread Social, which will focus on pizza and flatbread made in a wood-fired oven, is being developed at 84 Henry Street, Saratoga Springs, formerly home to The Merry Monk which closed at the end of last year. The owners are Ryan and Sonja McFadden, who also own Henry Street Taproom, located next door at 86 Henry St. Flatbread Social is about twice the size of the original taproom because of expanding int a former pizza shop at 88 Henry Street.The McFadden's are in the process of hiring a staff and, according to their Facebook page, are aiming for a mid-December opening.

Chain Links: The latest news roundup of big brands

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

Dairy Queen's Grill & Chill expansion heats up 

Moe's launches new design, menu inspired by 'Untamed Southwest' 

Restaurant prices are rising, traffic is declining

McDonald's launches career advising campaign for employees

Papa John’s franchisees hire specialist lawyer as pizza chain’s struggles continue

Starbucks cuts 5% of corporate workforce

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Epicurean Humor

A gallery of artwork honoring those who draw conclusions. 



Opening & Closing & Developing & Etc.

• The latest reports from the Greater Capital Region on restaurants and food vendor openings, closings and transitions, as well as occasional entries from Vermont, the Berkshires, and the Catskills.

OPENING

Sorriso Pizzeria and Bar is scheduled to open this Friday in South Burlington, VT, where Tavern II  recently closed. Amir Jusufagic, the owner of Sorriso -- Italian for "smile," has said the focus will be on many locally sourced items on the menu and on thematic nights such as “Sinatra Sunday” with old-school background music. Jusufagic and business partner Sani Pasagic recently converted the former Junior’s Downtown location on Main Street in Burlington into Piesanos, a 30-seat pizzeria. Sorisso is located at 408 Shelburne Road. Hours: 4 to 10 p.m. Monday-Friday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday-Sunday. Phone: 802-310-6866.

DEVELOPING

• And then there were three. Or, there will be when a Sonic Drive-In is built in Albany at 351 Southern Boulevard (Route 9W) opposite the New York State Thruway Authority offices. The announcement was made on the Trinity Realty Group website in conjunction with the Mount Hope Commons commercial complex it is developing there. Trinity says to "Expect a grand opening date coming this spring, and remember to save room for burgers, shakes, and more!" Others locations in the Capital Region of the Sonic chain are located on Troy Schenectady Road in Latham and in the Hudson River Commons shopping complex on Hoosick Street in Troy.

• The Van Rensselaer Square commercial complex in North Greenbush is becoming a foodie spot. The independently-owned Hanzo Japanese Steakhouse opened there last week, and Town Supervisor Lou Desso has announced that a Wendy's chain burger place will open in a new three-tenant space being developed next to the chain Chili's Grill & Bar in the plaza at Routes 4 and 43. There already is a Wendy's at 77 Vandenburgh Avenue a few minutes away opposite Hudson Valley Community College. There are more than 6,000 Wendy's locations in the U.S. and Canada, including 17 in the Greater Capital Region.

• The conversion of a former Price Chopper supermarket into a ShopRite is on target for an opening by the end of the year, according to a company official. Golub Corp. closed the Price Chopper at 351 Fairview Avenue (Route 9) in Greenport, Columbia County, on September 15. ShopRite reopened the pharmacy on October 8 while renovations are continuing on the building. ShopRite plans to move its 70 Healy Boulevard store into the larger renovated facility, according to Tom Urtz, vice president of operations.

Local baker still safe in Food Network competition

Dan Raymond
Two rounds down, five to go.

Dan Raymond, owner of Zachary's Pastry Shoppe in East Greenbush and Albany, now has survived the first two episodes of the Food Network's "Holiday Baking Championship" series.

Nine bakers and pastry chefs began the competition, but a second was eliminated on Monday's show with five more episodes to be televised. The next episode will air at 9 p.m. Monday on the cable channel.

The show is hosted by former New York Giants backup quarterback Jesse Palmer and judged by Duff Goldman, Nancy Fuller, and Lorraine Pascale. It was taped several months ago, but participants are contractually prohibited from revealing how it turns out and who wins the $25,000 prize.

Monday, November 12, 2018

Free 'Impossible Burgers' at Dave & Buster's tomorrow

If you've heard about a new plant-based item called the Impossible Burger but haven't yet tried one, you can do so tomorrow -- Tuesday, November 13 -- and do it for free.

All you have to do is visit a Dave & Buster’s restaurant where the national launch of Impossible Burgers is being celebrated with those burgers at all of its 117 locations. In the Capital Region, that means the chain's only venue, located in Guilderland's Crossgates Mall.

Dave & Buster’s customers already have purchased more than 20,000 Impossible Burgers since the burger’s limited launch last month. Its Impossible Burger sandwich includes American cheese, lettuce, tomato, onions, pickles, and garlic aioli on a brioche bun.

The Impossible Burger, in development since 2011, made its debut in July 2016 at Chef David Chang’s Momofuku Nishi in Manhattan and now is served nationwide and in several Asian regions. The plant-based burger won a 2017 Tasty Award and a 2018 Fabi Award from the National Restaurant Association.

It is made from simple ingredients, including water, wheat protein, potato protein, and coconut oil, and an ingredient called heme -- a protein found in blood that helps create the characteristic taste and aroma of meat .

Hours at the Dave & Buster's at Crossgates are 11 a.m. to midnight Sunday through Thursday and till 2 a.m. Friday and Saturday. Phone: 518-313-4500.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Albany Greek cafe taking step toward potential chain dream

ALBANY -- Last month, I reported that Anton’s Greek-American Eatery had closed, according to a voicemail greeting, for "rebranding" and menu revamping. No further information had been posted on either its Facebook page or its website.

Now, however, the Albany Student Press (ASP) provides details of what's going on.

In a feature story about former UAlbany football captain Nik Schultz, it reports on his work as the owner of Nikos Café in the school's newly renovated Campus Center.

That,  as it turns out, is just another step in the ambitious path the 2008 UA grad is taking toward his goal of owning a chain of cafes. But, like so many dreams, he began modestly.

"I opened up a Greek food trailer in 2012," Schultz told the ASP. "It was opened during the summer in downtown Albany, near the Dutch Apple and the U.S.S. Slater. It was called Aegean, based on the name of the Aegean Sea."

Then, in 2014, Schultz bought Anton’s, which he operated until its temporary closing this fall. Meanwhile, he was continuing to get his food noticed on a broader scale. Schultz was marketing  his restaurant at a golf outing at UAlbany and caught the attention of representatives of the Sodexo catering company and University Auxiliary Services. The result was an opportunity to open a cafe on campus last year, and Nikos Café was born.

Flash forward to this year. Schultz is in the process of rebranding Anton’s as Nikos Café as he works toward the creation of a Greek fast-food chain.

"I would like to see Nikos Café become a fast, casual, and healthy location in the Northeast," Schultz told the ASP. "I want fresh, tasty Greek food on the run and sandwiches made in front of you. I want to expand into SUNY universities and the Northeast. Then, I want to eventually become a Northeastern chain and then, eventually nationwide."

Overreaching?

"Don’t underestimate your dream," Schultz says. "Take the opportunity and you are going to succeed."

Anton's, or Nikos as it will become, is located at 577 New Scotland Avenue, opposite St. Peter’s Hospital. Phone: 518-453-9191.

Friday, November 9, 2018

Opening & Closing & Etc.

• The latest reports from the Greater Capital Region on restaurants and food vendor openings, closings and transitions, as well as occasional entries from Vermont, the Berkshires, and the Catskills.

OPENING

Hanzo Japanese Steakhouse opened its doors this week in the Shop-Rite Plaza at 102 Van Rensselaer Square in North Greenbush just off Route 43. Owner Mike Kwok's menu has the expected dishes but is dotted with some seemingly unusual ones like a long list of maki rolls with such names as Chex, Mean Streets of Rensselaer, Rattle Snake, Kill Bill, TNT, and Oh My Lord; newborn octopus sushi, a Titanic Boat for 2 sushi entree, and a collection of bento boxes. However, the menus shown online don't seem to offer much beyond hibachi preparations of the steaks promised in the name of the establishment. Hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Friday-Saturday, and 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday. Phone: 518-650-7212.

• The former East End Eatery has relaunched in Glens Falls as Rachel’s Café and Spice Company. The name is reflective of last spring's opening of Rachel's Spice Company by Rachel and Dave Dutra as an online store and the conversion of their 12-year-old restaurant that they had closed in February but now is back serving weekday breakfast and lunch and selling signature spices on the premises. The menu features paleo-inspired meals and some gluten-free options, ranging from a smoothie bowl to a bacon, egg and cheese sandwich. The spices are sourced from a family-owned wholesaler, according to a news release from the couple. Signature blends include "Bread Winner," "Dipping Seasoning," "Fire Salt," and "Clucky Number 18 Chicken Rub." Rachel's Cafe is located at 240 Warren Street. Hours: 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday. Phone: 518-741-6077.

DEVELOPING

• As I reported two months ago, Ted's Fish Fry is converting the former Matt's Cape House at 1663 Route 9 in Clifton  Park to become its sixth location in the Capital Region. In recent days, the local mini-chain has been mentioning the project in its TV ads and on its website, which makes a debut seem imminent, but an opening date has not yet been announced and several inquiries I've made have received no response. Current Ted's locations are at 700 Hoosick Street and 350 2nd Avenue, both in Troy; 447 3rd Avenue, Watervliet; 203 Wolf Road, Colonie, and 636 New Loudon Road (Route 9), Latham.

Region's Tops supermarkets escape bankruptcy closings

A typical Tops supermarket. (photo provided)
Shoppers and employees who have been concerned about the fate of Tops Friendly Markets stores in their areas can breath a bit easier.

The chain, headquartered in suburban Buffalo, had announced in August it would close 10 under-performing locations as part of its financial restructuring to emerge from Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. On Thursday, a U.S. Bankruptcy Court judge approved plans for a slimmed-down company that can emerge from bankruptcy relatively intact and with no more immediate closings.

"We are pleased to receive the Court’s approval of our plan and are poised to emerge from this process an even stronger and more competitive company," said Frank Curci, Tops' CEO.

The restructuring appears to be confined to closings mostly in Central New York locations and leaves stores in such other locations as Hoosick Falls and around the periphery of the Capital Region -- in Coxsackie, Schroon Lake, Northville, Warrensburg, Bolton Landing, Chestertown, and Greenville -- open.

Tops, which still has more than 150 stores in New York, Vermont, and Pennsylvania, will remain under the ownership of hedge funds and investors who held roughly $560 million in pre-bankruptcy borrowings that were secured by the company's assets. Tops' current management also will remain in place, with Curci staying on as CEO.

Guilderland, Troy posts most viewed items for October

A posting about a Guilderland seafood business's new chef and a posting about a longtime Troy restaurateur planning to buy part of a community center topped the October readership here on "Notes On Napkins."

The seafood topic concerned the venue called fin - your fishmonger (all lower case letters, thank you) and the property purchase involved Michael LoPorto of LoPorto's Ristorante Caffe and the Italian Community Center.

You can click on these links to read those stories or any other of the top 10 most-viewed postings from October:

(1.) fin’s new head chef a longtime Jack’s Oyster House staffer
(8.) Opening & Closing & Etc. (10/9 edition)
(10.) Opening & Closing & Etc. (10/18 edition)