Saturday, December 31, 2016

New area dining spots to look forward to -- so far


It sometimes can be a chore keeping up with the frequent openings and closings of restaurants and pubs in the Greater Capital Region and nearby western New England, especially with the proliferation of shopping strips that need some sort of food venues to spur walk-in traffic, the addition of a Schenectady casino that we know will require dining variety, etc. This list of what's in the works may be helpful as we head into the new year.

IN ALBANY

• Veteran local barman Kevin Tighe is developing Tighe's Bistro Americaine at 340  Hamilton Street. Tighe recently told me he still is working his way through both renovations and the permitting process, and hopes to open soon. The French-concept spot is located in the building previously occupied by Mezzo Marketplace and, before that, Unlimited Feast. (An aside: In yet another example of how often local restaurateurs are supportive of each other despite being competitors, Tighe posted this on Facebook just before Christmas: "Not quite ready for staffing yet at Tighe's Bistro Americain yet but New World Bistro Bar is taking job applications for line cooks. Spread the word." Classy.)

Gigi's Italian Restaurante, 1034-38 Madison Avenue, is expected to open some time this month, odd spelling and all, according to the people behind the project who also own the Madison Theatre and the Tierra Farms Roasters cafe. (Come on, folks, it has to be "restaurant" or "ristorante" unless you're creating your own language.)

Viva Cinco de Mayo, a family-owned Mexican restaurant headed up by the culinary team of Vicente and Isidra Merino that had been under development at 809 Madison Avenue since last summer, finally opened the day after Christmas in the former home of the short-lived Bread in Honey bakery.

Albany Dog House 2, an offshoot of the nearly-year-old Albany Dog House at 848 Madison Avenue, is being developed in the former Dolan's On the Avenue at 75 Central Avenue. Dog House owner Ted LeCette purchased the Dolan's property from Peter Hitchcock. The menu offers a lot of hot dogs, of course, plus burgers and "and cheese" sandwiches.

3Fish Coffee will open at 466 Madison Avenue near Washington Park early this year. The owner is Emma Fullem whose father, Robert, ran the Downtube Bicycle Shop for more than 40 years at that address until it was burned out in 2012. Renovations were made to accommodate the cafe concept that will offer coffee, baked goods and light lunch items. The name of the new business? A  mashup of inspirations that include the fact the Fullem family includes three daughters, the bicycle shop history, and feminist leader Gloria Steinem's famous comment that “A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle.”

Emmanuel Thai Restaurant has been under development at 325 Maiden Lane since last summer, and still has not announced an opening date. One assumes it soon will. Despite the name of the establishment, its menu also will include Viet, Chinese and Japanese dishes.

The Good Market, a food court concept in development on the ground floor of the iconic "Nipper building" at the foot of Northern Boulevard on Broadway in Albany's warehouse district, is set to open early this spring. The first two vendors have been announced, both of them outposts of existing businesses -- Stacks Espresso Bar, the parent spot located at 260 Lark Street in Albany, and Fin - Your Fishmonger, located in the Star Plaza at 250 Western Avenue in Guilderland.

IN SARATOGA SPRINGS

• The city will say hello some time this month to a takeout-only offshoot of a popular Ballston Spa restaurant. Augie’s Family Style To Go is under development at 223 Lake Avenue, former home of Mario's Pizzeria. Owner Augie Vitiello conceived it as a spot for ready-to-heat-and-eat meals (the sort of thing onetime local "celeb" chef Carmine Sprio tried in Latham with no success some years ago), and he'll be accepting call-in orders. Vitiello, a native of the Bronx, was a Westchester County restaurateur for 13 years before opening Augie's Family Style Italian Restaurant on Church Avenue in Ballston Spa in 2004. After a fire there in 2013, he reopened the business at its current venue, 17 Low Street.

• We're still waiting for the reopening dates for Sperry's, Hamlet & Ghost, and The Ice House after they sustained smoke and water damage in a fierce November fire that gutted neighboring Mio Posto on Putnam Street. The latter has been demolished, and owner Danny Ureschel has said he hopes to find a new location, although not necessarily in Saratoga Springs. Some of the latest announcements, via Facebook: (From Sperry's) "Our reopening date is still yet to be determined but we are trying to make it ASAP! Most circumstances are beyond our control & we are doing our best to be patient. When we finally get the go-ahead to once again open our doors, we will be hosting a Grand Reopening Event that will be open to the entire Saratoga Springs community! In an effort to give back, part of the proceeds from this evening will go back to our loving & loyal employees." (From Hamlet & Ghost) "We extend our appreciation to all who have offered a kind word, shared the news with friends and supporters, and helped us out in so many ways. It is humbling to be part of such a warm community. We will keep you posted about our re-opening." (Nothing from The Ice House. Its phone doesn't work, the listed website does not exist, and the Facebook page hasn't been updated since the fire.)

IN TROY

Donna's Italian and American Restaurant, the successor to the long-running Minnisale's Wine Cellar Cafe that closed last fall at One 14th Street just off Congress Street on the edge of the RPI campus, has been operating in soft-opening mode for two weeks, and will hold an official grand opening this month. New owners Vic Christopher and Heather LaVine (see next item as well), venturing away from their downtown lineup of businesses anchored by the Lucas Confectionary Wine Bar, have moved chef Nick Ruscitto from their Peck's Arcade venue to Donna's.

• What had long been Bradley's Tavern, and before that Dempsey's Bar & Grill, at 28 4th Street downtown, was recently purchased by local entrepreneurs Vic Christopher and Heather LaVine (see previous item). They plan to reopen it in the next few months, perhaps utilizing adjacent kitchen space that had not been in recent use.

Sunhee's Farm and Kitchen, the city's new quick-serve Korean restaurant and market, had its grand opening Friday night at 95 Ferry Street to celebrate receiving its beer-and-wine license from the state. It had been in soft opening mode for a few weeks. The name Sunhee is a mashup of the names of partners Sun Hwa and Chun Hee.

IN GUILDERLAND

• The Marrello Restaurants & Catering company is putting the finishing touches on its third Bellini's Counter concept restaurant -- pop in, order your dishes the way you want them composed, grab and go -- in its former Creo location in Stuyvesant Plaza. It already has similar venues on Route 9 in Latham and at 33 New Scotland Avenue in Albany. This one will be sharing space with one of the company's Jacob & Anthony's Italian restaurants.

• The latest Crossgates Mall food-and-drink spot will be the 10th link in the Waxy's Modern Irish Bar chain. Promotional material says the location, directly below The Funny Bone Comedy Club in the mall, will have more than 100 beers on tap and 30 TV sets turned on. A spring opening is projected.

• The area's second Sonic Drive-In (the chain's first here opened in 2016 in Latham) is being constructed in the Hudson River Commons shopping complex off Hoosick Street, just east of the Collar City Bridge.

IN LATHAM

• It's been promised for well more than a year on the company's website and on a sign in a corner of the Fresh Markets Common at the intersection of Route 9 and Route 155, but we have yet to see the first Elevation Burger from the Washington, DC-based international chain. However, recent help-wanted ads for the business give promise we'll soon see an opening-date announcement.

• I'm anxiously awaiting an opening-day announcement for the Cork N Cow, successor to The Epicurean Bistro & Wine Bar in Latham Farms. The venture is headed by Ed Inglis, owner of Sunshine Pools in Wynantskill, whose partnership Latham Farms Cork N Cow LLC has signed a 10-year lease with KIR Latham Farms, owner-operator of the shopping plaza. No word yet on what Cork N Cow will be like in terms of theme or menu, but considering the name and the fact that a liquor license application has been made, it is obvious that meat-and-drink will be involved.

IN COLONIE

BJ's Brewhouse, part of a national chain, is in the works in the former standalone Sears Auto Center building at Colonie Center.

IN HOOSICK FALLS

• The Iron Coffee Company just went into soft opening mode downtown at 9 Main Street in this historic -- and controversial because of polluted water -- Rensselaer County community. Owner Mike Milliron created the business in a new building constructed by Sequence Development on a site twice destroyed by fire, as well as a neighboring vacant lot. It is one of several new businesses that include an art gallery and an antique shop, and a wine bar is expected to open early this year. Three new restaurants also are under development. The new shop offers specialty drinks and whole bean coffees roasted on site, as well as pastries, bagels and croissants. A full breakfast and brunch menu soon will be added.

IN SCHENECTADY

• With the Rivers Casino and Resort emerging on the local scene, restaurants and a food court are on the near horizon. There, the local Mallozzi Group will debut a steakhouse, a 24-hour grill, Asian fare, a Villa Italia bakery and Johnny's To-Go modeled after its Johnny's downtown Schenectady Italian restaurant. Duke's Chophouse will offer daily casual dinner service for more than 100 guests, plus an outside seasonal patio. Four other options will reside in a food court with central seating. Mian, which also has a location at Rivers Casino in Des Plaines, IL, parent of the local casino, will offers dim sum, noodles and rice dishes. Flipt will have burgers and sandwiches, hot dogs, sides and salads 'round-the-clock. The Mallozzi Group also will cater banquets and special events in the 10,000-square-foot conference space, which can handle as many as 900 people.

Ya Ya’s House of Southern Cuisine will reopen somewhere in the city, but the precise location has yet to be announced. It's a bizarre situation. The restaurant, which opened  downtown at 170 Lafayette Street early in 2016 and quickly developed a strong following, has been told to go away by the building owner who says the restaurant cooks too much fried food and the aromas bother her. The restaurateurs emphasized on a Facebook message that they plan to stay in the city.

• The currently-closed Union Inn at 517 Union Street was recently purchased by Phil Ruggiero, owner of Nico’s Pizzeria on State Street, who plans to renovate the historic site and reopen it in May or June if the work schedule stays on target.

Marotta's Bar-Risto, located at 611 Union Street, recently was purchased by a former manager Josh Mackenberg and business partner Joseph Boudreau, who will be converting it from contemporary Italian to a steakhouse concept to be unveiled sometime this spring.

IN GLENS FALLS

• The Aviation Mall hub of local commerce appears shaky inj the food niche with numerous vacancies. The Auntie Anne's pretzel emporium just closed after a two-decade run. However, the almost abandoned food court just saw the Slice of Italy pizza shop open, joining the NY Grill which for a time had been the only place open there. No word from mall management about what's in the near future there where four of six slots are vacant.

IN VERMONT

• Deirdre Heekin and Caleb Barber, who operate the critically-praised Woodstock restaurant Osteria Pane e Salute as well as La Garagista, a biodynamic farm and winery at 1834 Mount Hunter Road in Barnard, plan to open Hart, a combination of a bar à vin-- the French term for a wine bar -- and a tavernetta -- Italian for  a very small tavern -- at the vineyard in the spring.  "It's a simple place, family-run, where you can get a good meal made from local ingredients and a local glass of wine," Heekin told Seven Days, the local arts-and-entertainment publication.

• Church Street Tavern, which has operated in downtown Burlington since 1995, will open a companion location called Tavern II at 408 Shelburne Road in South Burlington in February. That's the former location of Junior's Rustico. Stephen Parent and Scott Michaud purchased the Church Street Tavern in 2014. They say the new location will offer virtually the same menu.

One Radish Eatery just opened at 39 Esplanade in Richmond, former site of the Parkside Kitchen. It is serving breakfast and lunch Tuesdays through Sundays. It is owned by Jessica and Ryan Bunce, owners of Barrio Bakery and Pizza Barrio in Burlington.

• The Mad Taco Montpelier location (owners Joe Nagy and Wes Hamilton also have a spot in Waitsfield) will get a renovation over the next few weeks, adding communal tables, a bar with seating, and several more taps to go along with a full liquor license. That should help further overcome the venue's former life as a Subway shop.

IN THE BERKSHIRES 

• Harold Tramazzo, owner of Hangar Pub and Grill and the Wings Over franchise, plans to purchase the former Chameleons nightclub  at 1350 East Street in Pittsfield as the venue for a Berkshires location of Hangar Pub. Tramazzo owns the original Hangar in Amherst, another in Westfield, and last summer opened one in Greenfield. He also manages the Amherst Brewing Company. Hangar offers an aviation concept.
• Go here to visit the Capital Region Brew Trail
• Go here to visit Dowd On Drinks
• Go here to visit Dowd's New York Wines Notebook

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