Saturday, December 15, 2018

Opening & Closing & Etc. (New England edition)

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


• The former Shiro Restaurant in Great Barrington, MA, has re-opened as Shiro Kitchen & Asian Market. Most of the former restaurant now is an Asian market, offering ethnic foods as well as beer, wine, and Asian-themed cocktails. The owners are the married couple Harry Yu and Wei Wei Shi, who operated Shiro Restaurant for 18 years. In addition to the restaurant and store, they plan to offer Asian cooking classes. Shiro Kitchen & Asian Market is located at 105 Stockbridge Road. Phone: 413-528-1898.

Taco Gordo, which began as a food cart, has opened as a bricks-and-mortar establishment in Burlington, VT's Old North End. Chef-owner Charlie Sizemore is starting the new enterprise slowly, offering just four types of tacos -- carnitas (slow-roasted pork), tinga (chicken braised in house adobo), Al Pastor (spit-roasted pork), and The Bean ("grandma's recipe"). However, he plans to continually increase the size of the menu although maintaining tacos as the center of it, and in warm weather will add outdoor seating and a Slushee machine for drinks. Taco Gordo is located at 208 North Winooski Avenue. Phone: 802-540-0770.


Roots Rising, which has been a program of the nonprofit Alchemy Initiative in Pittsfield, MA, has announced it is becoming a standalone nonprofit as the lead organization in a merger with Alchemy. Roots Rising was created in 2017 as a farm-based youth development program focused on providing meaningful work to Pittsfield teens. It hires 36 youths each year to work in three seasonal crews on farms and in food pantries throughout the region. Since debuting in  2009, Alchemy Initiative has used food as the foundation for creative community building. Its two primary programs have been the Downtown Pittsfield Farmers Market and Roots Rising. Under the new arrangement, Roots Rising will offer two new crews -- Market Crew, which will transform the Downtown Pittsfield Farmers Market into the first teen-run farmers’ market in the region, and Truck Crew, in which youth will run a nonprofit food truck, learning entrepreneurial and culinary skills while expanding the community’s access to healthy food.

New restaurants part of Albany revitalization project

ALBANY -- The city's downtown may see the emergence of several new restaurants along with renovated residential, artistic, commercial, and parking facilities as part of a nearly $80 million investment announced Friday.

Redburn Development Partners, which has offices in Troy, Schenectady, and Morristown, NJ, is planning to transform seven properties at a cost of at least $78 million for work on more than 450,000 square feet of space.

The properties include:
Steuben Athletic Club, 1 Steuben Place at North Pearl -- The building that originated as Albany's first YMCA generations ago, and in more recent times housed several short-lived restaurant and lounge attrempts, will be converted to a mixed-use facility featuring a restaurant, entertainment venue, commercial and residential space.

• The Kenmore Hotel, 74 North Pearl Street at Columbia-- The vacant 105,000-square-foot building constructed in 1878 by the son of a man who had been a slave in the household of political giant Stephen Van Rensselaer III, housed the storied hotel , which included a  nightclub and restaurant, until the mid 1980s. Plans call for it to become a mix of restaurant, retail, residential, commercial, and rooftop event space.

The Knick, 16 Sheridan Avenue --  The onetime home of the old Knickerbocker News newspaper before it moved to Colonie with its sister publication the Times Union, would be renovated to become home for commercial space plus 133 apartments intended for tenants with annual income of $40,000 or less.

Capital Repertory Theatre and Garage, 111 North Pearl Street -- Plans call for creation of a center courtyard with new restaurant/retail/commercial space, and refurbishing the parking garage, including the facade and the iconic spiral.

39 Columbia Street -- - New incubator space would be created on the ground level, with artist studio work space and residential housing on the upper floors.

Kennedy Garage, 43 Columbia Street -- The 68,000 square-foot parking structure built in the 1930s woiuld be refurbished, and new housing created on the top floor.

55 Columbia Street -- Renovation of a nearly 4,500 square-foot two-story building would complement development efforts along Columbia Street.
The overall project is contained within an area that is part of the Downtown Albany Historic District. In September, the city was selected as the Capital Region winner for the third round of the Downtown Revitalization Initiative (DRI). These buildings are located within the Clinton Square neighborhood, Albany’s DRI zone, and will contribute significant private sector investment through the restoration of highly visible and iconic structures. The transformation of these buildings, combined with projects selected to utilize the $10 million DRI award, is intended to create a hub that connects downtown and the city’s Warehouse District.

Friday, December 14, 2018

Opening & Closing & Etc.

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


Urban Roots, located in the 46 Marion Avenue shopping plaza in Saratoga Springs, celebrated its grand opening this week after about six weeks in soft opening mode.The juice, smoothie and avocado bar is owned and operated by business partners Brandon Acres and Allen Caruso. They offer a variety of cold-pressed juices, smoothies, açai bowls, and avocado toasts on a menu focusing on locally sourced, fair trade, and organic ingredients. In keeping with the trends, Urban Roots has vegan, vegetarian, paleo, and keto diet options. The partners say they hope to open additional locations.

Sweet Bacon Therapy has opened in a shared storefront inside The Healing Meals at 113 Everett Road in Albany. Owner Brian Fitzgerald has been developing the baking business through local farmers markets and brewery events. He sells bacon-centric baked good -- cakes, muffins, cookies, "pizzas," blondies, brownies, etc., at the venue as well as online. Hours are noon to 8 p.m. Monday-Friday, noon to 4 p.m. Saturday, closed Sunday.


The Whistling Kettle is working on its third location, on Schenectady's Jay Street pedestrian mall, with a spring opening targeted. The tea retailer and tea-themed restaurant will open at 138-142 Jay Street. The company already has locations in Troy and Ballston Spa, as well as a wholesale/online office in Troy. Owners Kevin and Meahgan Borowsky selected the Schenectady site that is a single building with three storefronts, but needs extensive renovations before it can become a restaurant. City approval will be needed for the plans, and a portion of the project cost will be covered by a grant from the Metroplex development agency.


• The Harvest Brewing nanobrewery in Bennington, VT, will reopen from 5 to 11 p.m. this Saturday after being closed for 3 1/2 months to undergo a facelift. The three-year-old South Street facility will unveil multiple house-brewed beers on tap, new menu items, and live music. The former rear storage area has been transformed into a new brewing space with four 30-gallon barrels that can ferment up to four beers at a time, and brew one barrel of beer at a time: i.e., the facility has expanded from brewing one keg a week to brewing approximately eight kegs every two to three weeks. Owner Sean Dunleavy also plans to offer variety of vegetarian bar foods, including habanero macaroni and cheese, lentil chili, and nachos.

Albany's iconic Lombardo's heading for final day

The main dining room in Lombardo's. (photo provided)
ALBANY -- The city is losing one of its dining icons and oldest restaurants.

Lombardo’s Restaurant, which has served Italian and Italian-American food since 1919, will close after service on New Year's Eve, according to a report in the Times Union today quoting an employee. No mention of the closing has been made on its website or Facebook page.

The restaurant and its old-fashioned tile and wood decor that helped lend a 1930s ambiance to the premises, was founded by the Lombardo family until retirement in 1991. Since then, it has been owned by the Mancino family -- Paul and son Anthony; matriarch Rose-Marie Mancino died in 2017 --  who have had it up for sale since 2010.

Lombardo's, located at 119-121 Madison Avenue, will remain open on its normal schedule until December 31: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday to Friday, 3 to 9 p.m. Saturday, closed Sunday as well as Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Phone: 518-462-9180.

Bakin' with bacon keeps on growing locally

Some bacon-centric baked goods. (photos provided)
Lots of people love bacon. Lots of eateries offer bacon-related specials. Not so many people make an entire business of their love for the salty treats. Brian Fitzgerald does.

The general public can experience his shared obsession on Saturday when his Sweet Bacon Therapy creations will be made available at Burger 21 from noon to 5 p.m. at the chain's 622 Loudon Road (Route 9) venue in Latham, and at Unified Beerworks, 7 Stonebreak Road in Malta, during the same hours.

Fitzgerald notes, "I've been a bacon lover my entire life who also happens to have a sweet tooth. For years I've been coming up with different recipes of baked goods and handing them out to family and friends, especially around the holidays. People encouraged me to pursue this as a business."

He finally did last May, debuting Sweet Bacon Therapy creations at the Crossings Farmers Market in Colonie, then expanding to the Jay Street Market in Schenectady as well as several brewery events. He recently opened a shared storefront inside The Healing Meals at 113 Everett Road in Albany where he is the baker/proprietor.

Sweet Bacon Therapy offers such things as a bacon-caramel-pretzel or bacon s'mores pizzas, bacon donut muffins, bacon chocolate chip and bacon white chocolate chip cookies, and bacon chocolate chip brownies, among other items.

Hours at the Everett Road location are noon to 8 p.m. Monday-Friday, noon to 4 p.m. Saturday, closed Sunday.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Epicurean Humor

A gallery of artwork honoring those who draw conclusions.

Opening & Closing & Etc. (Vermont edition )

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


Stone's Throw Pizza has opened in Fairfax in the onetime location of a general store. The owners are Fairfax natives Tyler Stratton and Silas Pollitt, who describe their venture as a localvore restaurant. In addition to the usual pizza combinations, they offer their own twists such as "The Farmer" (house-made white sauce, braised short ribs, toasted hazelnuts) and "The Harvester" (white sauce, roasted squash, dried cherries, ricotta). Pollitt's resume includes studying at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY.  Stratton worked in pizzerias during college and went on to own two Boston pizza shops. Stone's Throw is located at 1123 Main Street. Hours: Tuesday-Thursday, 3 to 9 p.m. Friday 3-10 p.m. Saturday noon to 10 p.m. Sunday noon to 9 p.m. Closed Monday. hone: 802-849-7088.

• Maya's Kitchen is scheduled to open in early January at 1130 North Avenue in Burlington, VT. It will succeed the Nepali Kitchen and Bar, just purchased by its head chef, Maya Gurung-Subba, from Jeetan Khadka. The reworked venue will continue serving dishes based on the cuisine of the Himalayan nation of Nepal. Khadka plans to concentrate on his original Nepali Kitchen in Essex, VT. Gurung-Subba is a graduate of the Community Kitchen Academy, a program of the Vermont Foodbank. She has worked at Khadka's Burlington restaurant since he opened it with his uncle in June of this year.


• The landmark Essex Grill at Five Corners in Essex Junction, VT, will be closed as of Sunday to make way for a new venture. Courtney Roman, who has owned the business since 2010,  plans to demolish the restaurant and, over a period of four months or so, replace it with a larger, modern restaurant. In a recent interview with the Free Press earlier this month, Roman said, “We have been fighting with this building for so many years. It’s done us well, but we’re excited to come up with something new and improved.” The village planning commission recently voted unanimously to approve Roman’s plans, which include four single-bedroom apartments on the second floor. The new design shifts the grill’s deck closer to Main Street and replaces the front parking lot with landscaping and trees.

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 in the area:

CA man wanted a 1-cent Whopper, BK charged him $1,100

McDonald’s to reduce antibiotics usage in beef 

Taco Bell rebrands dollar menu as Cravings Value Menu

Papa John’s rolls out new rewards program 

Chain restaurants serve more calories than fast-food spots worldwide

What's next for Dave & Buster's food program?

Wendy's makes 'major advancement' in beef sourcing

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Opening & Closing & Etc.

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


Lindsey's Country Store and Sweet Shop will close following the holiday season, ending three decades of operation on Halfmoon Parkway in Clifton Park. Owner Dianne Lindsey Curwick said in a Facebook announcement that the store will operate in normal hours through Christmas Eve, then reopen on December 27 to liquidate remaining inventory. through January 9. According to the company history on its website, the family purchased what became Lindsey's Orchard and Farm in 1971. The farm stand that grew into the current store opened in October 1988. The orchard closed earlier this year.


• The Chatwal Lodge, a $100 million, 26-acre resort with food by renowned Paris chef Alain Ducasse, is in development in the Catskills town of Bethel, home of the original Woodstock music and drugs festival. Sant Singh Chatwal, the Indian-American chairman of the Dream Hotel Group which has several Manhattan hotels, says it will open in 2020. The hope is that Ducasse's participation in creating the menus will make Chatwal Lodge a culinary destination spot. Plans call for 34 luxury villas and a total of 50 rooms, with the first 25 rooms expected to be completed by second half of next year and the remainder being built on a schedule dependent on the success of the initial phase. Lodging rates will range from $500 to $5,000 per night.  

• Last year I reported on the Chalmers Mills project in Amsterdam, a mixed-use complex that would include Montgomery County's largest banquet facility with a river view. An update provided this week by one of the development partners, DEW Ventures, shows several changes to the original plan. Examples: A rooftop deck will be installed on the commercial building that will house the restaurant and banquet hall facility; the total number of apartment units has been decreased from 130 to 120, and the number of “market-rate” units increased from 26 to 31. Go here for details.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

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 in the area:

Taco Bell, KFC and Pizza Hut outline strategic initiatives

IHOP launches line of pancake-inspired merchandise

Pizza Hut makes one of its biggest acquisitions ever

BK Whoppers only 1 cent when you order at McDonald's

Moe's testing Impossible Foods' meatless offering

Blaze Fast-Fire'd Pizza partners with (RED) in support of World AIDS Day

Epicurean Humor

A gallery of artwork honoring those who draw conclusions.

Popup 'upscale' places may make you a guinea pig

Fool me once ... and, they did. (Dunkin' screenshot)
The newest fad in marketing apparently is pulling the wool over consumers' eyes.

The Payless chain of shoe stores recently got a lot of media attention by setting up a phony upscale boutique stocked with its products but making trend-setters and social media hotshots think they were invited to visit a glitzy spot. The aforesaid hotshots fell for it and swooned all over the Intergoogle about the wonderful footwear.

The latest company to try this sleight of hand is Dunkin'. Remember them from when they called themselves Dunkin' Donuts? Well, what they did was a takeoff on the Payless model.

The quick-service chain decided to masquerade as S!P, supposedly an independent cafe in Portland, ME, a city that prides itself on its vibrant foodie scene. Local foodies were interviewed on camera and praised everything about the experience before being told what they were consuming was Dunkin' coffee.

Click here to see how the experiment played out.

Friendly's in news again, this time for its real estate deals

Last week, Friendly's unexpectedly shut down six restaurants in four states, including locations in East Greenbush and Bennington, VT. Now, the chain is in the news again for a major corporate development.

Sun Capital Partners, the Florida-based private equity firm that owns Friendly's restaurant business, has spent $12.2 million over the past few months buying back a dozen Friendly's restaurant locations across Massachusetts, according to the Springfield Republican newspaper. Plus, the company purchased the real estate that is home to the East Greenbush closed location and the Clifton Park restaurant location.

However, the company has remained mum as to what, if anything, the purchases mean for the future troubled Friendly's brand throughout the dwindling chain.

Friendly's is down to 224 locations, about 125 of them franchises and the rest corporately owned. Sun Capital also owns other restaurant chains, including Johnny Rockets and Smokey Bones, as well as some regional chains in Seattle and a string of Mongolian restaurants in, Nebraska, Kansas and South Dakota.

While Sun Capital owns the restaurants, Friendly's sold its retail ice cream and manufacturing business to Dean Foods Company of Dallas, TX, in 2016.

Monday, December 10, 2018

Sonic Drive-In chain sale finalized at $2.3 billion

The Capital Region's third Sonic Drive-In location is under development in Clifton Park, but the restaurant chain is making much bigger news -- being acquired by Inspire Brands Inc. in a $2.3 billion deal just finalized.

Inspire also owns the Arby's, Buffalo Wild Wings, and Rusty Taco brands. The acquisition of Sonic Corp. lifts its annual sales to more than $12 billion, the company said.

Sonic, headquartered in Oklahoma City, OK, has more than 3,600 drive-in restaurants in 45 states and reports about $4.4 billion in annual system-wide sales, making it the largest brand in Inspire’s portfolio. Arby's has more than 3,400 quick-service restaurants, Buffalo Wild Wings more than 1,250 casual-dining units, and Rusty Taco just 26.
Sonic entered the Capital Region in early 2014 when it opened in Latham on a Troy-Schenectady Road (Route 7) site at Wade Road that had long been home to the King's Buffet. Three years later, it opened a site in the Hudson River Commons shopping center on Troy's Hoosick Street. Last May, it was announced a third Sonic would be built at the Town Plaza on Route 146 in Clifton Park.

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 in the area:

Papa John’s rolls out new rewards program

Menu Tracker: New items from Subway, Applebee’s, etc.

Fast-food predictions for a crazy 2019 

Starbucks will block explicit content on in-store wi-fi

Friendly's introduces 5 new entrees for holidays

Cracker Barrel searches for the right balance