Friday, June 20, 2014

Mexican Radio: Out of Tune?

Not sure if it was first day jitters or a lack of preparation, but my introduction to Schenectady's Mexican Radio wasn't a experience I'd like to repeat. Going to a restaurant on its opening day can be both exciting and dreadful for any restaurant-goer.

I know the opportunities and pitfalls opening day presents to staff, but something just didn't feel right on my Mexican Radio experience this past weekend. Let's go to the tape for further review:

Ambiance:  The Schenectady location, which is downtown on State Street, right across from the Bowtie movie theater, seemed massive, not comparable with the stalwarts of El Loco and El Mariachi in Albany. This made it feel less intimate for Mrs. Average Joe and I. While normally I don't put too much weight on this, it did contribute to our overall experience.

Staffing: We sat for 20 minutes without a single server coming over to check-in on us. This is no bueno, especially on opening night. What's more, we had to go to the bar repeatedly to ask for our drink orders and for water refills. I don't like having to play waiter for my own dining experience. Again, no bueno.

Food: For myself, I love chorizo and all of its glory and so I just had to have the Cajun Burrito. Crumbled chorizo and shrimp are a slam dunk for me. While it tasted good, the price tag of $20 for a burrito left me lighter in the wallet. I'm not adverse to paying top money for a meal from time to time, but paying $20 for a burrito is up there. Lesson learned.

Mrs. Average Joe ordered the enchiladas with green tomatillo sauce. The waitstaff got the order wrong and the meal had to be sent back. This was definitely a miscommunication from the waitress, who seemed overwhelmed and confused on her first day. The manager informed us that the meal would be taken off the bill, which we didn't ask for but was a great gesture. However, when the bill came to us, the item still remained, leading us to rehash the conversation again.

Overall, I will go back to Schenectady's Mexican Radio as I don't want to be a curmudgeon and make light of a great opportunity coming to our region. I'm hoping these opening jitters won't be a long-term trend 

While Mexican Radio is another option for Mexican fare, I wouldn't be sweating bullets if i was El Loco or El Mariachi.

Friday, May 2, 2014

A Deli Fit for NYC, Right Here in the 518

I want to tell you about a little slice of unique culture that you're not going to find too many places north of The Bronx.

Gershon's Deli on Upper Union St. in Schenectady (1600 Union St., to be exact) has a rich, half-century-plus history for a good reason. From meats to cheeses to sandwiches to soups to salads, slaws and desserts, this is a true deli in every sense, right down to the metal counter.

On my latest visit here, I decided to forego the tongue and instead grad a hot pastrami sandwich (on rye of course).

You couldn't do much better than this work of art. The pastrami is both of the highest quality and piled high, the bread is sliced just right and the sandwich even comes with a pickle you'd actually want to eat. Not too bad for $8.25.

If pastrami's not your thing, there's an incredible variety on the menu, as outlined above. You can check all the options out at, but I'd recommend going over the options as you stand at the counter. You'll be glad you did, because it'll be worth the trip.

Monday, April 14, 2014

The Kettle Is Hot In Troy

The Ballston Spa-based Whistling Kettle opened up its second location here in Troy on Broadway, and over the weekend I finally had the opportunity to nibble at some crepes with a taste of tea. I drink my tea black by the way, like my coffee, no honey. I always find it more satisfying to get the full flavor and essence. 

It was very busy that day, so service seemed a little backed up, it's a popular new place so I can understand. Once I got the tea and my ham and swiss maple panini, I was all set. I would recommend you take your time and choose your tea wisely, think about it, there's a lot to choose from. 

On the food side you will see the menu has crepes, paninis, salads, sandwiches, and, of course, tea. I also hear they offer a special gluten-free menu. 

Be sure to grab a sample of your favorite tea on your way out, and keep the kettle whistling at home. 

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Something Different in the CR

With the snow gone (for now), and the temperatures finally more reasonable, Average Joe has decided to venture outside for a culinary adventure. The other night Joe found himself at one of his beloved local haunts, the Capital City Gastropub.

It is easy to see why the Gastropub is one of Joe’s favorite spots. It offers quality food in a fun atmosphere andthe recently renovated restaurant feels much bigger, with a  more modern, relaxed environment to cater to the area’s young professionals.

The menu is relatively small but every dish Joe has had there has been delicious (he is particularly fond of pork meatballs with salsa verde and polenta). The bar also features a wide array of craft beers -  many of which are made in upstate New York - and the bartenders know how to make a mean cocktail.

One of the things Joe loves about the Gastropub is the creativity on display, the chefs here are certainly not afraid to express themselves with out of the box thinking. The menu changes frequently and the new dishes often feature fun and unique twists that one does not see in many restaurants around the CR (Still trying to get this off the ground).

With a new season upon us (hopefully), Joe suggests trying something new and there is no better place to do it than the Capital City Gastropub. 

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Something fishy comes in above average

This installment of the adventures of Average Joe takes our hero to a land of chopsticks, soy sauce, miso and seaweed.

Yes, you guessed it: Schenectady. Well, Niskayuna technically. That's where Joe often ends up when a hankering for sushi strikes. Because Upper Union Street is the domain of Mr. Wasabi.

There is a surprisingly ample selection of sushi joints in the CR. (remember the OC? I think new branding is how we make the Capital Region hip again. Let's get on this, people of the CR.) For me, Mr. Wasabi hits near, or perhaps at, the top of this list.

First off, the menu is solid. Not so big as to be overwhelming, but long enough to accommodate all tastes, from California Roll (OC Roll?) lovers to sashimi snobs.

I like to get a simple sushi dinner oftentimes. Nothing crazy, just chef's choice of sushi with soup or salad. But the fish is always quality -- tasty and fresh. Equally satisfying is ordering up a few rolls to split up. Wasabi's "signature rolls" can get wild, with tempura, Sriracha and interesting wraps getting into the mix. It can be a nice departure.

Mr. Wasabi also carries a full range of Japanese dishes -- teriyaki, katsu, tempura, udon... but if you come for the sushi, that's what you'll stay for.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Oh, Illium

Average Joe has been more or less out of commission for a few weeks, battling a cold that is oh-so-cold in its ability to stick around.

What better way to banish the sickness than a hot, satisfying breakfast? That was the idea for hitting up Illium Cafe, in Monument Square in Troy, but when this Joe awoke from a deep coma and rolled over to look at the alarm clock, thoughts of home fries and omelets were banished.

Luckily, Illium serves up a great lunch menu in addition to its breakfast fare. Instead of selecting a hearty sandwich, I chose a pear salad for this trip ($9.25). This turned out to be a great decision. Candied macadamia nuts were a great compliment to Roquefort cheese, the name of which made me feel contentedly classy.

My companion chose a quesadilla that was loaded with scallops, roasted red peppers and more fancy cheese ($11.50). I lied about feeling much better as I stabbed a chunk with my fork, and the result was good enough to make me feel guilty about playing the role of Patient Zero on our lunch date.

Illium serves up creative foods made with great ingredients, at a price that satisfies as much as the eats. They're closed down for the holidays, but will open back up January 2.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Average Joe vs. The "Big Ass Burger"

A few weeks back I found myself in downtown Albany looking for a good bite to eat, and wanted something different than the usual options that you find around Pearl Street and Broadway, so I decided to try this little place called McGeary’s Pub in 4 Clinton Square. The place is tiny, but it has a good laid-back atmosphere and the staff was extremely nice. I was glad that the dining area was in the back of the restaurant, separate from the bar, so the noise was dulled and created a classy restaurant ambiance.

I saw something that caught my eye on the menu titled “Big Ass Burger” it was apparently a double decker burger that the waitress described as “incredibly huge” and a classic at McGeary’s. Based on her reaction I knew I had to try this burger, or at least see how big it is. With surprisingly fast service on a Friday night, the burger came out quickly, and by the looks of it I immediately understood where the name “Big Ass Burger” came from. The burger was so huge the cook provided me with a steak knife to cut it into sections in order to eat it.  The burger, living up to its name was also very satisfying, and probably the juiciest burger I have ever eaten. The best part about the “Big Ass Burger” is that you can add as many toppings to it as you would like, but I recommend you do it cautiously since the burger is so gigantic you will most likely be bringing half of it home with you.

Since it is a pub atmosphere their specialty is bar food, but I did also try some of my friends fried chicken dinner, which was also exceptionally delicious. If you are feeling in a daring mood to take on the “Big Ass Burger” or just want a casual dinner with a few friends at a reasonable price you should definitely stop by McGeary’s Pub the next time you visit downtown Albany.