Monday, November 25, 2013

A Hidden Treasure

With the freezing temps and snowy weather on Saturday night, Average Joe found himself wanting to stay in for dinner.  However, Average Jane was in the mood to go out.

So, we compromised and decided to go out to someplace close by, an old neighborhood favorite of ours, The Hidden Café.

The Hidden Café is located in the Delaware Plaza, tucked into the back corner in a “hidden” passageway.  The décor is, what I would call, “over-the-top Mediterranean”.  But the crowd of people, the candles and the intimate dining room make it a cozy, inviting space.  Perfect for a chilly Saturday night.

The menu features a wide array of delicious Mediterranean options.  We chose to start with some red wine and the falafel appetizer.  The falafel was brought to the table piping hot and perfectly cooked, and the hummus that accompanied it was terribly addicting, although a bit garlicky for my taste.

Our entrees, the seafood capri and the lamb kebab, didn’t disappoint. Delicious seasonings, perfectly cooked meat/seafood, and portions large enough that we had enough for lunch the next day.  What more do you need in a meal?

If you’re a fan of Mediterranean food, I would highly recommend stopping in Delaware Plaza to find the Hidden Café. It's a delight every time!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Average Joe goes to the Big Easy

With the winter weather making itself known here in the Capital Region, this Average Joe was recently in the mood for a taste of warm weather.

Unfortunately, tickets to Acapulco are a bit outside my budget. So instead, I decided to try a bit of Cajun flavor at Cafe NOLA.

NOLA is located on a little strip of eateries on lower Union Street in Schenectady. The decor fits the name: there are lots of beads, bright colors and alligator heads adorning the tables and small bar.

Speaking of the bar, it serves an array of beer and wine you aren't likely to find many other places (no liquor back there, so don't expect to order a Hurricane). That includes a huge range of Abita beer varieties and homemade sangria.

Maybe it's because we tried a few of the alcohol options, but we decided to order a handful of dishes to sample. Chicken wings "Cajun style" were impressively flavorful, and satisfyingly crispy. Alligator bites came with a remoulade sauce that was quite good, but the deep fry job left them a bit greasy for our liking.

An order of crawfish nachos, however, was a delight. In a twist from your barroom stack of Tostitos, the nachos are served with crawfish etouffee. Delicious. And given the howling arctic wind outside, orders of gumbo were as good as you're going to get short of booking a trip south.

Cafe NOLA also has Po Boys, blackened sandwiches and full-on dinner favorites like Jambalaya on the menu. If you're looking for a ray of warmth this winter, keep NOLA in mind next time you're in the Electric City.

Friday, November 8, 2013

You can dress Average Joe up, but can you take him out?

By now, you’ve noticed that I try to find the best deal in town without sacrificing taste. “Baller
on a budget” if you will. But every once in awhile, you have to throw on that clip on tie, and enjoy some of our area’s finest dining. And that’s why I found myself at Albany’s best, 677 Prime for lunch recently.

First, here’s a free lesson. If you want to try a place, but don’t want to match their dinner prices, go there for lunch. The lunch menu often carries similar items, at a lesser cost.

I’ve heard a lot about 677. Apparently it’s the place to be seen in the Capital Region. I was more concerned with seeing the food, and I was not disappointed. I started with the soup special of tomato and basil. Considering my previous tomato soup experiences were from Campbell's, I was quite satisfied. For my meal, I knew I had to involve steak, as that is what 677 is known for. I went with the Open Faced Steak Sandwich, appropriate for lunch while fulfilling my desire.

I was very pleased with my visit to 677, but I know this isn’t exactly a place I will be making a regular appearance. Until I hit Mega Millions this weekend!

Monday, November 4, 2013

Showtime at Johnny's

Not too long ago I was heading to the infamous Proctors Theater for a show, and came across the newest addition to State Street Schenectady, Johnny’s Restaurant. If you are looking for a nice Italian dinner, before your performance, Johnny’s is the place to go.

Not only is the location very convenient, but Johnny’s does old school Italian, like Mom makes it, large portions with that tomato sauce that hits the spot. Not only was the food tasty, with a wide variety of options, but also the service was wonderful. I had told the waitress we were going to see a show at Proctors, so she was courteous enough to make sure our food was prepared quickly and served in time for us to get to our seats promptly.  Surprisingly, I was also seated immediately without a reservation, more brownie points!

Johnny’s meals are also very reasonably priced, for being one of the more upscale restaurants on State Street. Don’t let Johnny’s elegant interior fool you though, the restaurant still has a very casual dining atmosphere, with many people who just come to drink at their bar.  The Mallozzi family did not disappoint. So next time you find yourself at Proctors or in the downtown Schenectady neighborhood, stop into Johnny’s, your inner Italian will thank you.