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.