Albany proper is best known as being the political center of New York State and few consider the rich culture and history that permeates every nook in the Capitol city. Part of that history is the food.
Don't be distracted by the cutesy names on the menu board: This is serious barbeque for even the most discerning eater. Oklahoma-style smoked meats reign supreme here. Don't leave without a taste of Frito chili pie.
For old-school Albany, look no further than The Barnsider. Steaks, chops, and half-chicken roasts are the hallmarks of the menu here, but many people go for the beloved salad bar with the huge wheel of aged cheddar cheese. In a time when most restaurants are eschewing the bread basket, The Barnsider makes sure you are always well carbohydrated. We presume it is to help soak up all the whiskey and red wine you will likely consume here – it's de rigur for this establishment.
If you have a hankering for steak and a few bucks burning a hole in your pocket, get thee to Angelo's 677 Prime, post haste. The swanky décor and downtown city vibe make this restaurant a top choice for business dinners and special occasions. Steak, as the name might imply, gets top-billing here, but seafood also shines on the menu. It certainly isn't cheap to eat here, but rest assured that your money is well spent.
Which is better loved and known in Albany: Café Capriccio, or its ebullient and welcoming chef, Jim Rua? Is doesn't matter, as long as the green and beans passannante never leaves the menu. When it comes to Italian cuisine, no one does it like this Albany stronghold does. It is easy to miss due to its tucked-away location just east of the Empire State Plaza, but for a true taste of Italy, go here.
Did you ever think you would see the day when Peruvian cuisine was cool? Well, it is, and no place in Albany does it as well as La Empanada Llama. For a quick lunch, pick up a few empanadas (and always say, "yes!" to the offer of green sauce) and a slice of tres leches cake.
If you feel a bit star-struck here, it isn't just you. Chef Ric Orlando is a regular face on Food Network and is a multi-time champion and competitor the show "Chopped." He is also routinely chosen as the Albany area's favorite chef, mostly thanks to a great brunch menu and items like "Purple Haze" chicken wings, jerk chicken, and blackened green beans.
Hungry for Vietnamese cuisine? Pho-get about other restaurants and head to Van's, on Central Ave. You can fill up on spring rolls and pho – the classic Vietnamese noodle soup – to your heart's content. The restaurant doesn't look like much on the outside, but like with many other eateries in the part of town, it is some of the best ethnic dining one can find in Upstate New York.
If there is one thing Albany gets right, it's classic Italian American food. At Sam's, you'll feel like you are coming over for Sunday supper at Nona's house. Try the braciole; it's one of Sam's best dishes.