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Chez Mike

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Chez Mike is located inside a strip mall at 596 Columbia Turnpike in East Greenbush. The decor is made up of warm tones that create an inviting feel, complementing an open floor plan.

Brian and I did our round robin of where to go next for dinner, and Chez Mike was it. Reservations recommended for a Saturday night. When we arrived, we were greeted and sat immediately. Our server came over moments later for our drink orders. After delivering our drinks, she noticed we were still looking over the menu and gave us the appropriate amount of time before checking in to take our meal orders.

Before moving on to the food, I really do need to stress the attentiveness of the service. Not once did we sit waiting for something to be refilled. Nor did we feel rushed. Our server was pleasant, funny, conversational and all around amazing. It was a fantastic experience based off that alone.

Now on to the food! Brian ordered the Pineapple Glazed Baby Back Ribs that came with a Brown Butter Sweet Potato Mash and Chipotle Cole Slaw. I ordered the Lamb Feta Burger (cooked medium) that came with Carmelized Onions and a Roasted Red Pepper Aioli. I substituted the Rosemary Fries for Sweet Potato Mash.

The theme of the food was "SO CLOSE!." Everything was just SO close to being perfect. Brian's ribs were cooke perfectly, falling off the bone, but they lacked flavor in the meat (versus the glaze on top). The sweet potato mash, while cooked well, had too much brown butter which made the side dish very heavy. The cole slaw was perfectly fresh, but there was no chipotle flavor to be found. I also think there was a touch too much mayo. It was a borderline heavy side dish, but still very good.

My burger was similarly so close to perfect. The ciabatta was perfectly soft and fresh. The lamb was juicy, perfectly cooked, and practically fell apart in my mouth. What lacked, surprisingly, was the flavor. With all the condiiments that were on it, I couldn't taste the feta, nor could I taste the distinct sweetness of a roasted red pepper. It was a wonderful vehicle that just didn't realize it's full potential. I ended up putting Brian's cole slaw on my sandwich in order to add some complexity in flavor.

Chez Mike definitely earns a 4 fork rating. The food has amazing potential, and the service is second to none. We'd be interested in visiting again, and exploring more of their offerings.

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Lamb Feta Burger w/ Sweet Potato Mash Baby Back Ribs w/ Sweet Potato Mash & Cole Slaw

4fork

cost20-25
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Betty Boop's Diner

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Betty Boop's Diner is located at 115 Philip Street in Downtown Albany. The space is quaint, small, and warm. Of course it's also decorated with many things Betty Boop.

Brian and I ventured for breakfast. We weren't feeling the greatest, and hoped a quick and tasty breakfast would do the trick. Unfortunately, instead of quick and tasty, we received slow and mediocre.

Upon entering, a waitress called out from the kitchen to tell us to sit anywhere we liked. After being greeted, and receiving our drinks and menus, it's like our server forgot we were there. We were sitting with our menus closed, waiting to order food for at least ten minutes. Meanwhile, the waitress was serving other tables, returning to the kitchen, and performing other duties while passing us by. She even passed by and looked at our closed menus on her way through. Even some communication of "I'll be right back" would have been nice.

When we finally ordered, Brian and I both ordered the French Toast. In addition, I asked for a side of their homemade Corned Beef Hash. Food was actually out relatively promptly, and we dug in.

The French Toast was a total fail. I can't believe how foreign a concept good French Toast is. The bread was so barely dipped in the batter that it makes me ask the question 'why bother dipping it at all?' In fact, why even have French Toast on the menu? The inside was completely dry as it was untouched by the batter. The only thing that brought flavor to the dish was the cold butter I melted between the bread, the syrup, and the torrent of powdered cinnamon and sugar they douse on top.

By contrast, the Homemade Corned Beef Hash had wonderful flavor. If I was feeling better, I'd have finished the entire side order. There was a nice crunch, and lots of corned beef. I liked that the potatoes were rustically different sized. I could see herbs in the mixture, and while the onion flavor was strong it wasn't too overpowering. A great dish.

Sadly, one good side dish does not warrant a repeat visit to Betty Boop's. After we finished our meals, placing napkins over our plates to indicate we were done, we were again ignored by our waitress. In fact, we hadn't seen her since she dropped off our food. There was no "how is everything." There was no refilling of drinks (I'd have loved a second glass of water). Nothing. It's not as if she was nowhere to be found. She was everywhere. Repeatedly passing by our table. She even dropped off a check at a neighboring table, then went to clean another table next to ours! All done without even looking in our direction.

Finally, Brian asked if we could have our check. She barely even spared us a look when she said "Sure." She was too busy wiping down a table I guess.

Betty Boop gets a 2 fork rating. It would be a 1 fork if not for the tasty hash, but make no mistake, the customer service in that establishment is so deplorable that it's not even worth visiting for the hash unless you pick up an order to go.

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French Toast Homemade Corned Beef Hash

2forktst

cost5-15
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Yangs Asian Bistro

 

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Yang's Asian Bistro took the place of Shanghai Grill in Newton Plaza in Latham.  We gave them a few months to work out the kinks before we went to review them.  Apparently, they needed a bit more time.

This is a unique one for me.  I'm reviewing Yangs even though I never actually ate any of the food there.  We were sat as soon as we walked in.  After about 5 minutes our server came and took our drink orders.  A few minutes after that, another lady came over and offered to take drink orders.  Not a great first sign.  When our drinks were delivered, we ordered.  We each ordered a few rolls and we had decided to split a spicy tuna pizza.

From their menu:  pizza

Sounds great right?  Fast forward about 20 minutes, and it finally comes out.  It has raw red onions all over as well as crispy fried onions on top.  I am not a fan of onions and was not a fan of them being a surprise ingredient.  We called the waiter over and explained that onions were not listed on the menu and I would no longer like the dish.  He said that the chefs each make dishes in different ways, and hinted that I should have said I didn't want onions on it.  He took it back, and said they would make us one without onions  "It will be out in about 3 minutes".

About a half hour later I can see our sushi rolls and our replacement pizza on the sushi bar but our waiter is too busy to bring them over.  He cleared and re-set a table (with no one waiting), and walked past the food about a dozen times, but never stopped to look twice at it.  He never came back to our table.  After staring at our food for 15 minutes and watching other tables get up to refill their own water, we were done waiting.  I threw a few bucks on the table to cover our drinks and walked out, I don't think they even noticed.

We sat in the restaurant for well over an hour and we were still waiting for the first bite of the food we ordered.  Their food could be amazing, but we will never know.  Our whole experience was just awful.  Don't waste your time.  Yoshi Sushi is just 100 yards away, Sushi X another block past that and Philly Bar and Grill just around the corner if you aren't set on sushi.  I only wish I had a rating lower than 1 Fork that I could give them.

 

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Tuna Pizza

1fork

cost15-20
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Philly Bar & Grill

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Philly Bar & Grill is located at 622 Watervliet Shaker Road in Latham. It shares a parking lot with an Inn, so don't be confused when you pull in and see signs for both. You're at the right place.

When you pull up to Philly's you're going to be tempted to judge a book by its cover (especially on ... say ... Friday nights). Don't! It would be a HUGE mistake, and I'll tell you the story of why.

Brian and I had started out this night at a different restaurant (Yang's Asian Bistro - review coming soon). After some of the worst service I've seen since the Wine Bar on Lark, we ditched plan A and racked our brains for a plan B. Philly's was not at the top of our list. It wasn't even close. But Brian remembered a recommendation from a friend and we figured "why not?"

Philly's is a straight up, no frills bar. As we're walking in (to be greeted by the bouncer and some of the loudest music I've heard outside of SPAC), I gave Brian a look as if to say "really?" The bouncer took one look at us (it was more likely the expression my face had contorted into), smiled, and asked us if we were looking for a table. We nodded, and not only did he escort us to the seating area, but his quick witted one liner as he sent us on our way was light hearted and set the tone for what would be a very pleasant evening. The bouncer also told us he'd let the waitress know we were there.

We were barely seated for 30 seconds before our waitress came over, introduced herself and took our drink order. She was pleasant, attentive, and even made recommendations.

As Brian and I looked over the menu, the front was typical bar food. The back of the menu, however, drew our eye. Famous Cheesesteaks! You remember the last place that claimed that, right? Well, I'm here to tell you that Philly's actually delivers on that claim, and then some!!!

Brian ordered a Create Your Own Chicken Philly Cheesesteak (which I admit to silently mocking him for) with Cheese Sauce. I ordered a Create Your Own Beef Philly Cheesesteak with Black Olives, Ranch, Sauteed Onions, and Provolone. On our waitress's recommendation, we ordered a basket of Loaded Fries (Cheese Sauce, Ranch, and Bacon) to share.

Our food was prompt, hot, and most of all FRESH! Brian's chicken philly had the most amazing flavor (that'll teach me to mock his choices...maybe).  It was also tender, juicy and perfectly cooked. This chicken fell apart in your mouth. My beef philly was incredibly moist, tender, and juicy. It, too, fell apart in my mouth. The flavor of my cheesesteak was milder than Brian's, but that's a small critique for what was a fantastic sandwhich. Plus, I'm pretty sure I have an alien addiction to salt ....  Oh, and the bread! Toasty on the outside; hot, soft, and fresh on the inside. Perfection!

The fries were even perfectly seasoned. They had a slight kick to them that just sent everything over the top. They were crispy on the outside, and soft on the inside. The ranch, cheese sauce, and bacon were equally perfect.

There was only one real problem we had with Philly's, but it's just the nature of the bar beast I guess. The live band noise level was insane. We could barely hear two words from each other, or our waitress. Even when the band took a break, the open layout of Philly's carried voices throughout the establishment which didn't help lower the noise factor.

Philly's gets a well deserved, well earned 4 fork rating from us. It also gets a "you MUST have their cheesesteaks NOW" recommendation as well. Really. Call in an order for pickup. You will NOT regret it!

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Chicken Philly Beef Philly
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Loaded Fries

4fork

cost5-15
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Oliver's Cafe

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I had heard mixed reviews (though most of them positive) about Oliver's Cafe in Schenectady/Scotia, so we ventured out to give them a try.

Oliver's is a smaller place with about a dozen bar seats and around 9 tables.  It can get pretty busy so there may be a bit of a wait.  We lucked out on our timing, and there were only a few people there when we arrived (but packed as we left)

We were greeted and sat immediately, and given a sheet with the day's specials along with the days waffles (they had their own page).  I opted for the Cinnabun waffle, while Josie ordered the Cornbread french toast - both dishes were specials for the day.

The cinnabun waffle was just as sweet as it sounds, but I was in the mood for sweet.  It had a very strong cinnamon flavor with an icing that you would expect on a proper cinnamon bun.  It had Whipped cream on top, and exactly three walnuts.  The waffle tasted a bit eggy, which was strange because eggs aren't normally in a waffle batter (although they can be in some recipes).  I wasn't the biggest fan of the waffle itself, but all the flavors and sugar on top of it definitely made up for it.  I could have also used a few more walnuts - or leave them off completely - putting three on just looks stingy.

Josie ordered the cornbread french toast which came with bacon and a side of hash browns, she opted to add sausage gravy to her potatoes based on our waitress's recommendation.  She enjoyed her meal, her biggest complaint is that the syrup and the sausage gravy mixed, and the flavors didn't pair well.  Ideally, she would like them on separate plates.  Her potatoes were cooked perfectly, nice and soft but still brown and crispy on the outside.  They did however lack seasoning.  If not for the gravy on it, they would have been tasteless.  The cornbread was soft and still moist with a bit of sweetness to it.  She would order the dish again.

Service was friendly, our waitress offered suggestions, and was always ready for a refill of coffee (which comes in a nice big mug).  If we are in the area again, we'd definitely stop by for breakfast.  Their constantly updating specials keep it interesting.

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Cinnabun Waffle Cornbread French Toast

4fork

cost5-15
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