The SHH’s Recommendations for a Night on the Town in Albany, NY

27 Sep

The premise of this article: a friend from college reached out to me, an Albanian (the capital of New York, not south of Kosovo), for ideas/suggestions for plans if he was to meet a lady friend that he has been seeing in Albany for a night.  My social life is sniveling, but like a good friend I tried to give him a few options via email based on budget, charm and chances of getting laid; a totally ass-backwards situation considering that he was wining a dining the girls in college while I was slamming 18-packs of Budweiser and playing Mario Golf in my tiny bedroom (read: never getting laid ever).  Life is funny?

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Hotels

Hotel Albany
4o Lodge Street
Albany, NY122o7
The hotel is fairly reasonable price-wise and it’s close to the nightspots.  There are essentially two social nuclei in Albany: the Madison & Lark area and downtown.  You’ll be closer to the downtown bars, which are not really my scene (I’m pretty divey), but there a couple of them that are tolerable.  This hotel also has a bar/restaurant in it and one my favorite bars, City Beer Hall, is only about two blocks away.
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Hampton Inn & Suites
25 Chapel Street
Albany, NY 12210
The Hampton will probably cost you an extra $20 a night and it’s even closer to the downtown spots.  It all depends on where you want to go and how hammered you want to get.  Also, keep in mind that the walk home will be dark and sketchy.  Rule of thumb for Albany: the further downhill you go, the less safe it is.
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Morgan State House
393 State Street
Albany, NY 12210
If you want to impress a girl with a delightful uptown spot, this is the place.  I had a friend who worked for the State House and I can say that the rooms and atmosphere are charming.  I’m not sure what the prices are like though because he was able to stay there while working on call.  Worth a phone call.
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Din-Din
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As far as dinner, I don’t know how much you want to spend/impress the lady, so I’ll give you a few options:
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$$$ – Higher-End/Better Chance of Getting Laid Solely Based on a Meal
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Jack’s Oyster House – Oysters are an aphrodisiac, but the chances of you getting out of there with a tab under $100 are slim.  Trading blue points for blue-balls seems fair though.
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Angelo’s 677 Prime – Very expensive, but very good.  If you’re going there, ask her to wear a dress and throw on a sport coat.  And order your steak rare for Christ sake.
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Taste – Eclectic menu, nice platings.  I’ve only been there for a work function and so I’m not sure how much it would run you, but probably at least $90 if you get drinks.  There’s also a nice view of the Albany skyline.
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The Brown Derby – I haven’t been there in a long time but I remember it as being quite good.  Again, probably a bit on the expensive side, but I think that they’ve been offering deals on steaks/chops and other shit.  I would recommend cabbing it from the hotel though (whichever you choose) because Clinton Street is fucking ghet-ghet.
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Cafe Capriccio/Lombardo’s/Katrinella’s – Three different Italian restaurants that are all within two blocks of each other (two share a parking lot, haha).  If memory serves me, Lombardo’s and Katrinella’s serve your more typical Northern Italian pasta stuff where as Cafe Capriccio is more Mediterranean (I remember having a good squid with ink-sauce there).  You could technically walk to all three of these restaurants, but again, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it.  These should be more affordable in comparison to some of the above.
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Restaurants/Tavern Type Places That Shouldn’t Hinder Your Bangability
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The Merry Monk – This one is down on N. Pearl St. which has a bunch of bars around.  Some really nice mussels dishes/Belgian fare.  Huge list of bottled Belgians too.
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Albany Pump Station – A converted brewery that has a sort of gentrified “American” menu: nicer burgers, sandwiches, pastas as well as some pretty decent chicken/pork/beef plates.  They usually have 4 or so of their own beers on tap.  I suggest Evan’s Kickass Brown Ale.
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McGeary’s – Depending on what time you go this pub it can get a little crowded, but they have really good soups and crab cakes (served in sandwhich or salad form) and I’ve never really been disappointed with anything else I’ve tried.  Above average draft selection and you could always hang around at the bar afterwards.
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El Mariachi – Pretty decent Mexican food.  There are actually two locations in Albany, but one is much closer to where you would be staying.  Service is sometimes shaky.  When you order drinks say “Two Negro Modelos and an ice water,” for you that is.  They have a list of margaritas for the chica.
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If You’re Willing to Take a Hike/Cab It
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Mi Linh – A nice Vietnamese place (next to a KFC/Taco Bell).  I recommend the Bì Cuốn Chay or Măn Cua as an appetizer and the Vịt Rút Xương (crispy boneless duck) or Bò Bốn Món (4 different kinds of beef) for entrees.  For dessert, Bánh Bò; It looks like a rice cake covered in ectoplasm, but it’s tasty.  And good luck pronouncing that shit…I usually just point at the menu (copied and pasted here).
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New World Bistro – I’ve never been terribly excited by their menu, but I also never go away terribly disappointed.  The portions are sizable, especially the pasta dishes, so don’t over-order unless you’re the type that can deal with leaving leftovers behind. Women who do that drive me crazy…
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Justin’s – A quaint little jazz club with a dining room.  Sometimes the bar can get loud, so shoot for the dining room. I’ve had decent luck getting banged after dates here, but it’s dates with girls I’m already seeing…  Good cocktails, usually decent ropa vieja.
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Sukhothai – A cute step-down Thai food place on Lark Street.  The curries are good and start with one of the hot and sour soups.
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The Wine Bar and Bistro – It’s supposedly the highest rated restaurant in Albany and people rave about it.  I’ve never been there, but I know that it’s tiny, it’s sometimes difficult to park on Lark and you are unable to make reservations.  Bummer.
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Absolute Dealbreakers
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McDonald’s at the corner of Pearl and Madison – I think they used to sell crack at the drive-thru.
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Golden Fried Chicken – Right across the street from Micky D’s and them biscuits are dammmnnn good, but you better run unless you wanna get shanked.
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Shun’s Kitchen – A Chinese take-out place that offers “SUNY Specials” for $4…essentially a pound of sesame chicken and rice for an incredible price…AND free delivery, great when you’re drunk.  I’ve ordered from there twice in one night before.
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Subway (downtown) – I dare you to go in there, ask for one footlong and then have your girl put whatever she wants on one side and you on yours…it’s the scummiest of all scumbag moves.  Make sure to get her chips and a fountain drink.
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If the Night is Still “Young” (You Want to Continue Drinking)
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Again, there is the choice to make between the Madison/Lark scene and downtown.  I vote for the former, so we’ll start there
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Madison & Lark
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DeJohn’s – Not too bad, right across the street from Justin’s.  It can get stupid crowded though and it’s dark.  The last time I was in there a single mother of two named Puma tried to pick me up.  No joke.  That’s a story for another day.
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Cafe Hollywood – Typically a younger, annoying group of kids but the drinks are reasonable and there are pool tables and a back patio. You can do the cute date thing and play against one another in pool, or better yet, challenge another twosome and compliment her even if she’s doing awful.
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Bombers Burrito Bar- Always a crap-shoot.  Sometimes there’s good music on the jukebox and you can grab a stool at the bar and other times it’s as if SUNY Albany planned a field trip.  You’ll be able to tell one way or the other before the bouncer’s done checking your ID.
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Excelsior Pub – This one just opened and it’s tucked away in a restaurant called Cafe 217 about a block away from the corner of Madison & Lark (Delaware & Jefferson).  It’s a New York-themed bar so 14 NY drafts and wine.  I’m not sure if they’ve since gotten their liquor license.  This would be a nice, quiet spot to talk.  Plus, Genny on tap!
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Downtown (Probably More “You”)
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Aside from the aforementioned bar/restaurants:
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The Olde English Pub & Pantry – An English-themed bar.  Go figure.  The atmosphere is actually pretty laid back and cool.  They have Fuller’s London Pride and Old Speckled Hen on draught, two of my favorite English session beers, not to mention Samuel Smith out the bottle!
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Red Square – A bar/music venue.  There is usually a cover on weekends as bands are playing.  Check their website to see if anybody interesting is playing and weigh your options.
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Savannah’s – It’s another combined bar/music venue.  I’ve actually seen some good shows there, but I’ve only been in their two or three times at night.  Not bad.
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Victory Cafe – I’ve never actually had a bad time there, but I can’t tell you the last time I was there.  Oh, yes I can.  St. Patrick’s Day 2008…guh.
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Pearl Restaurant and Lounge – If your girl wants to dance, she can do it here.  The place freaking blows though.
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The Bayou – No.  No.  NO!  I cannot tell you how much I hate this place.  I’ve been thrown out of there over half of the times I’ve gone there.  I’ve gone there five times…do the math.  The atmosphere is shit, the service sucks and you’ll likely pay a cover for a shitty band.
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Destination Bars
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Wolff’s Biergarten – Believe it or not, Albany actually has a decent beer garden a hop, skip, jump and cab from downtown. You can play darts, eat your weight in peanuts and sausage and enjoy beers by the liter.
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City Beer Hall – As aforementioned, I’ve always enjoyed this place.  It’s within walking distance from two of the hotels, but it’s sort of off the beaten path a bit.  There’s a lot of kitsch surrounding the place because there’s a mechanical bull upstairs, but I always stay downstairs.  Staff is friendly, you get a mini-pizza ticket with every beer not unlike Crocodile Lounge in the city, the beer selection, both draught and bottle is well above average (and switched up regularly) and they have a great outdoor patio.
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I would love to recommend some of the divier spots that I frequent, but considering the objective, I will save those bars for when you visit…
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I recognize that women reading this article will likely think that I’m some sort of chauvinistic pig where, in reality, I’m just a pig that’s usually polite.  This article is intended to be read with an “in the company of men” sort of lens.  Guys: I hope you find this helpful.  Girls: Don’t date douchebags; I trust that you can sniff out a real gentleman versus some lecherous asshole.  And if the guy’s nice, milk him for a couple of nice dinners.
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Cheers, Albany!
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