$29 and Under: Wolf’s 1-11 pairs fun and games with delightful food

Wolf’s 1-11 Restaurant & Games is ginormous. Or so my companion Melissa would say. What used to be O

Wolf’s 1-11 Restaurant & Games

WHERE: 111 Wolf Road, Colonie.

WHEN: Open Monday to Thursday 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m., Friday and Saturday 11:30 a.m. to 12 a.m., Sunday 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Late-night menu available.

HOW MUCH: $27.52, before tip.

MORE INFO: Phone 275-0561, www.wolfs111.com Reservations accepted. Credit cards: MasterCard, Visa, American Express, Discover. Large parking lot in rear. Fully wheelchair-accessible.

Wolf’s 1-11 Restaurant & Games is ginormous. Or so my companion Melissa would say. What used to be Old Chicago Pizza & Pasta of the inappropriate and unhealthy (and ultimately unsustainable) 12-ounce pasta side is now part giant restaurant, part enormous arcade. And the food is good, too.

More specifically, the front of the building is given over to a cavernous dining room, a generous bar area with its own tables and booths, and a large banquet room. The rear of the building is part game room, part carnival, where you can shoot Skee Ball, baskets, bad guys or safari animals, the last two on video screens, thankfully.

This was Melissa’s second visit to Wolf’s 1-11. The first time was a Saturday night when she declined the 45-minute to one-hour wait. But she wanted to come back, in part because it’s lively on weekend nights and because she thinks the pricing is “more competitive” than nearby chain restaurants. We managed to try a few of the more popular menu items and keep the bill under budget.

Owner Mike Diraddo set his prices a bit lower than other restaurants nearby. A former part owner of Jillian’s, he opened this independent restaurant in November and has been happy with business. “We sell a lot of steaks and ribs on the weekend.”

Prepared companion

Melissa proved an outstanding companion. “I checked out the menu on the Web site, and to keep the bill under $29 one of us can have a sandwich, the other a burger, and we can split an order of wings,” she said as we sat down in a roomy booth. Burgers and wings are a staple at 1-11, she assured me. There is a variety of steaks at very reasonable prices, starting at $13.99 for a 10-ounce top sirloin including salad, potato or rice and vegetable. They also offer fish, chicken and pasta entrees.

What isn’t cheap here, or anywhere anymore, are the casual menu items. Burgers and sandwiches are approaching $10 at most places I visit lately. And wings, once a barroom giveaway, are out of sight. To keep to the budget, we drank water.

We got a seat in a comfortably padded vinyl booth along the back wall of the restaurant and were promptly greeted and given menus. There were a half-dozen occupied tables, but the room still felt empty. Melissa’s research saved us time, and we put in our orders without much delay.

After a reasonably short wait, our cheerful and competent server brought out a large white platter with 10 neatly stacked wings, and generous piles of sliced carrot and celery, with a plastic cup of blue cheese dressing in the center of the plate (10 wings for $8.49).

Yum. Excellent, juicy wings cooked just right. “These truly are medium,” Melissa said of the wings, and I agreed. Your lips felt some heat, but it wasn’t unpleasant. The wings are nicely seasoned with something Diraddo declined to divulge.

The wings were only a little crispy, which disappointed me only a little bit, but I learned something important later. “You can order them crispy or extra-crispy. People do all the time,” Diraddo told me, and I will certainly do so.

Praise for the fries

Our server kept the water glasses topped up and cleared the table before she brought out our meals. My hamburger ($7.99) was delicious, and I can’t say enough good things about their french fries. These are honest fries that can stand on their own without seasoning or coatings: plain sliced potatoes with skin, sturdy and expertly cooked. They were hot out of the fry vat and seasoned with lots of salt. Again, yum.

Wolf’s 1-11 gets points for toasting the bun and remembering to hold the onion but, more importantly, for cooking the meat as requested. The burger had a nice-tasting char, and I liked the bit of black pepper I came across now and again. I stopped eating when I got full, and left some burger and fries behind.

Melissa was equally pleased with her Pilgrim panini, a grilled sandwich of smoked turkey, stuffing, melted Gouda, and cranberry mayonnaise ($8.99). She would have liked more cranberry in the mayo, she said, but proclaimed the sandwich excellent, and ate one enormous half. She too approved highly of the fries.

Our server walked by the table several times while we were eating, and glanced over without interrupting us, having assured herself that everything was fine. She was nearby, but not distracting. She brought the check and Melissa’s leftovers, and ran my credit card and returned it promptly.

The bill came to $27.52 before tip. We passed a pleasant evening at Wolf’s 1-11 restaurant, and I highly recommend it for its casual food, value and good service. The kitchen stays open for a light menu until late, if you’re a night owl. Enjoy, and don’t forget to order the wings extra crispy.

Categories: Food, Life and Arts

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