DIG IN! – Ah, comfort food — the bear hug of the culinary world, providing support and consolation to diners, particularly when words are insufficient.
Had a bad day? Feeling under the weather? Seasonal depression? We’ve all been there.
So when hunger strikes, classic comfort food might be just what the doctor ordered. To aid in your quest for carbs, here’s a list of 518 spots that, well … hit the spot.
1. Dave’s Gourmet Burgers, Schenectady
Dave’s reminds me of the movie “27 Dresses,” but make it burgers. With 27 burgers on the “Gourmet Burger” list alone (yes, you read that right), Dave’s is a must-try in the Capital Region. I mean, where else can you order chicken masala or a mozzarella cheesestick burger?
2. Wizard Burger, Albany
Look, I consider anyone who can turn a turnip into a juicy beef-like patty a wizard, so Albany’s Wizard Burger gets my business when I’m feeling green (plant-based). With cool branding and a brick-and-mortar location in the heart of downtown Albany, practice some sorcery and grab a preshow bite en route to the Palace or Empire Live. Rocking out requires proper (plant-based) sustenance, after all.
3. Druthers Brewing Co., Albany, Clifton Park, Saratoga Springs, Schenectady
Specifically, the Peanut Butter Burger. Peanut butter on a burger? Yasss! This combination is bun in a million, but only featured on the menu every few cycles — so when you see it, get it. Is it on the menu now? I’m not sure, so apologies in advance for the tease, but please put this bite on your burger radar (yes, that’s a thing).
MEXICAN (especially tacos)
1. La Mexicana Restaurant and Grocery, Schenectady
If you’re craving a taste of Mexico, this place will hit the spot when you’re in Schenectady. Alongside the La Mexicana Grocery — carrying ingredients from South and Central America — the chef-owners use family recipes to offer the savory flavors of Jalisco in Central Mexico to foodies in the 518.
2. Oaxaquena Triqui, Albany
The most authentic Mexican restaurant in Albany. Everything is made from scratch in a small kitchen. I had my first taste of Oxaquena Triqui at WMHT’s July block party, celebrating the release of “The Great American Recipe” (thank you!), and I haven’t stopped thinking about it since. At the party we enjoyed live music, film screenings and free catered food from a selection of amazing local food spots, including Oaxaquena.
1. DeFazio’s, Troy
Pizza royalty, Defazio’s is a “not-to-miss” Capital Region shop. Beware: It’s no secret their pie has the sauce, so calling in an order is a feat in itself. Pro tip: Order early and/or at an off-peak time. Breakfast pizza, anyone? Come for the pizza, stay for the Italian Hangover Cake: homemade cake with Disaronno, Gran Marnier, vodka and orange juice.
2. Marino’s Pizza & Restaurant, Schenectady (aka Marino’s Flying Pizza)
There’s just no way Marino’s doesn’t make the cut. A craving for a Marino’s pie is ingrained in any native Schenectadian’s DNA; having your first slice is a right of passage and saucy initiation to the Electric City. Also, keep an eye on the open kitchen, as “flying” isn’t in the name for nothing.
3. Union Pizza, Schenectady
They say you always compare all pizza to your first slice, and that’s Union Pizza for me. I’ve been going to UP since the days when one would buy two slices and a can of soda for $3. While inflation has changed lots, their recipe hasn’t, and I find Union Pizza to be an all-time favorite.
4. Perreca’s tomato pie, Schenectady
While technically not the typical pizza you see in a shop, Perreca’s tomato pie is NOT to be missed. A tomato pie is a cheese-less pizza, here served with a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese, and it just hits different. Pro tip: Order a tray to bring to your next office luncheon or family reunion — it’s guaranteed to be a cut above the rest.
5. Ralph’s Tavern, Albany
An Albany classic, the real star of Ralph’s is the pizza — specifically, the pizza with curly pepperoni.
6. Kay’s Pizza, West Sand Lake (seasonal)
Katie Alois is a native Schenectadian and a freshly squeezed graduate of the Newhouse School at Syracuse University, where she earned a master’s degree in communications and journalism innovation.
A 518 foodie at heart, she served as the Yelp Albany Community Ambassador in the “Before Times” (i.e. the COVID-19 pandemic) and continues to keep her finger on the pulse when it comes to the sights, sounds, bites and flavors of the 518.
Katie currently resides in the Electric City, and when she’s not tasting her way through the Capital Region, she loves hiking in the ADK, indulging her love for seeing new places, and spending as much time as she can with her personal “auntourage” — her three young nieces.