Dig In! – Local TV, sports personalities’ go-to places for burgers, pizza, Mexican and more, others, too

El Charro Mexican Grill, Jumpin' Jacks Drive-In, Manhattan Exchange, Russo's Grill and Hamlet and Ghost
PHOTOGRAPHER:
El Charro Mexican Grill, Jumpin' Jacks Drive-In, Manhattan Exchange, Russo's Grill and Hamlet and Ghost

DIG IN! – Local TV, sports personalities’ go-to places for burgers, pizza, Mexican and more, others, too

Burgers

JULIE CHAPMAN, SPECTRUM MORNING ANCHOR: Illusive Restaurant at 3 Ferry St. in Rensselaer. There is this burger called “The Pub Crawler” and it is awesome. It has gooey, saucy bacon, Swiss cheese and spicy horseradish sauce. SOOO good and filling!

MICHAEL CINQUANTI, MAYOR OF AMSTERDAM: There are lots of places that serve a great burger in the Capital District, but only one that serves a Russo Burger and that’s Russo’s Restaurant, the 102 year-old Amsterdam institution. I believe they mix ground beef with their homemade sausage, grill it to perfection and serve it on their delicious homemade bread. It is unbelievably good!

BECKY DANIELS, DIRECTOR OF COMMUNITY IMPACT AT CAP COM: My favorite place for a burger is Backstage Pub. Everything on the menu there is comfort food with just a little elevated twist — and the burgers are always done to perfection.

CHET DAVIS, CBS6 MORNING ANCHOR: This is a tough one because there are some fantastic burger joints in the Capital Region, but I have to go with my go-to spot: Manhattan Exchange. I’ve tried every burger on the menu and it’s impossible to rank them. They’re all great. Also, the Campus Fries are an absolute must for an appetizer.

DIANE DONATO, WGY NEWS ANCHOR: Five Guys has been getting our burger business. The burgers are good, but I think it’s the fries that make it our go-to.

TODD GAROFANO, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF DISCOVER SCHENECTADY: It has to be Jumpin’ Jacks in Scotia. I crave their cheeseburgers (with a little raw onion and a dab of ketchup) all winter long until they open in the spring.

JIM JABIR, SIENA WOMEN’S BASKETBALL COACH: I like Druthers for burgers. They are interesting in that there is a lot going on with them. Not just a burger on bread.

KEVIN JOHNSON, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF PALACE PERFORMING ARTS CENTER: Wellington’s inside the Renaissance Albany Hotel. The Capital Burger with the pork belly and egg is easy to enjoy, with excellent service.

MARISA JACQUES, SPECTRUM NEWS ANCHOR: Jack’s Drive-In in Troy. When you’re born and raised in Troy, those are your favorite burgers, period. Also, they’re a little smaller, so you feel a little less guilty.

LOUISE KERR, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF SARATOGA ARTS: When it comes to burgers, I think Hamlet & Ghost is hard to beat. It’s always cooked perfectly to order and then topped with a soft fried egg. Oh, and the duck-fat fries! They make a great drink with smoky mescal and lemon that is also delicious.

DWAYNE KILLINGS, UALBANY MEN’S BASKETBALL COACH: Home. I love a good turkey burger and my wife has the perfect recipe.

CHRIS KOETZLE, GLENVILLE SUPERVISOR: Maxon’s. Their French Onion Burger is awesome. They top it with caramelized onions and melted Swiss cheese, but it’s the homemade au jus on the side for dunking that makes it.

PETE MacARTHUR, ADIRONDACK THUNDER COACH: I would have to say Ravenswood. Hometown pub, you can always count on consistency here.

CARMEN MACIARIELLO, SIENA MEN’S BASKETBALL COACH: Shake Shack — simple and satisfying. Perfect amount of grease and burger, and can go bunless.

KATIE MARCELLA, UNION WOMEN’S BASKETBALL COACH: Burger 21. They have a wide selection of burgers and typically a burger special. Their food truck also hits local breweries.

ASHLEY MILLER, WNYT WEEKEND SPORTS ANCHOR: Tipsy Moose (Latham, Troy, Albany). You can’t beat the array of heart-clogging, mouthwatering toppings that you can put on these burgers. I’m partial to the black-and-blue burger, but they’re all delicious.

STEADY MOONO, PRESIDENT, SUNY SCHENECTADY COUNTY COMMUNITY COLLEGE: Druthers in Schenectady. I love the variety of their sauces and natural flavors of their burgers.

JEFF MORAD, WEQX PROGRAM DIRECTOR: Slidin’ Dirty is hands down my favorite spot for unique and delicious burgers. Oftentimes they will close down 1st Street in Troy and put some live music outside. It doesn’t get any better than a bacon-blue smash burger and funky tunes.

COLLEEN MULLEN, UALBANY WOMEN’S BASKETBALL COACH: O’Slattery’s in Delmar. Amazing local Irish pub. The burgers are served on my personal favorite, a pretzel bun. (Oh, and don’t forget to add their famous sweet potato fries.)

CHRISTOPHER MURPHY, UNION COLLEGE MEN’S BASKETBALL COACH: Jumpin’ Jacks. I’m not a big burger guy, but they’re great in the summer.

SHAUN NEELY, NISKAYUNA HIGH SCHOOL WRESTLING COACH: Five Guys. Top-notch burgers. Homemade fries and milkshakes. And it’s close to home.

CHRIS ONORATO, WNYT MORNING SHOW CO-ANCHOR/PODCAST HOST: Bentley’s Tavern in Malta. Classic burger in a true neighborhood joint. Add some stoner sauce for the win.

RJ PINGITORE, BROADALBIN-PERTH BASEBALL COACH: Russo’s Grill in Amsterdam. It’s always been a go-to place for food after a Friday night home game. Must try their Russo Burger, which is one of their signature options on the menu.

ADAM SHINDER, DEPUTY DIRECTOR OF CONTENT FOR THE GAZETTE: Maybe I’m biased because I live within literal walking distance and it was my first meal when I moved to Schenectady, but it’s Druthers. The Druthers Burger itself is always consistent, and I’m a huge fan of places that vary their menu on a regular basis. Always something new to be surprised by.

JESSICA SIMS, 518 BITES & SIGHTS: I’m going to have to say Druthers for not only how delicious they are, but because of the fixin’ options. Plus, with all their locations, you can get them pretty much anywhere you’re going locally.

NATASHA VAUGHN-HOLDRIDGE, DAILY GAZETTE REPORTER: It’s only seasonal, but Jumpin’ Jacks has the best burgers. They have a big menu, but their Jack Burger is the reason to go. It’s hot, fast and delicious.

Mexican

JULIE CHAPMAN, SPECTRUM MORNING ANCHOR: La Fiesta at 1610 Central Ave. in Albany. The meat seasoning is spicy without being salty. The salsa and guacamole sides are always so fresh and light on the cilantro, but super flavorful.

MICHAEL CINQUANTI, MAYOR OF AMSTERDAM: I’m partial to fish tacos and I’ve never had any better than those served at Mundo’s Cafe on Forest Avenue in Amsterdam.

BECKY DANIELS, DIRECTOR OF COMMUNITY IMPACT AT CAP COM: I love being able to get a few different kinds of tacos at once and my favorite place for that is TORO. And their take-home taco bar is absolutely amazing for get-togethers at home.

CHET DAVIS, CBS6 MORNING ANCHOR: It’s concerning how often my wife and I order from El Charro Mexican Grill in Latham. Their street tacos, held together by the superior corn tortillas, are exploding with flavor.

DIANE DONATO, WGY NEWS ANCHOR: The last time I had really great Mexican food at a local restaurant was Casa Real and I am overdue to get back there. I loved everything about the place. Tacos are something I usually make at home and I use a recipe that can’t be beat. Search for “Embarrassingly Easy Salsa Chicken.” It’s a crockpot recipe using chicken thighs, salsa and maybe a couple of spices. Try it out. You will be thanking me for life for the suggestion.

TODD GAROFANO, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF DISCOVER SCHENECTADY: Mexican Radio in Schenectady. Great variety of tacos with fresh ingredients, tasty shells and all the sauce and heat you can handle.

JIM JABIR, SIENA WOMEN’S BASKETBALL COACH: My favorite place for tacos is TORO Cantina on Wolf Road. The tacos are fresh and tasty with a wide selection, and I don’t feel full when I’m done. It’s also a nice atmosphere with good drinks.

MARISA JACQUES, SPECTRUM NEWS ANCHOR: Since my house isn’t an acceptable answer, I’m going to say Pancho’s in Troy. Good, straightforward taco. They don’t try to “do too much” and reinvent the taco. Also, they hold the cilantro for me; to me, cilantro tastes like something really bad happened to my food.

KEVIN JOHNSON, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF PALACE PERFORMING ARTS CENTER: TORO makes the best tacos and they have the freshest ingredients.

DWAYNE KILLINGS, UALBANY MEN’S BASKETBALL COACH: Viva Cinco De Mayo on Madison Avenue. It is our family favorite for Taco Tuesday. My wife found this hidden gem and it’s right by the house. They make authentic tacos and homemade nachos; if you haven’t been, I suggest you stop by. Kids Tristan and Alecia love the chicken nachos.

CHRIS KOETZLE, GLENVILLE SUPERVISOR: Cantina. Their ingredients are fresh and delicious.

PETE MacARTHUR, ADIRONDACK THUNDER COACH: Cantina on Broadway in Saratoga. Awesome food and a great vibe in the place as well.

CARMEN MACIARIELLO, SIENA MEN’S BASKETBALL COACH: TORO Cantina. Great atmosphere and the best margaritas to wash down those tacos.

KATIE MARCELLA, UNION WOMEN’S BASKETBALL COACH: Cantina in Saratoga. Great atmosphere and great food. When the weather is nice, being able to sit outside and enjoy a taco and some chips and salsa — nothing better.

ASHLEY MILLER, WNYT WEEKEND SPORTS ANCHOR: El Charro Mexican Grill (Latham). This place in the Peter Harris Plaza in Latham is a staple for my family. They have the most authentic Mexican food around and that includes the tacos. I’m a huge fan of the fresh jalapeños.

JEFF MORAD, WEQX PROGRAM DIRECTOR: Our favorite spot for tacos is Salsa Latina on Central Avenue. When we used to live in the Pine Hills neighborhood we would bike there for all-you-can-eat tacos and then hope that our bikes would get stolen because we were too full to bike home. After all, it is on Central Ave! This low-key spot has super friendly service and, did I mention an all-you-can-eat taco bar?

COLLEEN MULLEN, UALBANY WOMEN’S BASKETBALL COACH: TORO on Wolf Road. Great atmosphere and unique options. What’s a taco without great guacamole and tasty margaritas?

CHRISTOPHER MURPHY, UNION COLLEGE MEN’S BASKETBALL COACH: El Charro. The food tastes great, not only the tacos but the fajitas, too.

SHAUN NEELY, NISKAYUNA HIGH SCHOOL WRESTLING COACH: El Charro. Fresh nachos and salsa to start you off. Reasonable prices, delicious and authentic Mexican food.

HOLLI NIRSBERGER, SHENENDEHOWA GIRLS’ SOCCER COACH: By far, the best taco and all-around Mexican is Cantina in Saratoga Springs.

CHRIS ONORATO, WNYT MORNING SHOW CO-ANCHOR/PODCAST HOST: El Loco in Albany/Tatu in Troy. Two local businesses I learned about during the height of the pandemic. Great people behind some really good eats.

RJ PINGITORE, BROADALBIN-PERTH BASEBALL COACH: Taquero in Saratoga Springs. They have a wide variety of options, and their staff and service are great.

ADAM SHINDER, DEPUTY DIRECTOR OF CONTENT FOR THE GAZETTE: TORO Cantina on Wolf Road is a big winner here, specifically their lamb barbacoa tacos, which instantly took a spot right near the top of my all-time taco power rankings. If the birria beef tacos are available, they’re a hit, too.

JESSICA SIMS, 518 BITES & SIGHTS: This was tough and made me realize I don’t order tacos that often when I’m out. I really enjoy The Daisy’s vibe, and their fresh ingredients make the whole experience. Don’t forget to pair it with a margarita.

More: Dig In! Special Section – Eat up at these delicious local favorites

Pizza

JULIE CHAPMAN, SPECTRUM MORNING ANCHOR: De Fazio’s Pizza at 266 4th St. in Troy. The owner, Rocco, is so friendly, and he makes a cheese pizza with extra sauce, crushed red pepper and onions that is to die for. I just love the crispy crust as well.

MICHAEL CINQUANTI, MAYOR OF AMSTERDAM: A pizzeria doesn’t survive 75 years unless they make a unique and delicious pizza, and Amsterdam’s Bottisti family on Van Derveer Street does exactly that.

BECKY DANIELS, DIRECTOR OF COMMUNITY IMPACT AT CAP COM: My favorite pizza place will always be Marino’s in Schenectady. I’ve been going there since I was a kid and always loved watching them toss the pizzas. The crust is always perfect.

CHET DAVIS, CBS6 MORNING ANCHOR: Based on the answers, you’ve likely deduced that I live in the Niskayuna area because I’m going with the crew at Uncle Rico’s. Half Buffalo chicken, half barbecue chicken with blue cheese. You’re welcome.

DIANE DONATO, WGY NEWS ANCHOR: It’s impossible to pick one since we are blessed with so many great places. Ruggiero’s would be my sentimental favorite because everything they do is great and for years we have had them cater family gatherings like my son’s graduation party. My family also loves Slice in Glenville, Marcella’s in Glenville and Pizza Works in Burnt Hills. Obviously we eat too much pizza.

TODD GAROFANO, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF DISCOVER SCHENECTADY: I’m a sucker for wood-fired pizza, so Annabel’s in Schenectady is one of my favorites. The charred crust is amazing and the varieties are great. When I’m in the mood for something more traditional, it has to be Johnny’s Signature Pie at Johnny’s in Schenectady, and then there’s the tomato pie at Civitello’s in Schenectady.

JIM JABIR, SIENA WOMEN’S BASKETBALL COACH: Paesan’s Pizza on Loudon Road is my favorite, and that is saying a lot because I grew up in Brooklyn and pizza is my favorite food. It’s the most Brooklyn-like pizza I can find in Albany. They have the right balance of cheese, sauce and dough. Dough is critically important. It can’t be thick and chewy.

MARISA JACQUES, SPECTRUM NEWS ANCHOR: Red Front. A Troy staple that now has other locations. Really good pizza and you have to try the COB.

KEVIN JOHNSON, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF PALACE PERFORMING ARTS CENTER: De Fazio’s in Troy is hands down the best pizza in the area. It’s the best-tasting and most consistent. You always know what you are getting when you place your order.

DWAYNE KILLINGS, UALBANY MEN’S BASKETBALL COACH: Paesan’s is a family favorite. The crust, cheese and — most important — the service is great every time we stop in.

CHRIS KOETZLE, GLENVILLE SUPERVISOR: TJs Flightline Pub. Their B52 Pizza is the best, with the chicken and peppers on it. Always perfectly done.

PETE MacARTHUR, ADIRONDACK THUNDER COACH: So many good spots. But I have to go with Venezia Pizza & Pasta in Clifton Park. Dynamite wings, too.

CARMEN MACIARIELLO, SIENA MEN’S BASKETBALL COACH: Clifton Park Pizza. A staple growing up — and if you go on a Friday night, you may run into our athletic director. Good sauce, crust and flavor. The wings and spuds are a must as well.

KATIE MARCELLA, UNION WOMEN’S BASKETBALL COACH: This one is tough, but I have to go with Paesan’s Pizza. I have been going there since I was in high school with my friends. My favorite slice is the Buffalo chicken or a margherita.

ASHLEY MILLER, WNYT WEEKEND SPORTS ANCHOR: Red Front Restaurant (Troy). There is nothing as unique as the COB. Sauce on top of cheese. And the sauce is sweet, literally. Unlike anything else you’ll get in the Capital Region.

More: Dig In! Special Section – Eat up at these delicious local favorites

STEADY MOONO, PRESIDENT OF SUNY SCHENECTADY COUNTY COMMUNITY COLLEGE: Pizza King in Schenectady. They have different combinations. The Philly Cheese is a terrific pie.

COLLEEN MULLEN, UALBANY WOMEN’S BASKETBALL COACH: Bellini’s in Slingerlands. I love the brick-oven pepperoni and margherita. The Prodotto salad is the perfect starter.

CHRISTOPHER MURPHY, UNION COLLEGE MEN’S BASKETBALL COACH: This is a really tough one but I’d have to go with Marino’s. Their individual slices and pies are as good as it gets. Scotti’s and Mario’s have very good pizza, too, and the people at all three places treat you so well.

JEFF MORAD, WEQX PROGRAM DIRECTOR: Did anybody mention a pizza place that’s NOT De Fazio’s? Of course, there is the landmark location in Troy, but with their recent shop opening up inside of Albany Distilling Company on Livingston Avenue it doesn’t get any better than this. Family-owned and -operated deliciousness that never needs a to-go box!

SHAUN NEELY, NISKAYUNA HIGH SCHOOL WRESTLING COACH: Marino’s. It’s hearty and delicious.

HOLLI NIRSBERGER, SHENENDEHOWA GIRLS’ SOCCER COACH: It’s a tie for me. Classic Crust has the best wood-fired pizza around and I absolutely love their arugula, fig and goat cheese pizza. Red Front, of course, wins my heart for their COB (cheese on bottom) and sweet sauce.

CHRIS ONORATO, WNYT MORNING SHOW CO-ANCHOR/PODCAST HOST: D’Andrea’s in Saratoga Springs. A unique take on pizza crust with a sweeter dough. Takes me back to when I moved to the area and lived on North Broadway. Rory is a good dude!

RJ PINGITORE, BROADALBIN-PERTH BASEBALL COACH: Lorenzo’s Southside in Amsterdam. Their Neapolitan pizza is delicious and their products are homemade. You get a family atmosphere when you’re there as well.

ADAM SHINDER, DEPUTY DIRECTOR OF CONTENT FOR THE GAZETTE: Annabel’s Pizza Co. in Schenectady does the exact kind of funky, wood-fired pizzas that whet my appetite. The Soppressata with Burrata and Hot Honey is an unbeatable combination.

JESSICA SIMS, 518 BITES & SIGHTS: My inner child is answering this one with Marino’s Pizza in Schenectady. Not only is their food a big part of my childhood, but it says something about them when a family-owned business in 2022 doesn’t offer delivery, is cash-only and is still packed night after night.

Wings

JULIE CHAPMAN, SPECTRUM MORNING ANCHOR: Swifty’s Restaurant at 367 Delaware Ave. in Delmar. The wings are crispy, tangy and super saucy. My jaw tingles just thinking about them. The blue cheese is also chunky and delicious.

MICHAEL CINQUANTI, MAYOR OF AMSTERDAM: The city of Amsterdam has so many great chicken wing choices that we hold a Wingfest every year so people can try them all. My wife is a wing connoisseur, and she tells me Bosco’s Restaurant on Division Street and Rockton Pub on Lyons Street make the very best.

BECKY DANIELS, DIRECTOR OF COMMUNITY IMPACT AT CAP COM: I really like boneless wings, and the wings at City Squire are so good and there are lots of sauce varieties to try. I also love the staff there, and it’s a great atmosphere to sit at the bar and watch a game.

CHET DAVIS, CBS6 MORNING ANCHOR: After recently conquering the Schenectady Wing Walk, I feel like I’ve become a chicken wing connoisseur. I’ve yet to find a better wing than the garlic parmesan at Memphis King BBQ. Dip those bad boys in the queen sauce!

DIANE DONATO, WGY NEWS ANCHOR: I love the garlic parmesan chicken wings at TJ’s Flightline Pub in Glenville. Crispy on the outside, tender on the inside and so flavorful.

TODD GAROFANO, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF DISCOVER SCHENECTADY: I would have to say Ya Ya’s House in Schenectady, with their famous sweet potato wings, People’s Choice Winner for the 2022 Schenectady Wing Walk. Absolutely amazing flavor.

JIM JABIR, SIENA WOMEN’S BASKETBALL COACH: I’m not a big chicken wing guy. Tearing apart an animal’s body with my teeth kind of bothers me. Buffalo Wild Wings would be my go-to, and they would be boneless and honey barbecue.

KEVIN JOHNSON, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF PALACE PERFORMING ARTS CENTER: Roy’s Jerk Wings are the best in town. They are full of flavor with just the right amount of heat.

DWAYNE KILLINGS, UALBANY MEN’S BASKETBALL COACH: Across The Street Pub knows how to make wings: fried hard and sauced perfectly.

CHRIS KOETZLE, GLENVILLE SUPERVISOR: Mohawk Taproom. Their Carolina Gold sauce is the perfect blend of spice and sweetness that makes it the best wing I ever had … outside of Buffalo.

PETE MacARTHUR, ADIRONDACK THUNDER COACH: So many good spots. But I have to go with Venezia Pizza & Pasta in Clifton Park. Dynamite wings and have tasted the same for 20 years now. As a high school tennis player at Shen, it was common for the entire time to hit up Venezia’s and crush wings after our matches.

CARMEN MACIARIELLO, SIENA MEN’S BASKETBALL COACH: The Rusty Nail. Another staple growing up in the Capital Region. Go on your birthday and you get a wing for each year of your life. Great flavor, and also great as leftovers.

KATIE MARCELLA, UNION WOMEN’S BASKETBALL COACH: Tipsy Moose in Latham, you don’t need to ask for them a little crispy, they make them that way. I also find that it is really hard to find a place that does a nice dry rub, and their Cajun dry rub is fantastic.

ASHLEY MILLER, WNYT WEEKEND SPORTS ANCHOR: Park Pub Restaurant in Troy. Peanut butter and jelly wings. Don’t knock ’em till you try ’em. Peanut sauce and a raspberry drizzle. Words won’t do them justice. Go eat them.

STEADY MOONO, PRESIDENT OF SUNY SCHENECTADY COUNTY COMMUNITY COLLEGE: Ya Ya’s in Schenectady. The southern flavor with a combination of honey is unique.

JEFF MORAD, WEQX PROGRAM DIRECTOR: I am an absolute sucker for the wood-fired wings at Brown’s … both locations. Erin always asks if I want to split an order. How rude of her! The way Brown’s wood-fires their wings locks in the juiciness and puts a crispy touch on each and every one. All mine!

COLLEEN MULLEN, UALBANY WOMEN’S BASKETBALL COACH: Across The Street Pub is our go-to post-game spot. Coaching staff favorites include hot, moonshine and garlic parm. Dan and company always provide top-notch service.

CHRISTOPHER MURPHY, UNION COLLEGE MEN’S BASKETBALL COACH: 20 North. They’re known for their wings, and they live up to their reputation.

SHAUN NEELY, NISKAYUNA HIGH SCHOOL WRESTLING COACH: I Love NY Pizza on Union Street’s crispy wings. Their mild Buffalo sauce is tasty but still OK for the kids.

HOLLI NIRSBERGER, SHENENDEHOWA GIRLS’ SOCCER COACH: Best wings, for me, goes to Druthers — but boneless is a must, and Carolina BBQ sauce with a side of their homemade coleslaw.

CHRIS ONORATO, WNYT MORNING SHOW CO-ANCHOR/PODCAST HOST: West Side Sports Bar & Grill in Saratoga Springs. So many good options, but these get the job done every time.

RJ PINGITORE, BROADALBIN-PERTH BASEBALL COACH: Herk’s Tavern in Amsterdam. Best wing sauce around and a hidden gem for a long time. Phil Bracchi, the owner, is a supporter of many local sports programs in the area and it’s a great place to catch a game on Sundays.

ADAM SHINDER, DEPUTY DIRECTOR OF CONTENT FOR THE GAZETTE: Pizza may be in their name, but the wings at Annabel’s Pizza Co. in Schenectady, roasted in their wood-fired oven, are not to be missed. A great choice of sauces as well, including a rotating special every week.

JESSICA SIMS, 518 BITES & SIGHTS: I’ll be honest, two or three chicken wings for me and I’m all set. That being said, the first time I had Ya Ya’s House fried chicken wings with no added sauce or flavors, I may have actually heard angels. Just chicken and whatever magical spices they use are all I need.

NATASHA VAUGHN-HOLDRIDGE, DAILY GAZETTE REPORTER: Memphis King BBQ has the best wings. They fall right off the bone, and Memphis King doesn’t skimp on the sauce. Absolutely amazing.

More: Dig In! Special Section – Eat up at these delicious local favorites

Categories: Dig In! 2022, Life and Arts, Life and Arts

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