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ALBANY - City Line Grill looks sharp. The new from scratch, modern industrial-inspired building houses two large rooms, and the bar opens out onto a large patio in good weather. City Line positions itself as a traditional sports bar with an upscale, fashionable ambiance, serving classic bar fare along with new continental dishes. It satisfies those requirements, but falls short of excellence.
It has a pulsating teal and wood decor with a tiled and stainless open kitchen. Teal accent bulbs illuminate the walls up to the lofty ceiling and bouncy music adds energy. There are many televisions and some are immense but all were thankfully silent.
We sprawled out in a booth for six with a view of the kitchen. The small plates are City Line’s strength and the best part of our meal, the long list is innovative and varied. There’s pork belly, vegetable tempura, and egg rolls skew Mediterranean, Sicilian and Southwest. Wings come 10 ways, and I like the spreads as healthier options, served with tortilla chips, carrots, and celery.
City Line Bar and Grill
WHERE: 1200 Western Ave., Albany, 504-1200, citylinebar.com
WHEN: 11 a.m. to midnight Sunday to Wednesday, 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. Thursday to Saturday
HOW MUCH: $68 for food, without tax and tip
MORE INFO: Call-ahead seating. Children’s menu. Credit cards: Master Card, Visa, American Express, Discover. Parking. Wheelchair accessible.
There are meal-sized salads and sandwiches like the shrimp po’boy. The City Line burger is 8 ounces of hand-packed, grass-fed beef with red lettuce, tomato, red onion, and cheese served on a brioche roll with hand-cut fries. Vegetarians can choose a quinoa burger.
Entrees don’t include salad or bread but they cover the bases with pasta, seafood, and steaks.
The Sicilian rolls ($10) Virginia ordered were outstanding. Think egg roll stuffed with pepperoni, prosciutto, roasted red peppers and spinach, all chopped fine and mingling in melted mozzarella inside a crackling egg roll, served with a creamy pesto dip. It works so well.
The Capresi crostinis ($9) pleased me, especially the marinated plum tomatoes and balsamic reduction. The mozzarella and pesto were fresh, but the toppings deserve better tasting bread. Here, and as with the rest of the meal, City Line gets points for handsome presentation.
City Line offers salmon over spiralized zucchini ($18), with roasted red pepper but with minimal seasoning. The salmon was delicious, Virginia said, crispy at the edges and beautifully served on a smoothly concave plate. The tangles of vegetables were still crisp and with more butter and fresh herbs, could have really shone.
The drunken steak ($28), a slab of top sirloin, is flamed table side to great effect. It was cooked medium rare and draped over a colossal pile of mashed potatoes. It’s a thin steak, and it was a bit more gristly than I would have liked. Steaks are a crapshoot, but the price should have guaranteed a better one.
I liked the bits of skin in the mashed potatoes, and the way they soaked up the excess sweet bourbon sauce and meat juices, but the amount was ridiculous. Virginia noted that the broccoli looked dry; it needed something.
We shared a sliced of house-made raspberry cheesecake for dessert, ($7), a hefty slice with raspberry sauce drizzled over, served with a creamy sauce with more raspberry and a spritz of whipped cream. The cake was moist and perfectly cooked, with minimal crust, but it didn’t shine like my Mom’s. Good, but not great, a key element of flavor absent.
The young server was green, but trained well enough not to ask if we were “done working.” She brought our check as we watched tables pushed together for an enormous party and the room began to fill up. We weren’t sorry to leave — the room was already too warm.
The tab for our food, before tax and tip and decaf, came to $68. City Line Bar and Grill fulfills its mission: to be a traditional sports bar with casual food. It has the upscale ambiance it aspires to and though the food was good, it was short of great. A bit of attention to seasoning and flavor could change that.