SCHENECTADY COUNTY — Schenectady Restaurant Week features some new faces along with the old favorites in its 13th year.
The annual restaurant promotion runs Feb. 26 through March 4 this year. As always, it gives diners a full sit-down meal at a set price — $25. It provides an incentive to get out of the house in winter and an opportunity to try something new at a discounted price, according to the Downtown Schenectady Improvement Corp., which, along with the Chamber of Schenectady County, is sponsoring the promotion.
DSIC Executive Director Jim Salengo said the marketing effort is a little different this year, with new materials highlighting the city as a place to eat.
“Schenectady has come into its own as a dining destination,” he said.
It’s not just downtown Schenectady restaurants, though, Rotterdam and Scotia are represented as well.
Three of the 26 restaurants participating in Schenectady Restaurant Week 2018 are so new that they weren’t even able to participate in 2017: Dukes Chophouse at Rivers Casino & Resort; Slidin’ Dirty’s new Schenectady location; and The River Road House on Route 5S in Rotterdam Junction.
River Road House co-owner Shannon Magnano said she’s excited to be part of the event. The family-style restaurant has developed a good local following since opening in September, she said, but many people who live farther away still don’t know about it — or they know it as the Bad Pig, a biker bar that formerly occupied the space.
“Our first [customers] were skeptical to come in because of the reputation,” Magnano said. Through word-of-mouth and strong ratings on Facebook, the restaurant has gained momentum in its five months, especially with extended families looking for a comfortable place to eat.
“We’ve completely transformed the building,” she said.
Restaurant Week, she hopes, will bring in people who don’t regularly drive down Route 5S.
The $25 prix fixe menu at River Road House for the week is a three-course meal that offers some choices: (first course) tomato basil bisque, Caesar salad or winter bruschetta; (second course) chicken Sorrento, herb-encrusted haddock or steak stroganoff; and (third choice) chocolate mousse, cannoli or creme de menthe parfait.
It’s a menu that reflects the basic character of the restaurant, Magnano said -- somewhere between casual and fine dining. The regular menu is fairly basic, but the specials are numerous and sometimes elaborate. And everything is fresh.
“Ninety percent of the menu is homemade,” she said. “We don’t like cans and boxes.”
The restaurant is a family endeavor. Magnano and her mother, Kelly Carlson, are partners in the venture and are assisted part-time by their husbands, Chris Magnano and Phil Carlson, who have their own full-time jobs. Shannon Magnano's sister, Jessica Bond, cooks.
Shannon Magnano had worked for years in restaurants, including PizzaGram and Provence, before she and her mother started the transformation of the former biker bar at 989 River Road.
“It’s something that we’ve always we’ve wanted to do,” she said. “I have always been a foodie.”
Salengo said Restaurant Week succeeds in exposing people to new dining options.
During the 2017 edition, 34 percent of respondents to survey cards were not Schenectady County residents; 37 percent said they tried a restaurant for the first time because of the promotion; and 58 percent said the promotion was the reason they went out to eat.
He enjoys being a fly on the wall, listening to people talk about finally visiting a restaurant they’ve wanted to try for a while, particularly when a new eatery joins the roster.
“We’ve got a lot of longtime participants,” Salengo said. “It’s always great to see that handful of new participants.”
Special menus for the Feb. 26-March 4 promotion are online. The following restaurants are participating:
- Ambition Coffee & Eatery
- Aperitivo Bistro
- Armondo’s Villa Tuscan Grill
- Bel Cibo Bistro: An American Bistro
- Canvas, Corks & Forks
- Centre Street Pub: A Public House & Garden
- Chez Nous
- Cornells in Little Italy
- Dukes Chophouse at Rivers Casino & Resort
- Jade Bistro
- Johnny’s Schenectady
- Katie O’Byrne’s Restaurant
- The Lounge at the Glen Sanders
- Mad Jack Brewing Company at The Van Dyck
- Manhattan Exchange
- More Perreca’s
- Pho Queen
- Pinhead Susan’s
- RARE Craft Steak & Cocktail House
- The River Road House
- Slidin’ Dirty Schenectady
- Tops American Grill, Bakery & Bar
- Turf Tavern
- Waters Edge Lighthouse
- Via Entertainment
- Zen Asian Fusion Lounge