Somewhere between Black Friday and Cyber Monday we ran out of creative culinary preparations for recycling turkey. Dining out was in order.
So off we trotted to the City Line Bar and Grill, situated on the line between Guilderland and Albany on Western Avenue (Route 20).
The building is not an eye-catcher. It resembles a large box attractively sided with horizontal dark wood boards. Inside, this same theme of horizontal boards is cleverly repeated as shelves on some of the walls.
We were able to pull off busy Western Avenue to let me out near the accessible front door. Handicap parking is in the back lot, and the only way to enter the building is to traverse about 10 stairs in back or walk to the front of the building. The only ramp is a small one leading to the kitchen. When I asked the hostess about handicap access, she shrugged it off with, “That’s just the way the building is made.”
The large open space is loosely divided so to avoid the sensation of a football stadium. Along the left side are booths, some raised on platforms, many large enough to seat six. There are also tables for four, a series of high-tops and about 30 seats at the square bar. In warm weather, a patio with tables, a large fireplace and a bar are also available outdoors.
Server Eric gave us two-sided paper menus and took our drink order for Virgin Marys ($5). The Mary was spicy but not incapacitating, and was adorned with a whole strip of still-crisp bacon, a slice each of lemon and lime, a small bleu cheese stuffed olive and a pepperoncini — a veritable salad in a glass.
The menu proved to be a bit of a happy problem. Ordinary pub food took on extraordinary dimensions. For example, Tickler Fries ($12) were fashioned from shredded short rib, Tickler cheddar, demi-glace and house-made fries.
For starters, faithful dinnermate John chose Roasted Buffalo Cauliflower ($11).
Wait. Cauliflower from a roasted buffalo? No, it was florets of al dente roasted cauliflower drizzled with medium hot buffalo (wing) sauce, crumbled bleu cheese, bleu cheese dressing, carrot slivers and scallion — a perfect appetizer for the diner seeking a reasonably healthy dish large enough to share. Simple, yet exciting.
I opted for Avocado Fries ($11) because it reminded me of the seemingly impossible fried ice cream often found on Mexican menus. The appetizer was executed well, with a thin crispy crust on the outside and slightly warm but still firm and mellow avocado inside. Tending toward blandness, a dusting of shredded parmesan and a side of chipotle ranch sauce enlivened the fries. John’s take on the culinary oxymoron: “fried avocado is like eating candied celery.”
At this point, we might have considered concluding our meal. We were full. But John’s Salmon Burger ($16 on a gluten-free bun) and my Shrimp Po Boy ($15) were on their way.
With a hint of ruffled green lettuce peeking out, the burger was essentially all salmon, flavorful, moist and mildly seasoned, with a minimum of fillers. House fries, just short of being labeled shoestrings, accompanied the burger in a miniature pretend frying basket (the same presentation as most of the other deep-fried preparations).
But the large surface area-to-volume ratio of the fries caused them to absorb moisture from the air, rendering them limp by the end of the meal.
My Shrimp Po Boy was rich in bread but “po” in shrimp. Although the five medium blackened shrimp were excellent, they were overpowered by the sheer volume of the steak roll. The hot shrimp had “cooked” the delicate leaves of spinach and tiny tomato halves also tucked into the roll. Cajun remoulade seasoned the shrimp and a baby basket of the ubiquitous slim fries arrived automatically as a side dish. I wish I had requested an alternative side.
I treated myself to a drinkable dessert (Peaches and Cream), which escaped the range of our reviews. But teetotaler JP ordered a more sensible Chocolate Flourless Torte ($7). The dark brown isosceles triangle was served with quarters of strawberries, mint leaves, dollops of whipped cream, a small sphere of vanilla ice cream and drizzles of chocolate syrup. John’s evaluation: “Among the best I’ve had — not overly sweet and the intense chocolate flavor was pronounced.”
Although a few aspects of City Line were uneven, its designation as a bar and grill does not convey what it really is. City Line Creative Cuisine would be a more accurate appellation.
City Line Bar and Grill
WHERE: 1200 Western Ave., Albany, NY 12203; 518-504-1200; www.citylinebar.com
11 a.m.-12 a.m., Fri.-Sat.
11 a.m.-1 a.m.
HOW MUCH: $76 with two nonalcoholic beverages, but without tax and tip.
MORE INFO: Large bar; lot parking; major credit cards accepted; noise level permits conversationp; vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free dishes available; Sunday brunch; private parties; online reservations and ordering; delivery; takeout; catering; happy hours; patio in warm weather.