Four for $100 in Albany

Vans exterior

A fun, reasonably cheap night out can start at Van's.

By Liz Paola

The weekend's coming up and you a few friends are ready to have some fun... but you're not looking to go broke before Sunday brunch.

Being the thrifty girl I am, I've set out to see what kind of fun night out four people can put together for about $100. This week we're doing pho, fondue and slighty buzzed board games.

There are lots of options, of course. But if we're going to stay inside the $100 budget, we have to find that combination of tastiness and value. Ideally, we're looking to spend about $50. On that kind of budget, Van's Vietnamese on Central Ave is a wonderful place.

Van's pho, a Vietnamese soup, is a good way to start out if you have never had Vietnamese cuisine; it's fun and tastes great. The soup comes in a bowl the size most people would use to mix a batch of cookies, and you can order it with beef, shrimp , chicken, tofu, seafood, or a combination. And at $7.50, you really cannot beat the price.

The grilled selections are also a good option. The tofu, pork, chicken or shrimp all come with rice and vegetables and are under 11 dollars.

You can easily do dinner for four people at Van's for between $30 and $50 dollars. And you're almost certainly going to have leftovers. (We've never left without at least enough for two to have lunch the next day.) One way to keep the bill under control at dinner: skip the alcohol. Don't worry, though -- we'll still knock a few back before the night's over.

OK, it's time for something sweet (if you can find the room!). Head over to The Gingerman on Western Ave. The dessert fondue there is 12 bucks. It's a great deal for four people. The chocolate fondue comes with fruit, pound cake and marshmallows. Coffee's $3/cup -- so, the four of you should be able to have a nice light dessert for about $30 (including tip).

Bring on the wine!
Here's where a little teamwork comes in. While a few people straighten up at home, the rest of the group should hit up Empire Wine in Colonie. This place has great prices -- you can score three bottles of wine for around 30 bucks, easy. Here are a few great deals on good wines I've found there recently:

+ Dr. Loosen "Dr. L" Riesling - $7.95
+ Valckenberg Gewurztraminer 2006 - 8.95
+ Liberty School Cabernet - $11.45
+ Folie a Deux Menage a Trois Red - 8.95

My friends and I are big fans of the living room wine night. The relaxed atmosphere makes it easier to catch up and just enjoy each other. We recently all got together, poured some wine, turned on the stereo and broke out the Taboo, Scrabble and the New York Times Crossword.

After a couple of glasses of Cabernet, you might be surprised how excited you get over a triple word score.

Liz is looking for more great Four for $100 nights out in Schenectady, Troy and Saratoga. Know of something fun that doesn't cost a whole lot? Tell her about: liz |at| alloveralbany |dot| com


I love Vans! The food is so good! They added more waitstaff over the last several months, so the service is great now!

Oooo! I absolutely love this new piece!

For a $20 night out, I think stuffing the group silly with gelato, etc from Crisan isn't too shabby, hee hee.

what a great new feature! I LOVE game night, and it's recession-friendly.

There's a pretty nifty game called Bar Hopping. We have house rules where I get to be the wino in the game, which usually is an npc that thwarts the barhoppers. We call out for Chinese food instead of going out. I also play the ever classy "Who can drink a 40 the fastest".

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