Chicken spiedies at Excelsior Pub

excelsior pub chicken spiedies

By Deanna Fox

I recently had a conversation with two chefs transplanted to this area from Manhattan. When I asked them what they thought of the Upstate food scene, they answered exactly how you think they might: "There is no good food scene outside of New York City."

I'm pretty sure my immediate reaction was an audible "pfffft" and an eyeroll so strong it shook leaves from trees.

Of course they would say that, stuck inside a tony restaurant for hours upon hours, without any chance to scope out what's unique about the food landscape here.

Fortunately they wouldn't have to travel far to sample the best parts of Upstate cuisine. Excelsior Pub, which reopened a year ago in Albany after a lengthy hiatus, serves up only New York State-produced wine, beer, and spirits -- with a food menu that hits the hallmarks of Upstate eats: Beef on weck. Hoffman's hot dogs, Buffalo wings, garbage plates.

Not to be left off the list is chicken spiedies. Not quite a sandwich and yet not something completely different from a sandwich -- sort of like a hot dog, or maybe a gyro, wherever that falls on the sandwich spectrum -- chicken spiedies are a true taste of Southern Tier food.

excelsior pub albany exterior 2016-August

Excelsior Pub serves up chicken spiedies on a hot dog roll ($4), as most who have enjoyed this meal would recognize. Big, juicy cubes of breast meat are marinated for hours in a vinegar-based dressing, akin to the Cornell-style barbecue chicken also prominent in the Central New York area. Pronounced flavors of black pepper, lemon, and oregano mean that no sauce or other condiment is needed on this not-quite-a-sandwich sandwich. The meat is juicy enough on its own to manifest adequate bread-to-meat-to-moisture ratios.

And you can't go to Excelsior Pub without ordering off the impeccable beer list. For all those local craft beer naysayers that claim nothing good comes from the Upstate beer scene, here's your chance to drink your words. Excelsior Pub's rule of thumb for the draft list is that it will not repeat the same beer twice in a row. That means an ever-changing beer lineup that pulls from all corners of the state. To wit, the beer list on the website dates to July 5, and on my recent visit, I can't remember any of those beers being on the tap list.

(Note: Budweiser cans are available at Excelsior Pub, but since technically that beer is made in Syracuse, we'll overlook that.)

excelsior pub two beers

Another bonus of the draft list here is the option for a McSorley-style pour, which is basically slang for ordering two slightly smaller beers at once at a set price (in this case, $7). The name comes from McSorley's Old Ale House in NYC, where drinkers are basically limited to "light" or "dark" beer. (Kudos to Jay Bowers, Excelsior Pub's owner, for not making city-folk feeling too far out of water.)

At Excelsior Pub, mix and match and beers from the draft list you'd like. I went with Buffalo-based Resurgence Brewing Company's Lingonberry Loganberry Wit, a fizzy magenta-colored beer (hard pass) and Elizaville-based Sloop Brewing's Confliction, a tangy and sour gose (definitely order). Heck, drink them together in measured sips (as I ended up doing) to create your own unique drink.

excelsior pub garbage plate
A garbage plate.

Other things to order at Excelsior Pub? The garbage plate ($9.99). My friend Craig, an expert on the subject of garbage plates (if only because he attended college in Rochester, where garbage plates originate), was skeptical at first of the GP's authenticity but quickly declared them a worthy recreation. (Skip over the deep-fried cheesecake, though. Frozen triangles of cinnamon-tinged dairy seem like a pity to eat (or serve) when Cheesecake Machismo is just a few blocks away.)

Upstate New York might not have the best fine dining options, we could all agree on that. Of course, there are stunning examples of noteworthy, innovative food speckled across the state, but for the most part, our true food culture lies in those items born from circumstance and necessity, making the best we can from what we have. Culture, immigration, and availability gave us chicken riggies and frozen custard, spiedies and hoppy beer. That's something any open-minded chef should be able to appreciate.

Deanna Fox writes about many things, mostly about food. More can be found on her website, Twitter, or Instagram.

More Eat This:
+ Blackened Fish Po'Boy at Hooked Seafood Co.
+ Burgers at Crave
+ Coconut cream pie at Restaurant Navona
+ Pulled pork plate at Middleburgers BBQ
+ Buffalo wings from 20 North Broadway Tavern

Find It

Excelsior Pub
54 Philip Street
Albany, NY 12202

Comments

Great place. Sloop Confliction is great too, but pretty sure it's not a gose.

Ordered the chicken spiedies at the Joe this weekend. Big mistake. Happy to see there is an option nearby!!!

Nice write-up on an underrated spot - more people need to know that they've moved down Madison.
Don't be shocked if those Manhattan rejects that Deanna mentioned end up selling $12 Artisanal Spedies in Bushwick next summer.

FINALLY! the Garbage Plate arrives in Albany.

My research on spiedies tells me the preferred meat is lamb, followed by pork, and it's served on a big puffy Italian roll to absorb the juice. That hotdog bun looks weak. And I don't think chicken will take full advantage of the marinade.

What'sa weck?

So glad there is finally a local public that has decently priced excellent forr and GREAT options of craft b3r and spirits!!!

Enjoy the place, the owner is good at his craft. Enjoy the spiedies, and pretty much everything else on the menu. Try the Brown Chicken Brown Cow wings, if you're feeling a little brave.

As a Binghamton native I grew up with spedies from the Red and White in Chenango Bridge. Always on a single piece of Italian bread.

@Ed -- you may be right, but at the same time, calling anything a Gose that doesn't come from old Saxony is technically also wrong. I checked in on the Sloop website and they list it as a sour.

@Guy -- thanks! Maybe we'll see spiedie carts like hot dog and gyro carts :-)

@BurntMyFingers -- c'mon, don't be a wet blanket! I grew up eating spiedie at least once a month (once a week in summer, at least!) and I've never seen anyone make a spiedie roll deom lamb or pork. But how would you know if it's good or not unless you try it -- do you plan to try it? Or would you rather stand at a distance and critique?

@Barold -- does that place still exist? I'd love to check it out.

I'm with Fred, the brown chicken brown cow is interesting if you're into wings. Definitely worth a shot.

@ Deanna Fox - sure does http://www.redandwhitecatering.com/

I am always happy to see any business in the Capital Region try to offer spiedies. I grew up in Endicott, NY which claims to be the original home of spiedies.
Even in Endicott spiedies were made with varying recipes, but they were best in my west Endicott neighborhood.
I have yet to have a spiedie in the capital region that comes very close to what I grew up with.
The best cooked spiedie that you can buy in the Southern Tier is sold by Lupo's Char-Pit on N.Main St. in Endicott. They sell both Chicken and Pork spiedies in sub or sandwich forms.
Traditionally, spiedies were sold or eaten on a slice of Italian bread, not on hot dog rolls.
In my opinion, the best store bought marinade is Salamida State Fair Spiedie marinade or sauce, which can now be bought in many Capital Region supermarkets or online.
The spiedies that I grew up eating began as lamb or venison, but when lamb got expensive pork and beef became options and latter chicken. All are good but all should be marinated for at least 48 hours to tenderize the meat and instill the flavor.
Spiedie marinade is also great for vegetables and fish.
I start with a base of Salamida State Fair Spiedie marinade and if in season, add fresh sweet basil, fresh chives, and fresh garlic. If you need to extend the marinade, you add wine vinegar and a small amount of olive oil.
I tried the Excelsior spiedies back in the spring and they were a commendable effort, but not the Endicott version that I grew up with. I am glad to have them as a local option for the Capital Region.
The Excelsior had a decent roast beef on wick that I also recommend.

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