Restaurants with really good dining experiences, not necessarily fancy?

chiogga beet carpaccioMelissa asks:

Assume money's no issue - what's your top dining experience recommendation in the area?
Any level of fancy is fine, just looking for places that people had really good experiences. The kind of meal that is memorable. The kind of place you go "remember that night, that was really great"
It might be a real "fine dining" or someplace you had a really great pub meal, but the environment and service were really memorable.

We understand Melissa is looking for this spot for a special occasion.

Of course, tastes and preferences are very subjective. But, to us, that last part of her question is key. In our experience, high prices or formality don't necessarily translate into great meals or experiences (in fact, sometimes it's just the opposite).

Got a suggestion or two for Melissa.? Please share!


I've had memorable experiences at Cafe Capriccio, but I have not been there in a few years. They focus on the customer.

Cafe Calabria on Western Ave. Family owned and run restaurant- great food and attentive and charming wait staff. Moderately priced.

100% consistently delightful, varying levels of "fancy": Saigon Springs in Clifton Park, Sunhee's Kitchen in Troy, Ali Baba in Troy, Turf Tavern in Scotia, Karavali in Latham.

The Gingerman in Albany, hands down! The staff and food are always amazing. Somehow they make you feel like you're eating an incredible meal in your own house every time.

Memorable Fancy Pants: Yono's - amazing food, amazing service

Memorable Nice But Casual Enough: New World Bar and Bistro. Again amazing food, amazing service, a little more buttoned down, a little less costly.

Memorable Casual: Brown's Tap Room in Troy. Waterfront dining this time of year adds a certain something. Priced for the people.

I really love the Capital City Gastropub. The service is warm and attentive without being overbearing. The menu rotates frequently enough that there's always something interesting and delicious, and the seasonality also makes it feel special. It's not fancy fancy, but not casual either. We've been going weekly for almost two years and the shine hasn't worn off.

Does "the area" include Saratoga? If so I'd certainly recommend 15 Church. The food and service is great, of course, but also consistent.

We sent some friends there with trepidation because the chef was on vacation and they reported a stellar evening. And that's what you want for "memorable" because you can have a bad experience at a good place, and then it's memorable in the wrong way.

I have to say Pecks Arcade for a date night/special occaison. The service & wine list are phenomenal. I have never felt like I'm "settling". It has been consistently good. The menu changes but food & service has always been good.

New World is not on my list for great experiences - except for brunch. Service and dinner menu are not consistent. The drinks and bartenders have always been great.

The Prairie Whale, Great Barrington - not fancy but lovely. They have an amazing outdoor space too.

Sunhee's in Troy is delicious and clean but super casual.

The Shop in Troy has amazing cocktails. When factoring food, does not make my top 5 date spots lists.

Sushi Tei is consistently delicious. However, it feels wrong to go out on a date to a strip mall in Guilderland.

In my opinion, Kuma Ani is the best sushi place within Albany city limits. Furthermore the Staff is top notch and truly aim to please. I had an incident there with my son (our fault nothing to do with the venue or food) and the Staff was phenomenal

George mentioned Karavalli in the comments - amazing food. Strip Mall ambiance. Their lunch buffet is worth traveling to get to.

Hope you find a delicious place to have your memorable experience.

It’s not expensive or fancy, but Phoenician’s Palace (on Fuller, no longer on Central Ave) is always a treat. It’s primarily down to the owner who greets everyone with sincere warmth. The custom-made murals on the wall don’t hurt. And if it’s a special occasion, don’t be surprised if you find that dessert or appetizers are on the house.

I always find Cella Bistro in Schdy a good dining experience, apps and entrees.

I agree with a lot of what was already suggested and would add Savoy on Lark. Service is always great as are the cocktails and food. Bonus if you go when there is live music.

The Shop in Troy. 100% of my visits there have resulted in delicious, unique food and cocktails made with care and purpose. Took some guests last week for brunch and after a delightful experience with our waitress (where we complimented the chef-a Johnson and Wales grad) she took it upon herself to pass along our comments and he came out and chatted with us about his intent for the place. NB: my guests had been to the CIA two nights before and frankly felt the food at The Shop was as good, if not better, than there.

This may be a bit afield for some, but Gracie's in Leeds (near Catskill- about 30 mins south) is worth it in so many ways. I simply cannot express to you how awesome this place is. Nothing fancy, but the food and drinks are so out of this world amazing that I could go novel-length extolling their virtues. Great "craft" cocktails, everything that could possibly be homemade is homemade. Beautiful views of the Catskill Creek behind the restaurant as well.

Memorable experiences at: La Serre in Albany, Villago Pizzeria & Ristorante in Ballston Lake.

Brunch at Ripe Tomato in Ballston Spa.

I love the suggestion of Café Calabria. The food is very good and the staff is always top notch. Another favorite in my family is Muza. You cannot beat the food or the service. Get drinks first upstairs at The Hill and eat dinner downstairs in the dining room.

Caffe Italia on Central at North Allen. Amazing food. Environment and service like nothing else in Albany. Intimate setting, The best servers I've had in my 14 years in Albany. Must make reservations well in advance, it is booked weeks ahead of time (a good hint about the quality). My favorite anniversary dinner.

River Street Cafe in Troy was my favorite anniversary dinner before Caffe Italia (we can walk to Caffe Italia). Haven't been to River Street in a few years, but if it is the same, then the food and service are close to Caffe Italia. Last time we went, though, it took over 30 minutes for someone to take our order. Hopefully that was an off night and not typical anymore. Otherwise it is an extraordinary and memorable evening with delicious food.

Hattie's In Saratoga. Best fried chicken around.

I second Capital City Gastropup - interesting menu that changes often, and we've always gotten great service.

My go to for special occasions is D'Raymond's in Loudonville. Maybe because it was introduced to me as 'a special place' the first time I was taken there, and it has always lived up to that reputation for me.

Love Chez Mike! Again, strip mall but consistently good food, good drinks and a nice enough atmosphere!

I also have to throw my hat in the ring for Peck's Arcade in Troy. If you choose to book (highly recommended for Thurs-Sat nights), call and let them know you are celebrating a special occasion and they often do a little extra to make your experience special.

In the past, we were offered champagne on the house, and, at the minimum, our dessert plate was decorated with a congratulatory message. We nearly always have really affable servers who made our experience so pleasant. My most memorable Peck's dinner included starting the evening with glass of wine at the Confectionery (especially if you can grab a seat in the "outdoor" garden) and saving room to order dessert at Peck's.

Pecks Arcade is very good, Chez Mike a bit more casual but always solid menu line-up.

If you get a group together (no more than 10, though), have DeFazio's in Troy set up a table in their store. Order lots of small pizzas for sampling, along with some pasta and salad. It's a favorite dining experience.

The Wishing Well in Saratoga Springs/Wilton checks all the boxes for me.

Casual and great service: The tavern is warm and inviting, and the bartender and wait staff are highly accommodation. The pub menu reasonable and interesting, and you can order off the main dinner menu.

Special occasions: The Well is a great spot for a special occasion. They have an excellent, if old school menu, and have great prix fixe options for every major "take X out to dinner" holiday.

Prices aren't exorbitant, a great wine list, family run, and a super friendly staff makes the Well one of our favorite places.

Off the top of my head...

1. Ama Cucina - Great margaritas, great service, and OMFG street corn and tacos!

2. Savoy on Lark - A truly fantastic bartender, with options for light fare or heavier meals. A perfect place to start at the bar and end at a table.

3. The Merry Monk - We love the beer selection, and the food never disappoints!

4. Roux - I've never had a meal here, but my husband and I love to sit at the bar with a meat and cheese platter and a bottle of wine.

Athos in Guilderland. Really special.

If you are up for a little bit of a ride I'd have to 100% recommend The Dreamaway Lodge in The Berkshires. Great food but more so such a cool atmosphere.

A little more local I'd have to give another nod to 15 Church, Cafe Italia, & throw in Hong Kong Bakery.

New World Bistro is always fantastic. Amazing food, service, great vibe...we eat there 3-4 times a month as the menu changes seasonally and has great daily specials. We are treated like friends --an amazing group of people work there.
Love Ama Cocina --always spot on! Cells Bistro is the perfect warm, relaxed, and delicious. We like to sit in the area near the bar. Innovo Kitchen --Best hamburger ever! Casual, fun...the food is interesting and delicious!

Chefs Table at Cafe Capriccio. I've been lucky enough to experience twice. Jim is an incredible host. Very warm, cozy room upstairs. Lots of wine, and many dishes/coases, all served family style, which helps with the social side of things. Pace yourself- both times I rolled out of there.

My favorite Italian restaurant is Lombardo's.
If you go there for lunch you can get delicious Italian bread & butter, salad with your meal. my favorites are veal parm,shrimp Fancese, their delicious sausage & THE BEST SAUCE!
We get it to go.
T.J's on Central (former A-Frame) has the best prime ribs, chicken Francese, and heavenly seafood salad.
Ralph's on Central also has delicious prime ribs,like their hot roast beef sandwiches, fries & coleslaw.
Besides Gershon's
& Saatti's for deli we like J.C.'s in Kohl''s Plaza for heavenly rare roast beef, corned beef
.Not crazy about the red sauce at Cafe Italia, but like the Francese.
The owner & staff are nice at 15 Church, but the place is so uncomfortable small & but the food is LACKING BIG TIME!!

Dee Dee's in Latham on 155, I've been going there for 30 some years and never been served a bad meal. Many daily specials and home made soups too. Drink prices are reasonable. Quite a cast of characters at the bar, all friendly. All sandwich meats are roasted in house, killer fish fry and cole slaw to die for. Best rubin on the planet. Tell 'em I sent ya.

Yoshi Sushi on Rt.9. Delicious sushi and great service

Every now and again The City Beer Hall puts on one some big beer pairing dinner. Sometimes it's a wild game feast. Other times the theme is different. Whatever the case, it's a chance for the chefs to flex their creative muscles and do some really out of the box stuff.

I'm still thinking about that yuzu pavlova with triple cream custard, paired with the Finback yuzu double IPA. Wow.

Peck's Arcade has been mentioned. But there has been no mention yet of the chef's counter. It's a real thrill to be able to see such a talented team dance around the kitchen and to see those beautiful plates be built in front of your eyes.

You may not be able to eat the full menu on your visit, but at least you'll get a front row seat to see everything being created.

For larger groups, I agree getting a private dining experience at DeFazio's is awesome. Especially now that they have the back patio, so you can eat al fresco.

Also Ala Shanghai will set up a banquet menu for larger groups.

Those have been some of my most memorable dining experiences in the area.

Wow. Some of the restaurants listed above are none too good, if you ask me. A few are worse than that.

If the standard is, "'remember that night, that was really great,'" then I would recommend the Hall of Springs at SPAC. The dining room is spectacular, the best I know in this area. If you wisely choose the time of your visit, everything else can be spectacular, too.

The most sophisticated cooking I have found in the area came from Flatiron in Red Hook. It requires a drive, but the meal was extremely well done.

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