Mini reviews offer hints for dining out

Here’s the deal: Normally, I would waste a few paragraphs writing a real restaurant review, but lately, I’ve been pestered to recommend a place to take family for dinner this upcoming weekend. Generally not wanting to expend any extra energy thinking, my reply was usually Brown’s Brewery; however, now that I think about it, there’s a golden opportunity here. My readership (you) is no longer limited by budgetary concerns. No, you are free this weekend. Free to cast off the shackles of the Rathskeller and Pizza Bella. You can be audacious, dauntless, and innovative. This weekend, you can have a real meal, or maybe even two if you play your cards right.

So what follows will be a brief summation of a few local places that I endorse as out-of-the-ordinary dinner spots perfect for a family visit. Just say that Max sent you and that he expects a meal on the house. They’ll know what it means. (Probably not, but it’s worth a shot.)

Brown’s Brewing Co (417 River St.): It’s definitely the closest place and by far the best known. Ever since their competition, Fresno’s, was taken down by an incurable river rat infestation, Brown’s has been the dinner place of choice for this campus. Fair prices ($8–17 an entrée) and a variety of dishes allow for frequent return visits. It’s mainly bar-grill selections, like burgers, sandwiches, and fish and chips, but there are a few more inspired dishes that make for an adventure. But the main draw is certainly the in-house micro-brewed beers made beneath the restaurant that practically every student will endorse.

Moscatiello’s (99 N. Greenbush Rd.): A little more obscure, but it’s perfect for a family visit. It features a homey atmosphere, but is a little more upscale in style. The food is popular traditional Italian cuisine, not incredibly savory, but solid presentation and fair portions. They have a good selection of wines and a full bar as well.

Salsa Latina (315 Central Ave., Albany): A little bit of a drive from campus, but well worth it. Fantastic South American food. A good mix of more American-Mexican dishes as well as a few unusual traditional ones. Extremely fairly priced ($7–13) and generous portions, plus the salsa is terrific. The restaurant is small, but it typically isn’t that crowded. In particular, I recommend the beef chimichangas, which is absolutely fantastic, although the fajitas are enormous and delicious too.

Plum Blossom (685 Hoosick Rd.): This is about the most solid Chinese cuisine in the immediate area. It has a fantastic ornate interior that creates a lavish setting, perfect for a dinner with the family. The food is well-priced ($6–14) and they have a great selection of dishes. Portioning is fair and quality is respectable as well. I would like to see a spicier General Tso’s, but I’m fairly biased in that area.

The Penalty Box (235 Hoosick Rd.): This place epitomizes a sports bar. There are flat screen TVs in every direction with various sports games, and all other surfaces have sports memorabilia plastered on them. Not a good place for conversations, but great for watching a game if your family is hardcore into sports. I’ll be covering this place in more detail next week, but in summary, the food is typical for a place like this: burgers, wings, steaks, pizza, and sandwiches, but of good quality. Entrées cost $8–15.

LoPorto’s (85 Fourth St.): Another Troy favorite. The food is fantastic Italian cuisine with the most generous portions I can remember. For instance, the chicken parmesan is pretty much an entire chicken plus an additional plate of pasta, and all of it is delicious and spiced to perfection. Very subdued upscale interior. In a word: classy. The only caveat is that it is priced accordingly. Typical entrées range from $15–25.

Pancho’s (1343 Central Ave., Colonie): Much more Americanized than Salsa Latina, but still good quality Mexican. I would recommend the one in Colonie over the one on Hoosick,s if possible. The portion size for dishes vary, but a few, like the fajita nachos and enchilada supreme, are very fair. The chips and salsa are also fantastic and the atmosphere is great for the family. Entrées cost $9–15.