Locally sourced American gastropub a must-try
Nighthawks Restaurant & Bar sits in the heart of Downtown Troy, at the cute corner where Nibble Inc. used to be. The restaurant-and-bar is committed to a menu that is locally sourced, fresh, and handmade, which means the menu rotates with the seasons; they even have a list of the farms they source from. There’s indoor seating as well as outdoor, which provides a quaint view down the street. At Broadway and 5th, it’s a straight walk down from Blitman, within easy walking distance of a Rensselaer shuttle stop. Since it was late, we opted to sit indoors. As soon as we set foot inside, we were struck by the intimate ambiance. With low lighting, candles, and homey decor, it landed somewhere between casual and formal.
The restaurant is burger and fries-centric—that’s what they serve all day. For additional options, they serve a new American dinner menu from Wednesday to Sunday, 5 to 10 pm, and they also do brunch on the weekends from 10 am to 4 pm. The menu is flexible, with vegetarian and vegan dishes. On the bar side, they offer quite an extensive wine, beer, and cocktail menu. They offer beer both on draft and by the can. The wine list includes wines ranging from sparkling rosés from the New York area to a selection of red wines with characteristic richness and earthiness.
Their staple burger embodied everything that a good restaurant burger should. While I believe most burgers should be cheesy, salty, and bold, I find that a good restaurant burger should emphasize the subtle grassiness and umami that good grass-fed beef offers. Since Nighthawk uses locally sourced grass-fed beef, these subtleties come out and are complemented by a rich—but not overbearing—choice of cheese, local lettuce, tomatoes, and an acidic pickle. I paired the burger with an Old World wine from Spain which complemented the earthiness of the burger and acted as a delicious palate cleanser between every bite. Nighthawks managed to create a burger which was both classic and refined, comforting and special. And at $10, I’d say it’s a steal.
I chose to go with a menu item that popped out at me: raviolo al Uovo. The dish was decadent; the two ravioli were covered with cheese and doused in bacon broth. Grilled corn and tomatoes were sprinkled in among the cheese and added a juicy tang to the cheesy ravioli filling. What made the dish pop, however, was the fact that a runny egg was inserted into each of the two ravioli, and when I cut into it, it would ooze out and mix with the bacon broth, creating a sauce that infused the whole dish. I paired this with a simple house lemonade, which was just how I liked it: not too sweet, and very refreshing. Coming in at $16, this dish was on the pricey side, but I felt like the culinary adventure it brought with it justified the cost.
For this review, I picked the boar bacon with herbed spelt berries and pickled plums. I had a glass of fall sangria with my meal, which was good, but a bit pricey. The boar bacon was attractive on the plate. But it only took up half the space, and I was initially concerned that it wouldn’t be enough food. This turned out, however, to be the most satisfying $20 entree I’ve ever purchased. The thick-cut bacon lay on a bed of spelt berries—which are a type of grain, not fruit—with slices of plum on top, and parsley garnish. The three flavor profiles played well together: the bacon was smokey and savory, with the spelt berries dampening that flavor, and the plums cutting through with a distinct tartness. This dish was delightful to eat, especially since I love combining flavors during my meal. Halfway through, the flavors started to feel overpowering, but I was able to wash it down with sangria. Nick and Serge each tried a bite of bacon, berry, and plum, and they loved the contrast; I would definitely recommend this dish, with the caveat that it should be ordered to share, or with a drink.
Although we were all quite satisfied with our entrees, Rex felt bold and decided to order dessert for the table. The only item on the dessert menu is cheese and jam. This dish features a wedge of St. Stephen triple cream from Four Fat Fowl over in Stephentown, served with olive oil and a regularly rotating fruit jam; the night we went, it was blackberry. None of us ever thought that cheese could be considered dessert, but Nighthawks demonstrated just how simple yet elegant it can be—the separate foods have complex, fragrant profiles. The creamy brie and juicy, gritty fruit gave the dessert a fun mouthfeel, and the sweet and salty flavors enhanced each other. The olive oil completed it, lending a smooth, full-bodied feeling that bridged any remaining gap between the cheese and jam, and made the dish cohesive.
Nighthawks has a moderate price point, which might not be practical for college students; we’re talking two dollar signs on Yelp. It’s good for the occasional indulgence—each visit offers a new and refreshing experience, while still preserving a fallback option for the less adventurous. With the rotating menu, we want to come back all the time and try every dish. We all agree: Nighthawks has good date night vibes. Service was on the slower side as well, perhaps because of kitchen staffing, so there’s definitely time for slow conversation and sweet nothings. Overall, we would recommend Nighthawks for a night out with a friend, a special friend, or a significant other.