A compilation of the best restaurants, bars, bakeries, cafes and ice cream spots in and around the New York Capital Region.
People from the Capital Region of New York often joke about how small the area is. After all, one nickname for this great city of ours is Smalbany.
But despite our relatively small geographic makeup, we have a pretty killer restaurant scene. From Italian to Mexican, upscale to townie bar, our neck of the woods has a little something for everyone.
It can sometimes be a daunting task to pick where to go out to eat, especially if it is for a special occasion or you’re hosting out of town guests.
That is why I created this Capital Region Restaurant Guide. It is certainly not an exhaustive list, but is a combination of my personal favorite spots, TheChowDown reader favorites, consistently highly rated places, and award winning spots.
For the places I’ve been, I will provide some insight into the vibe, food, what kind of occasion to go for, and some recommendations on what to order.
This list is broken down by city (miscellaneous at the bottom), then organized by restaurants, bars and bakeries/coffee shops/ice cream.
Caffe Italia – An old school Italian restaurant with hearty portions. The place is small (and popular) so reservations are a must. A great date night spot!
Josie’s Table – A fairly new spot in Stuyvesant Plaza that has a gorgeous interior that makes you think you’re at a trendy restaurant in New York City. They offer delicious pizzas, entrees and some of the best cocktails in the area. Great option for date night or girl’s night.
Dove & Deer – Modern pub with cocktails, small plates, sandwiches and entrees in the heart of Center Square. A cute spot for a girl’s night.
El Loco – My favorite Mexican restaurant in Albany. Small, festive spot on Madison Avenue near Lark Street with an extensive food menu and margarita pitchers. Perfect for happy hour or starting point for a Lark Street bar crawl.
Cuckoo’s Nest – Southern comfort food at it’s finest. Their fried chicken is incredible and highly recommended, but you really can’t go wrong with anything on their menu, brunch or dinner.
The Scene – This is the newest restaurant and most recent update to my restaurant guide. The Scene is an all day cafe, serving brunch, lunch, coffee drinks and cocktails. The food is delicious and the restaurant itself is very Instagrammable.
Grappa ’72 – Don’t let the strip mall location fool you, this restaurant offers delicious Italian fare at affordable prices. Fine dining vibes with white table clothes and frequent live music in a casual and relaxed setting. Great for date night or special occasion.
Lark Street Poke – fast casual poke bar that is open for lunch and dinner. My favorite in the area for its variety and fresh fish. I recommend a create your own bowl with salmon, tuna and whatever toppings you like!
Yono’s – fine dining restaurant with a global menu predominately Indonesian inspired. Owned and operated by Chef Yono Purnomo, a prominent chef in the local community. DP’s, a sister restaurant owned by his son Dominick is in the front and Yono’s is situated in the back.
Iron Gate Cafe – Cute breakfast and lunch spot with a beautiful gated patio area. They have a nice mix and savory and sweet options as well as vegan menu items. A great place for Mother’s Day brunch or a morning after a night of drinking ;D.
Cafe Madison – Another solid breakfast/brunch option. The restaurant is small and there is pretty much always a wait on the weekends but it is worth it. There is a second location in Loudonville that is a little bigger (but usually still has a wait).
Madison Pour House – Right next to Cafe Madison (and owned by the same restaurant group) on Madison Ave. They have a cozy rustic vibe and an extensive beer menu. They also have a small menu of pub style snacks and entrees.
Pint Sized – Another casual spot with a great beer menu, board games and weekly events like trivia, karaoke and live music. There are also locations in Saratoga and Troy.
Bakeries/Coffee Shops/Ice Cream
Cider Belly Doughnuts – I am not the biggest donut lover, but there is no denying these donuts are delicious! They make a great classic apple cider donut, but also churn out lots of creative flavors as well. Open year round.
La Capital Tacos – for years I said Troy needed a good Mexican spot, and now we have one! My favorite taco restaurant in the area.
Their Troy location is rather small, so I recommend them for delivery or take out (get your tacos to go and have a picnic in Riverfront Park). I love their tacos (especially their birria tacos), quesadillas and chips and guac!
They also have a location in Latham and Saratoga.
Defazio’s Pizza – old school South Troy pizza restaurant and import store. Amazing pizza and homemade fresh pasta.
They were featured on Barstool Sports, so they are incredibly busy. Put your pizza order in the morning of or even the night before to ensure you get the time you want.
Can’t go wrong with any of their pizzas and the HANGOVER CAKE is to die for!!! They also have a location in Albany.
Sea Smoke Waterfront Grill – Sea Smoke is an upscale seafood restaurant on Starbuck Island with a fantastic raw bar and delicious appetizers and entrees. Reservations are recommended, especially during the summer and for the patio.
It is pricy, but I haven’t had a bad meal there yet. If you want to skip the meal, at least go for cocktails to enjoy the great waterfront views of Troy.
Nighthawks – Funky small restaurant on Broadway that serves brunch, burgers and an eclectic dinner menu that changes frequently. My favorites are their breakfast sandwiches and burgers.
Lime Leaf – delicious Thai food and speedy/friendly service. During COVID they did not offer delivery officially, but still offered to delivery our food to us since we were close!
I love all their curries, especially the Lime Leaf Curry and the Tom Yam Noodle Soup.
Troy Beer Garden – perhaps the most “Instagrammable” spot in Troy. Beautifully decorated with plants galore!
They serve cocktails wine and beer, as well as a dinner and pizza menu. They do not take reservations and seating is first come first serve.
The Berlin – this is a small 1930’s inspired cocktail lounge with romantic vibes and delicious cocktails. Located above the Troy Beer Garden and only open to the public on Fridays and Saturdays.
Franklin Alley Social Club – Franklin Alley is a fun basement bar that features bocci ball, shuffleboard, old school arcade games and board games. It’s almost impossible to be bored here!
They have a great selection of cocktails, canned beverages, beer and wine, as well as snacks, pizza and burgers. They also have a fun annual luau in the alley every summer with live music, food and drink specials.
Rare Form – Craft brewery and taproom with board games, a Nintendo 64 and outdoor seating. They allow you to bring in outside food so my recommendation is to order La Capital Tacos and enjoy them with your beer in their outdoor area.
Bakeries/Coffee Shops/Ice Cream
The Snowman – The best ice cream in the area, and I will die on this hill! A little out of the way and not in the best area, but worth it and worth the wait in line. Their cookie dough and coffee Oreo flavors are my absolute favorite.
Dutch Udder – Rich & creamy ice cream shop featuring traditional and unique flavors. The owners are from the area and very passionate about what they do. Open seasonally, check hours and opening/closing dates on their website or Facebook.
Jacob Alejandro – trendy coffee shop with unique lattes and pastries made in house. Grab a coffee and a scone and wander through the locally owned shops of Downtown Troy (or wander through the Troy Waterfront Farmer’s Market Saturdays during the summer).
Little Pecks – Cute coffee shop and all day cafe on Broadway with a beautiful enclosed patio and outdoor space in the back. A great place to bring your laptop and get some work done with a cup of coffee and a treat.
More Perreca’s – If this place is good enough for Alton Brown to visit AND post about on Instagram, then you know it’s good. Classic and comforting Italian American cuisine in a casual setting. They also have a bakery and offer catering.
Tara Kitchen – incredibly flavorful and comforting Moroccan food. I recommend getting one of their tagines, which is a traditional Moroccan stew served in a tagine pot.
Tara Kitchen also has locations in Troy, Guilderland, New Jersey and most recently, New York City.
Simone’s Kitchen – Lunch spot in Jay Street that offers Mediterranean bowls and small plates. Dine in, pick up and delivery is available. Super delicious, fresh ingredients and affordable prices. I recommend the falafel bowl.
Canali’s – open since 1947, Canali’s is a mainstay in Schenectady for Italian American food, old school vibes and large portions. They are open for dinner and also offer catering and banquet menus.
20 North Broadway – dive bar, super casual but they have incredible wings and a nice patio. Get their triple threat wings and a nice cold pint of beer. The best pairing.
Bakeries/Coffee Shops/Ice Cream
Villa Italia – Very popular bakery with Italian pastries, cookies, cakes and gelato. They also do wedding and special occasion cakes.
Graham’s Coffee Parlor – technically in Niskayuana (but close enough), Grahams offers coffee and tea drinks, smoothies and some snacks and treats in a cute (and often decorated) shop.
Seneca – One of my favorite restaurants in Saratoga. Classy yet rustic interior with an open kitchen and beautiful bar. You absolutely cannot miss the house-made parker house rolls and their burger is my favorite in the area.
Cantina – A popular spot in Saratoga for modern Mexican food and margaritas. I love their birria tacos and enchiladas. Reservations highly recommended. Also check out their rooftop bar if you are there in the summer.
Solevo – Scratch Southern Italian cooking with a rotating menu. Beautiful restaurant, great bar and outdoor seating in the summer. Reservations are also highly recommended, especially during track season. I’d recommend anything that comes in their red sauce (it’s *chef’s kiss*).
Osteria Danny – Very small family owned Italian American restaurant with indoor and outdoor seating. Incredible quality and big portions.
Their menu changes frequently, but you have to try the Bada Bing Shrimp (it’s popular so it’s usually on the menu) and their Peanut Butter Pie, which are both out of this world. Almost impossible to get into during track season, so my advice is to go during off season. A perfect spot for Valentine’s Day!
Hamlet & Ghost – Craft cocktails, shared plates and trendy vibes. I recommend the Gin-Gin Fizz cocktail and the Duck Fat French Fries.
I’ve never been able to walk in and not have to wait 45-90 minutes (even for the bar), so definitely make reservations.
Sweet Mimi’s – Breakfast and lunch spot that uses local ingredients. Their lemon ricotta pancakes were seen on Beat Bobby Flay.
They do not take reservations, and the wait can get pretty long, so go early or after noon on the weekends. They also have a bakery where you can pick up treats to go.
Hattie’s – Famous fried chicken and other Southern dishes in a casual setting. Open for dinner as well as brunch on the weekends. Come hungry!
15 Church – Fine dining at its finest! I had an incredible meal and received top notch service here for my birthday earlier this year. Definitely a special occasion restaurant as it is expensive, but worth it, in my opinion.
You can’t go wrong with anything on the menu (steak, seafood, pasta) but definitely get the Zeppoles for dessert! Reservations required.
9 Maple – The longest martini menu you will ever see (seriously, there are over 250 choices)! This is a small, dark bar with live music most weekend evenings. There is a $2 cover charge.
Bakeries/Coffee Shops/Ice Cream
Mrs. London’s – Bakery and cafe on Broadway offering beautiful pastries, bread, sandwiches and coffee in a Parisian style space. I am obsessed with their Almond Croissants.
Tipsy Moose – Rustic tavern with stick-to-your-ribs pub food and craft beer. Open for lunch and dinner as well as brunch on the weekends. I recommend a mac and cheese flight, one of their burgers or quesadillas. They also have locations in Albany and Troy.
Innovo Kitchen – Trendy gastropub with good burgers and sandwiches, small plates, mains and craft cocktails. They also have a great patio.
Bakeries/Coffee Shops/Ice Cream
Bella Napoli – A long standing family owned Italian bakery with pastries, cookies, cakes, breads and more. They also have a cafe that serves breakfast and lunch. There is a second location in Troy (bakery only).
Nonna Maria’s – unassuming spot in a strip mall with traditional pasta, meat, seafood and pizza dishes. They consistently get stellar reviews for their food and service.
Emma Jayne’s – This is a fairly new restaurant to Clifton Park, but it’s owners are have over 20 years of experience in the restaurant industry. There is a little something for everyone on their comforting menu. They do not take reservations, but I did not need to wait when I went on a weeknight.
East Greenbush/Rensselaer/North Greenbush
Nic’s Trattoria (East Greenbush)- Beautiful contemporary restaurant with a seasonal menu of wood fired pizzas, fresh pasta and craft cocktails. I’m always impressed such a good restaurant is in East Greenbush (I grew up here when the only restaurants were Friendly’s and Applebees).
SriSiam (Rensselaer)- One of my favorite Thai restaurants in the area. It’s a very casual location, but we usually go for takeout. I recommend the Khao Soi, which are yellow curry noodles. You won’t find them on many Thai restaurant menus in the area, and they do them really well!
Garlic Lover’s Corner (North Greenbush)- a true hidden gem! Incredibly delicious Greek cuisine. I recommend the pita, hummus, baba ghanoush, falafel and the chicken toscana.
Eadilyn’s Table (Wynattskill)- I’m so happy to have a cute and delicious brunch spot around the corner from me. They have a great menu with a mix of savory and sweet breakfast items as well as lunch items. Definitely check out their mimosa flight that includes five full size mimosas with different flavors of your choice.
Paolo Lombardi’s (Wynattskill)- Nostalgic and comforting Italian restaurant with a patio open in the summers. This place was a favorite spot for take out during COVID. I recommend the chicken parmesan and zuppa di pesce.
Bakeries/Coffee Shops/Ice Cream
The Crisp Cannoli (East Greenbush)- Casual and quaint bakery and cafe with breakfast, lunch and Italian pastries and desserts. They have some of the best cannoli I’ve tried.
The Fifth Tier Baking Studio (Wynattskill)- Cute and quirky coffee shop and bakery. You must try the cinnamon rolls and any of their quiches! Great spot to go and do work.
Kay’s Pizza (Burden Lake) – Super casual lakeside pizza place with fantastic pizza. Open April through mid October, indoor and outdoor dining, no reservations. Often a long wait but worth it!
Cake Street Sweets (Cohoes) – I may be biased because my friend owns this bakery and did the wedding cake and desserts for our wedding, but Cake Street Sweets has some of the best baked goods in the area. She also creates custom wedding and special occasion cakes akin to what you see on baking shows on tv.
Charlton Tavern (Charlton) – On the outskirts of Ballston Lake (so it’s a bit out there). Built in 1787, with a large fireplace, beamed ceilings and dim lighting, this is a cozy and casual spot serving up pub fare.
Farmhouse Tap and Tavern (Altamont) – cute tavern with small town vibes and modern pub fare. I am constantly amazed by the creative dishes this restaurant comes up with. If you love mac and cheese, burgers and pizza, definitely check this place out.
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If you found this Capital Region Restaurant Guide helpful, please let me know by leaving a comment below. Be sure to check out my Instagram @thechowdown to stay up to date on where I am dining in the area (everything is saved to a story highlight).