Thursday, March 16, 2006

Albany Pump Station

The Albany Pump Station has become one of the most popular restaurants in the Capital District. With a huge brick building (according to the information on their web site, it began as two buildings with the first built in 1874) of 8,000 square feet floor space, there's plenty of room to get comfortable. There is an ample fireplace in the main dining room with cozy couches around for lounging. And, for beer aficionados, C. H. Evans has won awards for Kick-Ass Brown Ale and Hefeweizen, among others.

Why is it called the Pump Station? Originally, it was a beer brewery run by the Evans family, who started brewing in Hudson in 1786. They've done a beautiful restoration of the building (you can see an enormous hook still hanging) and continue to brew beer here today.

Because this restaurant has become so popular (and the bar area is packed on weekends), I highly recommend making a reservation. Last weekend, we had an unpleasant experience of waiting for half an hour, only to give up when they said we would have to wait even longer to be seated.

But the other time we've gone, a bit later on a Saturday night, we were seated immediately, and found that the service and food were both great. My veggie burger was one of the best I've had, and the sweet potato fries were good (but not as good as those at Bomber's Burrito bar!) The bread pudding for dessert was also excellent. Don't expect to lose any weight here, unless you're really disciplined and can order the large salads (the Spring Medley salad features baked brie bruschetta; you can also get a Grilled Chicken Fajita or a Traditional Cobb salad).

Executive chef Gerard Fleck, trained at the Culinary Institute of America, has done a terrific job making the menu as crowd-pleasing as possible, with plenty of choices: appetizers include Nachos, Coconut Shrimp, Thai Peanut Wings, and Pale-Ale Battered Red Onion Rings. Sandwiches include a vegetarian option as well as chicken, pulled-pork, and The Gobbler (turkey on a baguette with all the trimmings). You can build your own burger; order from entrees like Chicken Sophia (chicken stuffed with ham and mozarella), Fish and Chips, Polynesian Mahi Filet; or have pasta.

It's really a bit overwhelming. And I don't envy them their heating bill come winter. But it makes for a most pleasant experience.

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