Big John’s

This weekend Albany John was sooo awesome and said we should get take out! Ah, that boy is freakin’ wonderful.
Where did we get it from? From Big John’s!

Big John’s is located on Elizabeth Street, off of Morton Ave in Albany. It looks like a beat up shack, has standing room only and is strictly cash only take-out.

It also has the BEST ever soul food in the area. It’d been, oh, about a year or something since we’d last gone (look, I love soul food, but I’m pretty sure eating it every month would be worse than my daily butter consumption, which is probably equally bad in retrospect).

We get the meals, which are Styrofoam containers packed with your entrée choice plus collard greens, potato salad, sweet potatoes and a cornbread muffin. They are seriously packed to the gills, too. I wanted the ribs – omg, it was pretty much a half a rack of ribs in there! Seriously! About 6 ribs, plus all those sides means I stuff myself for two meals. And I mean stuff.

Albany John got the oxtails, and omg, they were so very tender and flavorful. The meat just fell off the bone, and the soupy broth they were in was beef-a-licious. They even packed the oxtails in their own little container – a container of tasty.
The collards are made with smoked meat, and really good – not too tough, but not mushy either. The sweet potatoes come soft and soaked in sweet juices. The potato salad doesn’t have any pieces of celery sticking in it, and is a bright yellow. The muffin is wonderful for sopping up juices.
The cost for both our meals was $19. And totally worth it.

Sushi Yokohama

Sushi Yokohama has opened up in Cosimo’s Plaza on Western Ave, taking the place of San & Bada Sushi. San & Bada shut down sometime last year.
This was a turnkey operation as nothing has changed at all, décor-wise at Sushi Yokohama. The bucket of menus is still out front.
Sushi prices are on par with local prices, but the ‘specialty’ rolls are $8-15 each, with about 2 that are $7.50. That and they seem really over the top for someone who normally keeps things simple. For those tuna lovers there’s a Tuna Blanca Jumbo Roll for $14.95 that has “Spicy tuna, spicy white tuna, shrimp, crunch and kani, top with white tuna and avocado”. Wow, that’s a lot of tuna.
Sushi and Sashimi are 2 pieces per order and about $4. Not too bad. Basic rolls range $3.50-$4.95, with the majority of prices at $4.50. I had a few rolls that were ok, but they had a tendency to fall apart, or threaten to. Funny thing is, the rice is very sticky. Oh, and the crab is imitation crab. I wish places would just call it krab or surimi or something to denote it. Overall though, they were ok for a sushi fix and cheap.

I recently had a lunch box special. Their menu says they are $8.50 each, but I saw in one of the Guilderland Town publications (look, it was there, and I can’t resist the coupons in magazines, even if I might never use them) that they are $5.99. If you tell them you saw the ad, they will charge you this lower price with no problem. I got the sushi lunch box, as you can see. It came in a cute plastic bento container. Snaps for the disposable bento container! That was awesome! I really didn’t like getting a Styrofoam container when I’d order bento lunch boxes from other places around here, but I’d resigned myself to it – what a nice surprise!

The fish looks great. Tuna, Salmon, and I believe 2 pieces of fluke, or some kind of white fish. However, the first fluke was kind of ‘oh crap is this a bit past its prime?’, but the second piece was decent. The last time I had salmon here it was a little gamey, but nothing I couldn’t handle. This time, their salmon was good, as was the tuna. But they sure didn’t suffer from a good dousing of soy sauce and wasabi either. Also, they’re long pieces that drape over the rice! So cute and awesome!

The bento also came with a side salad, 1 gyoza, 1 shumai, and 2 pieces of tempura – sweet potato and shrimp. The tempura were great – very light and even had their own sweet dipping sauce. The gyoza wasn’t that great, but, hey, I ate it. The shumai was pretty much a mushy blob, but it got taste bud snaps for having a vague seafood flavor.
The box also came with the usual tub of miso soup, which was really strong and had a good flavor to it. I think they might use more bonito flakes in their base, or a different kind of miso, but I really like it. It tastes different, and I like it. (Man, I hope I don’t get proven wrong and it’s just Kikkoman from a bag).

Sushi Yokohama also has a deal from 4:30-8:30 pm (didn’t say what days) :
“All Sushi $1 per piece, *Rolls for $1 and ½ Price Drinks!”
*4 piece rolls. Select from: California, Tuna, Spicy Tuna, Spicy Salmon, Spicy Crab, Vegetable, Oshinko, Avocado Cucumber, Eel, Salmon or Sweet Potato Rolls.

OMG, OMG, OMG!!! Can you believe that?! That’s freakin’ crazy, AND it’s good for take out orders too!!! What is stopping you from sushi gluttony?!
Sushi Yokohama is at 1800 Western Ave (Cosimos Plaza), Albany, NY 12203.
Phone: 518-218-0388Open every day but Sunday, from 11:30-10(10:30 weekends) with a break from 3-4:30.

Shrimp on Super Awesome Sale This Week!

Just an FYI for all you shrimp-files like myself out there – Hannaford has jumbo shrimp on sale for $4.99 per pound! They’re not the store brand, they’re in 2 lb frozen bags if you can’t catch them when they’re open to grab some from the counter. They’re normally $7.99 per pound, and oh, baby are they ever jumbo! When I went by yesterday they weren’t marked, but they rang up as on sale.

I don’t think I’ve ever had leftover shrimp in my life, and Albany John has me marked to eat a pound in one sitting without batting an eye. I could barely do it with these suckers! I think the only thing better than grilled shrimp is… grilled shrimp for breakfast because you were too stuffed to eat it all last night. More shrimp tonight since I exercised some control (don’t look so shocked!) and didn’t skewer them all last night.


“We’re going to go out tonight, so dress up when you get home,” said Albany John.

Oooo, where???!” I squealed


“AHHH!!! No way! You’ve actually heard about it too? Did you read that article Steve Barnes wrote in the Times Union??”

Have you heard about Ballingers yet? It’s on Howard Street downtown where Ogden’s used to be. It opened just this past Thursday. The owners bought the entire building and spent a fortune renovating it. One of the bartenders mentioned that the owners(who currently have a similar club in NYC as well) had been waiting for ten years to purchase the perfect spot in Albany. They certainly did it.

I’d never been in the building before, and from their pictures online, I was a bit hesitant since it looked kind of empty. Thankfully everything was rather spacious, if a bit cramped since a lot of the super comfy looking tables are reserved for ‘Big Spenders’ in increments of $50-$200. But really, if you’re a large-ish group you should fit in that category. And when I say comfy, I mean they look like decadently plush sofas. They’re absolutely gorgeous. And comfy. Did I mention comfy? Albany John and I were sitting upstairs at one point and wow – totally worth it.(I think before they had put more of the ‘reserved’ cards out, since later someone was putting them out where we were sitting. Ooops. But no one ever shoo’ed us away and I thought that was nice.)

There were a total of three floors to choose from. The details in each are just amazing. The main floor had the atmosphere of an upscale bar. They had a balance scale for decor, with actual change in each side – SO cute! Upstairs is where there was a DJ spinning. If you check out Ballingers’ website, you’ll see that after 8 a DJ sets up. I was surprised by the music. Kind of a top 40 of pop, but mixed in with some less popular current songs as well.
The upstairs also had a rather kinky looking room with some haphazardly hung harnesses on the wall. To be honest, it didn’t look like there was much rhyme or reason to it, but the rest of the room had a woodsy look to the decor so it worked.
The Cellar is smaller and showcases the exposed brick. They bar is made of granite and there’s a fireplace! It was also much less crowded than the bars on the other floors. It also felt much more relaxed.
There’s also an outdoor patio with its own bar – a Tiki Hut! Oh, I could have died! There’s plenty of sitting room outside, in case you think you don’t have the cash to be a VIP with a table and the bar seats are full.

The drinks were made perfectly and rather affordable too. We had 3-4 drinks total (just for a peek to see how the place looked) and it was about $25-30. I was expecting something more expensive, but Ballingers if you are reading this, please don’t! I really liked going into a swank, posh place and not paying an arm and a leg for drinks. Thank you for not charging NYC drink prices like some of the other bars downtown. *cough cough* Also, the entire staff were wonderful. I really do mean wonderful. From the moment we walked in we were greeted warmly by the door staff, cocktail waitresses, bartenders and all. It was so nice! I can’t tell you what a relief it was to have friendly, genuine people all over the place. I think that these owners really did a bang up job in the staff they hired, and hopefully they will all remain just as nice.

Ballingers also has a delectable looking food menu, which I didn’t get to try this time, but I can’t wait for the next!