Do you know about Bob’s? If you don’t, now you do. Bob’s is located at 929 19th Street, Watervliet, NY (AKA, Route 2 in Watervliet). Bob’s is awesome. Why? Because not only is it open 24/7, 365, but they serve awesome food on the cheap, and they accept credit cards. Say whut? Yeah, I thought so.

Their menu is purely delicious diner food. I’ve been a few times and… LURVE. Lurve, I say. LURVE! Nommy hash browns, decently cooked eggs, and crispy hash.

My girlfriend and I decided that we needed a gut busting & greasy breakfast one weekend morn/afternoon. I think I got the Hash Hound for $8.95, and she got the Lumberjack for $7.95. The lumberjack (background) comes with pancakes or french toast, choice of meat, toast, three eggs, and hash browns. Epic meal, and one she couldn’t finish. SHEESH, GIRLIE!

The Hash Hound comes with a ton of hash, toast, hashbrowns, three eggs, and pancakes or french toast. Their pancakes are SO FLUFFY!!! SO FLUFFY AND GOOD!

Albany John was the dainty one and only ordered a short stack (something like $2-3 for three pancakes). He was sad that they only had the fakelsyrup, but instead slathered his ‘cakes with jam. I didn’t think they needed much aside from butter.

Coffee’s like $1.50 for a bottomless cup. If they’re busy, sometimes it’s hard to flag the waitresses down for a refill. Decent cup o’ diner Joe, though.

The hash had a good amount of crispness to it, but usually it has more when I get it. You could probably split this dish with someone and supplement it with a side or two. It’s a lot of food for a special plate.

Go to BOB’S! It is such good diner food!

Uncle John’s Diner

I remember seeing Uncle John’s Diner while driving around Cohoes, NY and making a mental note to check it out. I mean, it’s got Albany John’s name in it!

It’s a twee storefront located right off of 787 (300 Ontario St, Cohoes, NY 12047). You might not notice it at first, but it’s so cute you won’t miss it once you do see it. You can see the counter before you even walk in. There’s not much space to it – a few tables, but best of all a long counter with stools! I love diner counters with stools.

We were greeted when we walked in – it’s a friendly little joint.

Coffee, coffee, coffee. I think the menu said this was $1.25 per cup. Not bad. Nothing bitter. Solidly inoffensive diner coffee.
Water is unavailable as tap. They sell bottles for $0.50 each. They mentioned something about Cohoes water being expensive. I think it was a joke. I don’t know. I was hungover and unable to comprehend humor, so I was like, heeee yeah, please give me coffee. Also, it’s an older place, so if they say their water is not potable, well, I’m going to go with it. I can only imagine how old the pipes were.
The space behind the counter is also small. It’s such a tiny, old building. Most of the things in the building looked like they’ve been there forever. I really like that – adds character. It looks like there was a back kitchen area too, which also looked a little old/worn/rustic.
I also thought it was a neat juxtaposition to see gigantic shakers of paprika and garlic powder sitting with 100% pure olive oil.

The interior is covered with pictures of old Cohoes. There was even a lady there at a table sitting underneath the picture of her at the table. HOW META IS THAT? (Am I even using ‘meta’ right? I DON’T KNOW!).

If you want a little bit of Cohoes history with your breakfast or lunch, Uncle John’s Diner is the place to go. And while the diner itself was, yes, old, everything inside was kept clean. Lots of tidying going on while I was in.

Albany John and I each got the 2 eggs, homefries, toast, and meat combination ($4.25 each). Albany John got rye as his toast (rye & wheat bread available for $0.30 extra).

He got his eggs scrambled, and bacon as his meat. The eggs looked really soft. Bacon was cooked fairly crispy. He covered the homefries in ketchup.

I got sausage as my meat, and had my eggs overeasy. Yay for overeasy eggs! I like to dip my toast in it. I liked the toast. Toasty and crunchy without being too hard, and not drenched in butter.

The sausage was the link variety (aka, the best kind of sausage to have) and split in half. It was a neat sensation. Chewy, crunchy meaty bits on the cut side, and enjoyably chewy other side with casings (real casings, none of that vegetable matter casing whatnottery).

My homefries were a little on the tepid side, and soft. I like them crunchy, so I didn’t eat too much of them. I’d probably pass on them in the future.

They also have sandwiches and sides. I’d definitely be up for trying a sandwich, too.

I think they’re cash only. In retrospect, I think we were undercharged. It was $9.99 after tax for both of our meals and coffees. Maybe it should have been more like $11. Did we get a free coffee? I have no idea.

Oh, and major bonus – this cute little diner is also open on Sundays! It’s the kind of place you can go and chat with everyone there if you want, or just sit quietly and read the paper. I like those kinds of places. Everyone was really warm and treated everyone nicely. They were especially nice to the senior citizens, opening the door for them, making sure they got served first. I think that says a lot about Uncle John’s Diner, and it’s really sweet.

Crispy Pork (Siu Yuk)

There once was a wee strip of a pork belly. One day, a hungry wombat picked up the pork belly and… ok, you know what, this is not going where I imagined it would.

The husbear (Girlie, I hope you don’t mind – I am so stealing this from you. I LOVE the name) and I picked up some pork belly (i.e.: raw, uncured bacon) for something like $2.69/lb at the Asian Food Market on Colvin. It’s a cheap price, but the suckers are around 70% fat, so they don’t exactly have a lot of meat on them.

I decided to make siu yuk (or siew yuk), that delightfully fatty, crispy, crackly pork dish. I had no clue it was called siu yuk – I usually just call it “the crispy skinned pork” and have whoever I’m with order it in Chinese. Or point. Pointing works, too. If you have never had this, it’s really simple, but really good (like bacon) – it’s the pork belly with the skin on, cooked until the top layer is golden and crackly. The bottom layers of fat and meat stay moist.

I looked at a lot of recipes and just kind of picked ones that looked good out of a had and went with it. Some call for rice wine vinegar brushed on the top to help crisp the skin up and others don’t. I used the vinegar and was worried the skin would taste vinegar-y, but the pictures DID look crispier, and crispy always wins over potentially-soggy.

I think this pork could have cooked a little longer. Then the skin would have bubbled even more and been even crispier! The timing isn’t really vital – there is so much fat in pork belly that there’s no threat of drying it out. But it was about 10 pm, and I could NOT wait any longer for dinner, so out it came.

I grabbed a cleaver and hacked away at it. FYI – it’s a lot easier to hack away when it’s on the side, as opposed to skin side up. I had fun hacking at the meat – I felt like those Chinese butchers in NYC that throw their arms into the chopping when you order it (which was a good sign my pork belly was halfway decent).

It was more than decent. Not to toot my own horn (if I had a horn, I would make sure it played some really annoying song, not just ‘toot toot’), but I am getting fairly decent at whipping up non-sucky dishes. They’re still meat-centric, but oh well. At least it’s not cookies or cake, right?

These porky bits were greasy, artery-clogging bites of heaven. I’m sure 2 people aren’t supposed to eat a ½ lb of the stuff, but we did. If you can’t tell, there’s the top layer of skin, a hearty later of fat, some whiter pork meat, another thinner layer of fat, and a bottom layer of darker pork meat. If I had cooked this longer, more of the fat would have also cooked down. Next time.

My whole apartment smells like pork now, and there’s a cookie sheet FULL of liquid pork fat. I can’t wait to figure out what to do with it. Some of the bottom bits of the pork got crispy as well. Sometimes I just want to eat all the skin, but when both top and bottom are crispy – oh heavenly porky bits, it is good!

Here’s what I did:

Insanely Addictive Crispy Skinned Pork:

Rinse off your pork belly and dry it out as much as possible.

Flip it over so the meat is up and the skin side is down.
Score the meat a bit.

Mix together a dry marinade:
5-spice powder, white sugar, and white pepper.
That’s it. Make it to taste. I only like a hint of 5-spice powder, so I was probably heavier handed on the sugar. The white pepper adds a peppery flavor with a nice zing that I like.

Rub the dry mixture all over the meat. Use as much or as little as you want. For you fellow nerds out there – the 3 exposed sides. Leave the skin alone. If you get some on the skin, just wipe it off with some paper towels.

Flip the meat skin side up and stick it in the fridge, uncovered. Yes, uncovered. You want to dry the skin out as much as possible. I left mine in there for about 2 hours marinating and drying out, and I thought it was good. You could do more or less. As in, 30 minutes to 2 days (although 2 days seems a bit much, given that my piece wasn’t very wide).

Turn the oven on to 400F, put 2 of your oven racks in middle/lower end of oven (or higher end, whichever is closest to your heat source).

Salt the pork skin with 1-2 T kosher salt.

Put pork strip on the top rack, just as is. Then put a cookie sheet or pan underneath it to catch the drippings. We want to really blast this with heat from all sides and have it drain grease – not sit in tons of fat.

Cook for 20 minutes, then prick the skin all over, as much as you can (I used a fondue fork) and then brush the skin with rice wine vinegar.
Put back in the oven and cook 40-60 more minutes. The skin will be crisp and bubbly looking. If some minor sections of the skin are blackened, this is OK – you can scrape it off and the skin will all be insanely crispy.

O’Brien’s Garden Grill

Where do you go when you’re not sure where to go?

O’Brien’s. It’s located on 2nd Ave in Albany, NY and has just right menu for when you’re not sure what you want, but you want it to be good.

Albany John ordered the wings with BBQ sauce. $5.50 gets you 10 of them. He loved the sauce. I would totally get them again, but maybe ask if they could get the skin a bit crispier. I liked that they were meaty and not of the puny, skimpy variety where you see bones peeking through at points on the wing. They weren’t the least bit greasy or rubbery, and were sauced perfectly – not too much, not too little.

My sister-friend was also in the area and ordered the half pound burger for $5.50, done medium. It was cooked perfectly to order. I’ve never had an overdone burger at O’Brien’s. They’ve always come out exactly as ordered. If nothing else, get the burgers if it’s your first time at O’Brien’s. The sister-friend doesn’t eat pickles, so I did. Still super good and crunchy.

I got the fries. $2.50 for a bowl of the shoestring variety. They look a sickly shade of pale in this picture for some reason, but I assure you, they are pretty tasty in person. One of the staff came up and she was asking if I liked them, and I said I really did, and were they made there? They tasted like they were. She said no, and that she wasn’t a huge fan of them and they were thinking of changing them and making them home made, since they do have down time at lunch. Man, I just love the casualness of everyone at O’Brien’s! Just chatting, seeing how the food is, talking about their plans to change things up.

Definitely check them out. It’s a short menu written on a whiteboard above the bar, but everything I’ve ever ordered has been great.

O’Brien’s Garden Grill:276 Second Ave., Albany, NY 12209 Phone Number: 518-462-0571

The Lansingburgh Cafe

Did you know that just about every place in Troy is shut down for breakfast on Sunday? Or that it’s nearly impossible to find places? Yea, I didn’t. Which left me scrambling when I had visitors over and I suggested brunch in Troy. Or maybe I’m just a bad Googler.

I kind of wanted to try Oliver’s Naturals, but when I called it went straight to voicemail, so I figured they weren’t open. Hmm, ok.
Famous Lunch? No luck – closed.
So I searched the Times Union’s listings and found the Lansinburgh Café. It was open. And it had good reviews. Woo hoo! Sign me up!

So we meandered over to the Lansinburgh Café. It’s right on the corner of 5th Ave and… another street. It’s right across from a Guns N’ Ammo store.

It was pretty full when we walked in, but we easily found a table and were soon greeted to get our drink orders. They also have a bar with stools along the side, which I am dying to try out next.
The insides are warm and packed with little tchotchkies and bric-a-brac that make you feel like you’ve walked into your kindly Aunt’s home. The seating is a bit snug, but you fit in.

We found the menu to be very comprehensive, without reaching too far. They even had a crab cake poached egg hollandaise mega super awesome combo that sounded right up my alley. And it was $9.95! That was one of the higher prices too, I might add. But, lo, I was wooed with the siren call of stuffed French toast. It was a special (they have a specials board). I know, I know. Stuffed French toast. And a special. I’ve read the Anthony Bourdain books too, but when am I going to make stuffed French toast?
It was good – stuffed to the gills with cream cheese and jam. It reminded me of a better version of the cream cheese and jelly sandwiches I ate every day in kindergarten.

Another dish we had were pierogies with eggs and toast. They were solid pierogies and quite crisp.
Albany John got an egg scramble thing (sorry, I can’t remember exactly right now) with vegetables in it. And they were really accommodating about the veggies too. He’d asked if there were bell peppers, and they said it was whatever veggies were in the kitchen, but they could leave them out. I really liked that – so many places just have the big tub o’ veggies, and more often than not they include bell peppers. It was nice that they’d go the extra step and leave them out.His meal also came with pierogies, which were equally tasty. I liked that these pierogies maintained their crisp exterior, and that they weren’t mushy like some doughs can be.

And then there was the mega meat omelet with home fries and toast. Holy crap, I am not kidding – that thing was gigantic. It was stuffed with meat too, so much so that there were almost leftovers. Woah. In my group? That’s a ton of food.

They’re open Monday – Friday from 6 am – 2 pm, and Saturday and Sunday from 7 am – 2 pm, and Friday and Saturday at 5 pm – 8 pm for dinner. I’m not sure if they’re cash only, but that’s the payment method we used.

Another plus I liked – they were really light tasting. All their food (even the mega meat omelet) wasn’t greasy, and everything sat well.

469 5th AveTroy, NY 12182 (518) 238-2673

Le Weekend. It Roxored.

Raves of the weekend:

1) Kismet Art Gallery’s showings for Troy Night Out were funky and awesome, as usual, and they had shrimp scampi pesto shrimp – yum! They always have great food. And cheap drinks.

2) The Menands Farmers Market (The Capital District Farmers Market). I saw on Jennifer Gish’s blog that there would be a corn festival. With free corn! So I woke up early and after taking forever and a day to get ready, I headed out and got a free ear of corn. And there were squeeze bottles of butter! It was a great little breakfast.

I think I might like this market more than the Troy Farmers Market. It seemed a little more down to earth, and a lot of really local people were there, like farmers from Colonie and Loudonville. I snagged a cabbage for $2 a head at one table, and a basket of non-pretty yellow squash for $1. The squash was easily 3 pounds, so it was quite a steal. Sure, they weren’t as fresh as their more expensive squashy counterparts, but I’ll eat them this week, so freshness is not an issue for me. I also saw a stand with whoopie pies for $1, so I grabbed Albany John one since I remember he liked them. I thought it was terrific, and I have to go again this Saturday in order to try the Red Velvet whoopie pie. I think they were made by the Amish, or some other group of people who wear straw hats and such. They were really nice, I probably should have talked them up a bit more about their baked goods.

3) Cheap corn at the Troy Farmers Market. I didn’t buy any at the Menands market for some reason since I kept hoping I’d get a better deal than $3 for half a dozen ears of corn. And I did! I found some wildly sweet and buttery tasting corn for $2 for 5. Nice!

4) I found the veggie cart in downtown Albany, and got a yellow watermelon for $3.50! And it’s really tasty.

5) The Pickle Party at CDFI. The Capital District Federation puts on a fruit/food party once a year. I’ve never been to them and looked forward to it – there were people making pickle costumes, pickle dolls, and tons of pickles.

6) I ate the BEST SAUCE EVER. I will further post on this, it was that good. The creator has promised me my own bottle shortly.

7) Although I don’t love beer, I have found that I really enjoy Genesee Cream Ale in a bottle.

8) Waking up and impulsively heading over with a friend to At The Warehouse to look around and buy more wonderful Center Square honey. This is the heroin of honeys. It’s silky smooth, with a wonderfully rounded and sweet flavor. The Autumn honey tastes so incredibly buttery, I go into convulsions if my honey stash is in short supply.

9) Lark Tavern. I was thinking perhaps Bros Tacos, but wasn’t sure if they were open, but then remembered LARK TAVERN. My friend was all in as another Lark Tavern lover. I ordered the burger special. It was basically a reuben burger with Russian dressing, sauerkraut and cheese. And it came out perfectly rare and tasted nice and beefy. At $9.95, it was a good deal for what you got (it also came with fries). It’s now battling for Best Burger in Albany in my ranking system. My friend got fish and shrimp – and woah baby. They were fresh, not frozen – battered in a delicious cornmeal coating. I ate the shrimp tails – yum. Such good food. And they’ve redone the ladies bathroom! Now it’s much less cramped and has steel and mirrors all over. It’s awesome.

10) Corn nuts. Oh my goodness. I love the corn nuts from the bulk section at Hannaford. And since they’re in bulk, I can get a small amount every time I want some. I don’t know if I’ve ever eaten these before, but they’re awesome – like the semi-popped kernels of popcorn at the bottom of the bowl.

11) Tomatoes from the garden. They’re finally ripening! They’ve been teasing me, remaining green all season, but a few of our pear tomatoes (yellow. Yum!) have started to ripen, and I found a big fat yellow tomato that was aaaalmost ripe, and it should be ripe tonight and oh my gosh I just realized that we have a ripe avocado, and I need to combine them in my belly tonight.

Wendy’s and Coke Zero – I Lurve You

Can I just say – Wendy’s Crispy Chicken Sandwich and a Coke Zero are an awesome combo?

It also isn’t too shabby if you maybe had a few too many drinks last night since you haven’t had any drinks in weeks because you’ve been sick and have lost what little tolerance for alcohol you had. I mean, just a thought, because you know I would never overindulge in anything. Ever.

And, you know, whipping out the ole Louisiana style hot sauce adds a nice kick to the tasty, tasty sandwich as well.
My only regret aside from the gobs of mayo that were present even though I requested no mayo (I guess they must have known I’d be dousing the sandwich in hot sauce and added the mayo to help kill the heat?) is that I only ordered one. At $0.99 they’re not exactly breaking the bank.