This is one that I have been very afraid to approach.
In my opinion, the quality at Bombers on Lark Street in Albany, NY has been on a steep decline over the past few years to the point where I don’t enjoy going there any more. Between the quality of what I like to order declining and a number (not like 2 or 3, more like into the teens) of experiences with bad service, my patronage of Bombers has followed the same declining trend.
When I was in college, Bombers was the place to be. I fondly recall my first few trips there, in which Bombers was just a dingy basement with cool toys from my childhood on the counter along and signs that read something like “Don’t watch us prepare your food; it’s creepy.” I enjoyed gathering in the broken seats and just hanging out and chatting with friends, all while enjoying my favorite jerk pork burrito and taking advantage of free refills on beverages.
When Bombers expanded to the space right above that basement location, I also had many enjoyable times, including my 25th birthday in 2004, when I first experienced the glory of the free birthday margarita and literally the whole world came to celebrate to the point where the entire floor besides servers were there to celebrate with me.
More recently, the experiences have been less heartwarming. On a recent trip to the Lark St. location, my burrito arrived at the table charred (how?) and the server refused to rectify the situation, neither by having it be re-made (after I asked) nor by removing it from the bill. I have returned a number of times since this experience, but it has not been the same and has gotten to the point where I memorized the schedule of the one server that I felt treated me properly and only went back when she was working.
When they announced that Matt Baumgartner, owner of both establishments, was opening a second location of Bombers in the heart of downtown Schenectady, I took the news with complete indifference. I believe they opened some time in 2009, so you can see that I have not been in a rush to check the place out. Couple that with the fact that I generally have no business in Schenectady [I live in Latham and work in Guilderland].
On a snowy Saturday afternoon, I decided to make the trip to downtown Schenectady to check this place out. Bombers resides at 451 State St, approximately across the street from Proctor’s Theater. Parking is free on the street out front on weekends. It didn’t take much to find an available park.
When I entered Bombers. I was overwhelmed. There was a huge, brightly lit, open space with tons of stools and benches to sit on. There was a staircase going upstairs, but I was confused whether there was even an upstairs portion due to the sheer size of downstairs. I asked a young man at the counter if there was table service upstairs, and upstairs I went.
Upstairs was equally spacious, and I was greeted by a young lady with a smile who sat me at a booth and gave me a menu. It has been a while since I have eaten at Bombers, so I browsed the menu. I was pleased to find all of the old favorites as well as some new favorites. [aside: I was disappointed they changed the name of the “disco fries” to the more descriptive “gravy cheese fries,” but I’m assuming a lot of people asked for clarification.]
I am a creature of habit when it comes to Bombers. When I’m not on a crazy diet, I order the “Red Stripe” Jerk Pork Burrito with Tofu fries. Brilliant! When I am on a crazy diet, I order the Jerk Pork Plate with no rice. That’s what I did this time. But I also wanted hot wings. So, that’s what I got.
Everything arrived at the same time, so I really didn’t know what to do. It was a lot of food. I was happy to have my food served in usual Bombers fashion, on what can be described as nothing short of a shallow dog bowl. Visually, I could tell the jerk pork plate would easily be two servings for me, so I divided it accordingly. Biting into the jerk pork reminded me of the first time I ever had the jerk pork at Bombers Lark. It was juicy, succulent, slightly spicy and had the slight overabundance of salt that jerk pork should have; it was not the dry, over-seasoned jerk pork that I have experienced on a number of recent trips to Bombers Lark.
The wings were cooked nicely. I didn’t feel that they were terribly hot, and, in fact, next time I return, I will try the XXX hot wings, which seems to be the next level of heat. Surprisingly, this was actually the first time I’ve tried Bombers wings, so I was pleased.
I wound up taking half of the jerk pork plate and most of the wings home, and I enjoyed both of these another day.
Overall, I have to say that my experience at Bombers Schenectady has begun to renew my love for Bombers. Given the choice, I would take the extra five minute drive from Latham to the Schenectady location over the Albany location for a couple of reasons. The place is much cleaner and spacious. From my n equals one experience, the food that I like to order is better. I’m not going to say the magic I once felt in my heart for Bombers is completely revitalized, but we’re getting there…