This wasn’t actually my first trip to the City Beer Hall. I actually got a chance to try some of their party food at All Over Albany’s 4th birthday party earlier this year. The place and the bits of food I tried had me curious to go back. The menu, containing a vast number of creative gastropub favorites at very reasonable prices, intrigued me. So, one day after work, when neither Cassie nor I wanted to stick to our normal routines, we went for a visit to the City Beer Hall (42 Howard Street in Albany, NY).
They actually have a parking lot about a block and a half away, but be careful where you turn. One wrong turn will put you on 787 going north. It’s not very complicated to figure out though.
The first thing I did when I got there was design my own flight of beers for just $6. You can pick just about any four beers from their list of superior microbrews, and you’ll get 4oz pours.
The flight of beer I designed contained the following: Peak organic summer session, Dogfish Head Theobroma, Stone Brewing Arrogant Bastard, and Keegan’s Joe Mama’s Milk stout. The Theobroma was outstanding (as is just about every other Dogfish Head brew), but the Joe Mama’s Milk Stout was out of this world. I honestly can’t even put into words how great that was.
When the young lady brought the fun flight, she also gave me this.
She had to explain to me what to do with the ticket. Basically, I was to walk straight back to the kitchen, show them the ticket, and they would prepare me a complimentary pizza that would be ready in minutes. So, I followed the directions. Things were slow in the kitchen, so I asked if I could take a picture and asked the two cooks some questions, mainly about the pizza thing.
The dude there took a thin sheet of dough, slathered some tomato sauce on it, added some cheese and tossed it into the pizza oven. A few minutes later, he plopped it on the counter and I made my way back to my table.
As it turns out, for every beer you buy that’s bigger than a tasting glass, you get a ticket. I think that’s a cool idea, because you can pretty much guarantee that you’re not drinking on an empty stomach. And there’s really no better food to go with beer than pizza. Ok, so there are Buffalo wings, but who can afford to just give those away?
But I wasn’t really there to drink, per sé, I was there for the food.
I’ve really been on a burger kick as of late, so I focused on the burger options.
As great as the Gastro Burger sounded, the simplicity of the 518 burger ($10) really was what kept drawing me back to that. I ordered that medium rare and also got an order of popcorn chicken with their homemade sriacha blue cheese sauce; hey, for $6, why not?
The little nuggets of chicken were beautifully crisp with a rather thick breading. The seasoning was spot on with these, and the dipping sauce was great. I’m not usually a dipper, but, when I decided to wrap half of the portion to take home, I had to ask for more sauce.
I tried some of Cassie’s truffled mac and cheese ($8).
It was really rich and decadent. The pasta was a little overcooked, but that’s forgivable in mac and cheese to a certain point. The crunchy topping was very good.
My burger came and it looked impressive.
As I always do, I closed up the burger and checked the temperature in the center by cutting across it.
It was cooked a little more than medium rare, like medium-ish, but I just went with it. Since they use Kilcoyne beef, I knew what I was in for as far as the flavor of the burger. It was very good, but they didn’t season the burger prior to grilling it, so there wasn’t much of a crust and the taste of the meat was kind of flat. I loved that there were pickles on the burger, and the cheese was great. The bun was the weakest part of the burger, and that’s not to say it was bad. The fries were really good. I got a bunch of small fragments that were nicely fried and seasoned. This dish was well worth $10.
After we finished, the server tried to sell us some kind of ice cream sandwich they’ve been working on. I had so much by that point that I had to decline.
This restaurant is definitely a strong addition to downtown Albany. The gastropub concept seems to be something that many are having success with in the region. With such solid, affordable eats and an impressive list of beers, I can definitely see myself going back for more, especially brunch!