The Hollow – Albany, NY
On a whim, we stopped in to The Hollow in Albany (79 North Pearl Street) for dinner one Friday evening. We made a reservation online, but the restaurant only seemed about half full.
The menu was intriguing enough to me, and, if nothing else, the selection of craft beer was enticing.
Inside, the restaurant is decorated with lots of Mason jars. It’s a cute little touch, and something that they take as far as their bar menu. Some of the bar drinks are actually “jar drinks.”
I decided to start with a beer flight for $10. I had the liberty of selecting 4 tasting portions of everything on their list for just $10. The rub was that all four of my first picks were tapped out. We came up with a few that were in stock, and I was good to go.
There is really only one appetizer on the menu, so we ordered it (SEARED POLENTA, GRILLED SHITAKE MUSHROOMS, HOUSE-MADE GARLICKY BLEU CHEESE DRESSING – $8). [Aside: it’s a little puzzling that the appetizer menu is so small; it seems like a missed opportunity. Bar + snacks = $$$]
It was a strong dish. The mushrooms were cooked nicely, and the blue cheese helped to elevate the earthiness. The polenta was perfectly shaped, leading me to speculate that it’s not a scratch-made product, but, for the price, the portion was decent.
The salad I selected was their signature salad (ARUGULA, GRILLED SHITAKE MUSHROOMS, SHAVED ASIAGO,
TRUFFLE OIL – $8).
This was not bad at all. Usually, I shy away from dishes containing truffle oil, but I figured I’d give it a shot; it was barely detectable, and added another layer to the shitakes, which were of the same variety as the appetizer. The one thing missing from this dish was a hit of acid, which would have helped cut the richness of the oily greens, mushrooms, and shaved Asiago cheese.
For my main course, I had The Hollow Burger (FRIED EGG, HABANERO KETCHUP – $10) [Aside: There is also a “Signature burger” (LETTUCE, TOMATO, RED ONION – $9) on the menu; wouldn’t the signature burger be named after the house, aka The Hollow?]
I wasn’t sure what to expect as far as the size based on the price, but the burger patty was considerably smaller than burgers served in close-residing restaurants; the relatively low price was reasonable for the size burger. I ordered it medium-rare; it came well-done.
I didn’t send it back, but when the server came to check on us, he must have noticed that I was a little disappointed and asked if he could fix anything. I was stewing just a little over that and the soggy sweet potato fries that I was served, but I really didn’t want to wait for a re-fire of the dish. So he must have picked up a little of my disdain.
Flavor-wise, the burger is great. For $10, it’s a great deal, and the habanero ketchup is really a great addition to the burger (actually, mine arrived without it and the server noticed and brought me a cup on the side). As far as burgers in downtown Albany go, this one doesn’t have the execution to compete with the better burgers, but since it’s priced 30-40% lower than what I consider the better burgers, I don’t think it’s any travesty.
Issues with execution aside, the experience was positive. I’m a pretty big fan of most of the menu, so I’d be willing to check out some other dishes some time.