Times Union food critic Cheryl Clark didn't mince words when describing the Illium Steak Wedge salad at Illium Cafe, declaring it "a revelation." Tossed with the salad's bacon, toasted almonds, fried goat cheese, and bleu-cheese dressing were "the most tender, flavorful medallions of beef I've enjoyed in a while."
The salad is one of the many dishes lovingly crafted from local and organic ingredients by the cafe's resident chef, Marla Ortega. Alongside salads, her lunchtime feasts spotlight innovative sandwiches, such as quesadillas filled with seared scallops, bok choy, and local cow's-milk cheese infused with black truffle. That spirit of experimentation remains for breakfast, when Marla mixes seared wild salmon into omelets and pairs banana-and-macadamia-nut pancakes with banana-infused whipped butter.
An entire menu of coffee drinks complements Marla's cuisine, running the gamut from gourmet roasts and frappes to iced drinks, which are made with coffee beans harvested from icebergs. The Times Union also praised the café's elegantly decorated dining room for its "gorgeous woodwork," which complements its painted tin ceiling, pull-down glass windows, and landscape mural.
When Dante's owners call him a cool cat, they mean it literally. In addition to being an accomplished jazz pianist, the feline is the mascot for their frozen yogurt shop. With flavors that change regularly, visitors can expect to find a dynamic roster of chilled treats dispensed from the self-serve yogurt machines, such as tahitian vanilla and sea salt caramel pretzel. Past the fro-yo bar, a spread of 40 toppings invites guests to decorate their creations—all of which are made using fresh milk—with candy, fresh fruit purees, nuts, and drizzles of chocolate.
Lee and Barrye Cohen have been roasting and brewing fresh beans into caffeinated elixirs since 1976, when they first began expanding horizons with then-unheard-of espresso and cappuccinos. Using the same trusty vintage coffee roaster they used back then, they continue to roast aromatic gourmet beans. They brighten mornings and afternoon slumps with traditional coffee or energize lattes, mochas, and chai with rich espresso. Chefs cook up a menu of updated classics daily with local farm-fresh eggs and housemade sauces, stacking egg sandwiches with andouille sausage and deli sandwiches with pit-baked ham.
On select evenings, melodies and spoken words can be heard emanating from the Troy location, which hosts an open-mic night where local artists play music or slam poetry books onto the floor as guests sip cocktails and wine. The Cohens are proud of their local roots, and give back the loyalty they've received by frequently donating to local charitable causes. Daily Grind also has an online store, which outfits kitchens with loose-leaf teas, cappuccino machines, and gelato machines from brands such as Baratza, Gaggia, and Nemox.
The vegan-sweet specialists at X's to O's use organic ingredients to concoct a tempting selection of made-from-scratch baked goods that are high in tastiness and void of hydrogenated guilt. Baker Sarah Preston's Twinkie–esque cream-filled canoe boats paddle by in fun flavors such as vanilla, carrot cake, cookies 'n' cream, and chocolate peanut butter ($1.50), and the roster of creative cakes ($4 per slice) and cupcakes ($2.50 each) includes orange creamsicle, pumpkin chocolate chip, and pineapple. Pie ($4 per slice), cookies ($1.50–$2), and brownies ($1.50–$2.50) fix acute cocoa cravings, saving brunette-headed passersby from misguided licking.
Flavour Cafe and Lounge’s plush couches and exposed brick beckon visitors inside to enjoy a caffeinated kick or an amalgamation of taste-bud treats. More than 30 different flavors of coffee take the stage to high kick mouths, with an additional 14 blends of loose tea hovering in the wings. Bean brews include the classic Guatemalan ($1.59 for 16 oz.) or sweet, steamy options such as the mudslide, with rich flavor smuggled in with Irish crème and Kahlua syrup ($1.89 for a 20 oz.). Pair warm caffeine conveyors with menu items such as the Rosie, with tantalizing turkey breast covered in provolone cheese, rosemary mayo, lettuce, and tomato ($7.99).