Sports-bar proprietor Maggie Smith got her start in the restaurant industry at 17, working as a server at local institutions such as the Bleeker, Mona Lisa's, and Alteri's before earning a coveted management position at Garlic John's. In the summer of '94, Smith hit the jackpot on a Pick 6 ticket at the Saratoga Track, winning enough to buy her place of work and add her victory to the annals of historic moments decided by horse races, alongside Secretariat's record-setting run in 1973, and Seabiscuit's elevation to the US Senate in 1936. After several years of building a successful business at Garlic John's, Maggie bought the old Son's Tavern building on Western, envisioning a warm, welcoming sports bar full of friendly neighbors, flowing beer, and crowd-pleasing pub fare.
Today, the restaurant entertains crowds of college kids, off-duty businessfolk and state employees, plying them with personal pizzas, Italian pastas, chicken wings, and burgers alongside frosty brews and cocktails. Visitors share hearty cheers and earth-shattering high-fives as they watch college and pro sports of all varieties on the array of LCD screens or pit their brains in gladiatorial combat with weekly trivia contests. Friday-night karaoke and Saturday-night live bands entertain multitudes with the sweet strains of popular music, and a tucked-away banquet room sequesters private gatherings of up to 100 from the welcoming revelry of the main bar area.
From lunch until late at night, Blue 82's contemporary lounge fosters delicious moments of synesthesia. Bartenders artfully decorate glasses by pouring bold strokes of specialty drinks such as bright green-tea martinis or Cha Cha mojitos with hints of raspberry, mimicking the green-to-magenta fade of the illuminated wall behind the bar, which doubles as a stoplight for overaggressive segway riders. More than 15 varieties of scotch add distinguished flair to evenings spent on a velvety sofa, and the tunes of live music or those spun by weekend DJs permeate aural canals with mellifluous sustenance. Slider burgers wedded to bacon and Boursin cheese or chicken flatbread pizza with sweet-and-spicy brazilian mustard treat palates to comfort food augmented by gourmet overtones, like a Stephen Foster melody played on a Stradivarius violin. The eatery also presents daily specials, and induces or nurtures merriment by hosting parties.
In the 1940s there were two places to spot Babe Ruth: knocking homers out of baseball parks around the country and knocking back cold ones at Albany Baseball Club meetings held in the upstairs room of what is now Franklin's Tower. Chefs commemorate his frequent appearances with their Babe Ruth Bubby Burger, a Swiss cheese- and bacon-topped patty that diners can eat with two hands or whack into their mouths with a bat. Burgers are one of many American-style items on Franklin Tower's massive menu, which includes grilled cheese sandwiches with homemade pesto and wraps with grilled chicken breast and homemade Caesar dressing. Wine, beer, and whiskey wash down each feast, which unfold in a dining room that maintains the building's 1920s atmosphere with art deco flourishes.
Chef Mark D. Graham crafts menus at taste that showcase culinary techniques honed over more than two decades in the kitchen, including several years working as the sous chef at the Palo Alto Spago under Wolfgang Puck and Michael French. It was time well-spent?his menu presents inventive New American cuisine that led the Times Union to declare the chef's vision as being "bright, creative and precisely tuned...Graham isn't shy about crafting a menu that tempts you to try favorites of his you may have forgotten about or never sampled to begin with." Carnivores can delight in the grilled lamb chops or feast on Heather Ridge Farm chicken wrapped in bacon and the envious stares of nearby diners. Vegetarians also have plenty to celebrate, whether its the polenta with braised fennel and olives praised by the Times Union for being "a truly Mediterranean melange" or roasted acorn squash enhanced by brussels sprouts and king oyster mushrooms.
Based on the numbers, one might think every member of The Sports Grill staff boasts 20/20 vision. Twenty televisions line the bar and the dining room walls, surrounding guests with the sights and sounds of sports broadcasts, and 20 available draft beers lubricate team trivia night on Tuesdays. Meanwhile, the aromas of slow-cooked ribs, grilled steaks, and spicy jumbo wings mingle in the room and give a brief olfactory preview of the menu's diverse offerings. The cooks effortlessly forge a variety of Angus burgers and familiar comfort foods, but they round out the menu's pages with items such as house-made kettle chips, sizzling fajitas, and the perennially popular crab cakes. The Sports Grill also maintains an expansive outdoor patio, presenting reprieve from the sensory stimulation inside—where there may even be rainbows emanating every hue of beer.