Sun streams in through a wide front window at Al-Baraki, illuminating a decorative hookah and servers placing falafel, marinated meats, and flaky baklava on cloth-covered tables. A menu of simple Lebanese fare makes use of imported spices and local ingredients, infusing each dish with an assertive punch of flavor. Their moulouki, or "royal dinner," treats patrons to a traditional Lebanese meal that begins with a gaggle of appetizers, a meaty main of shawarma and lamb kebab, and goat-cheese pie. Alternatively, vegetarian dinners, such as falafel, can be ordered à la carte and washed down with traditional lemounada, a fresh-squeezed lemonade scented with water droplets handpicked off of rose petals. In Al-Baraki's feature in the Times-Union, correspondent Cheryl Clark describes the aroma of cumin in the air alongside the decorative baubles—from a fez to an inlaid chess case—chosen by Owner and Chef Paul Chedrawee and his wife, Simone.
Badass Burrito is New York’s destination for eclectic Mexican cuisine and inventive Americana fare, offering dedicated diners a menu full of tasty eats. Start with an edible meal preamble with appetizers including the badass wings, feathered with mild, medium, hot, or mango barbecue sauce($7), or the chipotle vinaigrette-dressed smoked tofu and tomato ($4.75). Signature items such as the cowgirl burrito, with its roasted, shredded chicken and sautéed onions ($8), and the pastrami reuben ($8.50) make loyal devotees out of first-time diners. The badass Mexican items, all of which refuse subsidized attitude adjustments along with their yearly check-up, include the carne asada-laden Tijuana street tacos ($4) and the gigantic nachos supreme, which are topped with your choice of meat plus chili con queso, guacamole, sour cream, onions, scallions, and more ($9.75). Weekend warriors counting down until Saturday’s armor-free samurai sword toss at the Y can pass the time with daily specials such as the Troy cheese steak ($7) or the taco salad ($6).
From delicate slices of salmon to tender eggplant tossed in fiery garlic sauce, Red & Blue's massive menu holds dozens of Asian dishes that appeal to any type of craving. Their hot bowls of roast duck noodle soup and plates of house special hot chicken help warm customers from the inside out and melt down old snowmen cluttering the house. The sushi selection encompasses classics, such as tuna and California rolls, as well as signature combinations that mix sweet and spicy flavors.
The word "homemade" stakes out more than its fair share of territory on Bootlegger’s on Broadway's menu. Slaw, potato salad, macaroni salad, stuffing, artichoke spread, marinara sauce—chefs whip up all of these in-house to accompany meals and fill sandwiches. They also make pizza by hand and grill 10-ounce lean ground beef, turkey, and veggie burgers, which diners can order topped with everything from slow-roasted pulled pork to bleu cheese crumbles. Thirty-eight beers on tap from breweries such as Brooklyn and Red Hook help wash down each bite, and occasional live musicians and DJs encourage patrons to dab their mouths in 5/4 time.
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.
Numerous reviews of The Greek House begin with a quaint first impression, noting the vibrant light-blue walls and the small but charming space. It's a mistake to label the family-owned venue as inconspicuous, however. The kitchen preps masterful renditions of authentic Greek cuisine, and the servers present these meals with enchanting hospitality, a quality that the Times Union praises alongside the "wonderfully intense mintiness" of the stuffed grape leaves. Bob Goepfert of the Record deems the menu "complete and tempting" before noting that the moussaka—a blend of seasoned ground beef and eggplant—is one of the best he's ever tasted. He shares this sentiment with Metroland, which raves about the accompanying sauce by calling it "a béchamel from heaven, fluffy and rich." Shish kebabs, pita wraps, and gyros round out the catalog of traditional items, often sharing the plate with greek fries dappled in parmesan cheese and oregano, the same seasonings that were used to make Grecian wrestlers less slippery in the ring.