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Frugal Forager: Grape and Growler’s garlic knots are winners

Sunday, February 23, 2014
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The garlic knots at The Grape and The Growler Tap House and Wine Bar are glazed with oil and slightly browned. (Caroline Lee)
The garlic knots at The Grape and The Growler Tap House and Wine Bar are glazed with oil and slightly browned. (Caroline Lee)

The Grape and The Growler is part wine bar, part tap house, although only the tap house was open the night we visited. “The front is open when we have entertainment,” we were told by way of explanation, but it left us wondering about the wine bar. The restaurant is in the former Landing Zone, so named for its proximity to the end of the east-west runway of the Albany International Airport.

There are plenty of beer taps attached to rafters in the large combination bar/dining room, and dozens of beers on tap. Click on the website to see them all. Click on the wine menu, and nothing comes up. I can tell you what should be there — Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio and White Zinfandel. That’s what was offered the night I visited.

The restaurant hosts entertainment, like bandeoki — karaoke with live music. Proprietors Joe Schaefer and Pete Cusato’s previous restaurant in downtown Albany, Savannah’s/The Dublin Underground, was also a live music venue. It closed in 2012.

On a cold, blustery winter night a few stalwarts at the bar were the only other customers. We had our choice of tables, and took a four-top on a raised section of the dining room with a view of the fireplace-heater. Two large television screens were showing sitcom reruns and another had a sports channel.

The Grape and The Growler Tap House and Wine Bar

WHERE: 155 Wade Road, Latham, 783-8000, grapeandgrowler.com

WHEN: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday to Wednesday, 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Thursday to Saturday.

HOW MUCH: $33.55, with tax and tip

MORE INFO: Credit cards: Master Card, Visa. Children’s menu. Delivery available.

The bartender came over right away to give us menus and take drink orders. She’d quickly divined that we were new to the place and recommended the macaroni and cheese. There’s award-winning mac and cheese ($9.99), Buffalo mac and cheese ($10.99) and the big boy, topped with a heaping portion of chili. So many choices.

Multiple items

The menu could use some paring down. They could keep the fried appetizers, most of the hot and cold sandwiches, the burgers, and the pizza. They could keep the entrees, like chicken Parm (a reasonable $9.99). I like that they have a Monte Cristo ($9.99), which you don’t see often enough.

But the 16–inch grumbling growler burger smacks unpleasantly of an eating contest. And the peanut butter and provolone burger served on two glazed doughnuts a la Paula Deen is just playing around, not real food. Then there’s a deep-fried grilled cheese sandwich. Wait. Maybe they should keep that.

The bartender recommended the garlic knots but said they would take extra time to make. They were well worth the wait, and offered some insight into the good cooking that’s going on in the kitchen. Someone cares enough to make a decent thick marinara, and delicious dough. The knots, glazed with oil and slightly browned, were crispy on the outside and all soft and warm and steamy on the inside. Outstanding. I would recommend their pizza on the strength of those knots.

Entrees include a good-sized salad, and the one that came with Virginia’s chicken cacciatore ($9.99) was very nice. Romaine-based, it featured black olives, fat green pickled hot peppers, the kind of tomatoes you expect in January, sliced cucumbers, and sliced white onion, topped with grated cheese.

Pleasing entrees

Virginia was pleased with her entree, which consisted of chicken strips, sliced mushrooms, green pepper, onion and sliced black olives, all in that very good marinara sauce. Spaghetti was substituted for penne, but she didn’t mind. She liked the generous serving of vegetables and her only complaint was that the bowl was too small to slice the meat in.

I ordered the lemon-pepper salad ($7.99), a reasonably healthy choice with a sliced seasoned half-boneless chicken breast over Romaine and mixed greens. The chicken was moist and tasty enough but the seasoning was a bit too salty. There were thick slices of cucumber and tomato and onion, and grated cheese over all.

The roasted red pepper strips were delicious but next time I’d hold the pickled jalapeños and raw onion. I didn’t miss the cheddar chunks promised on the menu, and the salad didn’t need them.

Virginia and I had both chosen balsamic dressing. The Grape and the Growler gets points for the sweet and tangy balsamic vinaigrette, yet loses them at the same time for the squirt-bottle presentation. The prices are good so there’s no complaining, though.

The chicken went down easy, as did the tomatoes and Romaine, lubricated by the balsamic dressing. I ate every bit of the parts I liked, feeling a bit guilty about leaving all those peppers behind.

Take-home boxes

We skipped dessert (cannoli and a variety of cheesecakes) and got boxes for the leftover chicken and knots. The tab, with one coffee, tax and tip, came to a reasonable $33.55.

I liked some things at The Grape and The Growler very much, and hope they focus on what they do well. You can have a good, reasonably priced meal there, and bring home some leftovers.

I’ll get a pizza next time. That dough is delicious.

 
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