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Hidden Food Gems in the Capital Region

By Julia Kawka | September 25, 2023

The subpar dining hall food which makes Halal Shack seem like a five-star luxury is a key part of the college experience. However, treating yourself to something better after a hard week of classes and assignments is essential to success. As a homesick fellow peer, I’d like to offer a nice, occasional escape consisting of a well-deserved taste of non-campus based cuisine.

Barcelona Restaurant - Wine Bar

1192 Western Ave, Albany, NY 12203 ($$)

With prices right within a student's budget, Barcelona was one of the first restaurants I visited when I came to Albany and it definitely left a lasting first impression. The humble exterior of the restaurant leaves the customer with a positive surprise when they enter the classy yet cozy interior, alongside the delectable Spanish cuisine emphasizes the feeling that you’re really enjoying a meal in Spain. With reasonable prices, excellent service and tasty food that is absolutely worth that price, I highly recommend you pay this restaurant a visit. The Chicken alla Vodka is to die for.

Mezza Notte

2026 Western Ave, Albany, NY 12203 ($$$)

Nothing beats classic Italian cuisine in a cozy restaurant on a tranquil Saturday evening. High-end, a bit pricey but nevertheless delicious, and with wonderful service is exactly how I would describe Mezza Notte. This restaurant, however, adds a unique excitement to the experience with a constantly changing menu; the various options never fail to appeal to the tastebuds of a customer. It is a wonderful distinction from the vast majority of Italian restaurants that I have been to and every experience feels like the first time all over again. Treat yourself and be ready for the delicious bread you are served as you await your meal.

The baratta smeared on the warm bread served as an unbelievable appetizer alongside the oil. I had the Lemon Butter Sauce Gnocchi for my entree but know the menu constantly changes so this may not be available. Ask for specials and explore the variety of options in front of you, I can assure you that you will not be disappointed.

Black & Blue Steak and Crab

1470 Western Ave, Albany, NY 12203 ($$$)

Black & Blue Steak and Crab provides a wonderful experience when it comes to superb service and meals. While certainly pricy, I think college student’s hard work makes them deserving of eating a delicious meal in an environment that just screams elegant.

Steak is a common meal, so if it stands out you know you absolutely scored with where you decided to eat. Any customer at Black & Blue leaves completely and utterly satisfied between the impeccable service and perfectly cooked steaks, as you requested of course. If you’re feeling a little fancy one evening, I promise you this restaurant will not disappoint. The bistro steak with the gorgonzola sauce was absolutely delightful, beautifully cooked and just magic to the tastebuds.

I was rather shocked at how many quality restaurants we have in our area, and I was definitely not going to gatekeep. I want all of us to be able to break away from CC and dining hall food and treat ourselves to experiencing these hidden gems once in a while.


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