Want to know what's happening on the food scene in the Capital Region? There's a thriving new bakery in Albany along with several other restaurant openings, a few eateries that have closed, and an update on the Styrofoam ban in area restaurants.
Cinnamon rolls at The Fifth Tier Baking Studio, photo credit: jrMac Photography
Restaurants Recently Opened & Opening Soon
The Fifth Tier Baking Studio
Where: 54 Columbia Street, Albany
When: opened late last year
The opening of this bakery had been a long time coming for owner Lyle Houston.
Houston was a state worker for 26 years before he decided to turn to baking. He took classes at Schenectady County Community College and the Culinary Institute of America. With his education and $50,000 of investments Houston turned his efforts towards opening up a bakery, and the restaurant was ready to go in 2014.
Unfortunately, life got in the way. Houston was seriously injured after getting hit by a car, and then suffered emotionally after his property was vandalized with anti-gay graffiti. Undeterred, Houston continued leasing the location for two and a half years before finally opening in December of 2016.
The shop is a small space with no seating and no kitchen - Houston does his baking across the street at the Hollow Bar + Kitchen, which sells his products (3Fish Coffee also carries Houston's baked goods). So far, the bakery is doing quite well and Houston is not hampered by the lack of space.
The Fifth Tier Baking Studio specializes in savory and sweet scones and to-die-for cinnamon rolls. The bakery also offers a variety of other cookies, cakes, cupcakes, doughnuts, cheesecakes, muffins, pies, tarts, and even gluten-free dog biscuits.
Houston could not be happier to get up at 3am every day to do what he does.
"They say it's not work if you love what you do, so I am ecstatic to know I won't have to work another day in my life," Houston said in a statement.
Hours for The Fifth Tier Baking Studio are 7am to 2:30pm, Monday through Friday.
Where: River Street Lofts building, 172 River Street, Troy
When: opening in the spring
The owners of Tara Kitchen, a Morrocan restaurant in Schenectady, are opening a second location in Troy. The success of their current location, in conjunction with their special connection to both Morroco and Troy, ensures this venture will be yet another win for the husband and wife team.
Muntasim and Aneesa Waheed met and fell in love in Morroco, and have been spreading their love of the food and culture ever since.
"Food is such a great introduction to different cultures," Aneesa Waheed told The Troy Record. "It helps break barriers. I love the fact that food can do that."
Some fun Morrocan entrees found on Tara Kitchen's menu include chicken with pomegranate molasses, fish with spicy date sauce, and lamb meatballs in tomato sauce with eggs. For those who don't want to stray too far outside their food comfort zone, there are also more well-known chicken and vegetarian options.
There's something else special about Tara Kitchen's food: most options are free of gluten, nuts, soy, dairy, and sesame. If you have allergies, this might be the restaurant for you.
When the Waheeds were looking to expand their business Troy was an obvious choice - Aneesa Waheed attended Russell Sage College and the couple had already made a connection to locals with their Morrocan food at the Troy Waterfront Farmers Market.
And the Waheeds are not stopping with Troy - the final goal will be to nationally franchise Tara Kitchen.
The restaurant will be open for lunch and dinner Tuesday through Sunday.
Where: 40 River Street, Troy
When: opening in late spring or early summer
Have you ever cooked food by slow cooking, fermenting, drying, or curing? These slow and classic cooking methods that were used hundreds of years ago are going to be the cornerstone of a new eatery coming to Troy.
Husband and wife team Adam Elabd and Yiyi Mendoza are opening up Tonico within the next several months with the intent to combine old school ways of cooking with more modern foods. The restaurant is planning to utilize local farms and they're also going to have an on-site herb garden.
The menu will be drawn from many different cultures including Asia and Mexico, and will change with the season (with some year-round staples). Options will include fermented and cured foods, along with items like yogurt made in-house. Beverages are also going to be unique, with choices like kombucha (fermented sweet tea), ginger beer, and cocktails made with medicinal herbs.
Although this is Elabd and Mendoza's first time opening a restaurant the two are each versed on herbology, Elabd has taught classes on herbalism and fermentation, and Elabd has also had a book published on fermentation, Fermenting Food Step by Step.
If you'd like a taste of Tonico before they open, the owners will be at Takk House for Troy Night Out on March 31st, and at The Half Moon Market in Albany from April 28th to the 30th.
When open for business Tonico plans to offer breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Where: Times Union Center, Albany
When: opening mid-to-late summer
The classic, all-American restaurant Johnny Rockets is opening a new location right at the Times Union Center! This new Johnny Rockets is going to feature an expanded menu and a full bar complete with craft beer, making it only the fourth Johnny Rockets in the country to offer craft brews.
Johnny Rockets will be in the space formerly occupied by Wolf's 1-11. Franchise owner Louis Chicatelli already owns the Johnny Rockets in Crossgates, as well as one in Middletown.
A prime focus of the new location will be on speedy service, so that those dining will be able to get to their show or event in a timely manner.
The restaurant will be open every day and will remain open later on event nights.
Noodles & Co.
Where: Crossgates Commons in Albany and the Shoppes at Latham Circle
When: closed in late February/early March
Both local Noodles & Co. restaurants closed within the past several weeks. Not much was reported on why, although a press release from the company indicated that 55 restaurants across the country closed so far this year.
The press release says that many of the closed restaurants were opened only in the past few years, and they were opened in areas where Noodles & Co. had not yet established a strong brand presence.
Noodles & Co. is headquartered in Colorado. The restaurant offers a variety of noodle and pasta dishes along with sandwiches, salads, and soups. The nearest Noodles & Co. is now in West Hartford, Connecticut.
Where: 471 Troy-Schenectady Road, Latham
When: closed in February
After only being in business at this particular location for about four months, Beff's in Latham has closed. Owner Mickey Blanchfield opened Beff's 25 years ago with his father on Watervliet Avenue in Albany. The restaurant later moved to Everett Road in Albany, where patrons visited from 2003 to 2015, and then the final Latham location was opened last fall.
The Times Union reported Beff's voicemail message in late February as saying, "Due to circumstances beyond our control, we have been forced to close."
Beff's specialized in gourmet pizza, amazing wings with signature sauces, and craft beer - the PWB stood for "Pizza Wings Beer."
Expansion on the Banning of Styrofoam Containers in Restaurants Does Not Pass
Several area restaurants and other businesses signed a letter supporting a new law that would ban Styrofoam containers in all restaurants in the county - currently, the ban only applies to chains.
New World Bistro Bar, Healthy on Lark, and Cider Belly Doughnuts were among over 40 businesses who signed the letter to encourage the new law.
The law was voted on on March 13th and it did not pass - the vote was 21 to 16 with one abstention.
Styrofoam fills up our landfills and stays there for hundreds of years. Many were attempting to expand the ban on these containers in area restaurants in hopes of making a positive impact on the environment. Unfortunately, financial issues have gotten in the way.
"I think there are a lot of restaurants out there who want to move in the right direction and be green and do the right thing for the environment, it's just really a cost issue," Melissa Fleischute, President and CEO of the NY State Restaurant Association, told News10 ABC.
Finding an acceptable and cost effective alternative to Styrofoam proved too challenging this time around.
Interested in checking out more Albany area restaurants? Browse our Albany Dining Guide >>
- Albany Business Review: Why these Albany restaurants want to ban styrofoam and more in this week's restaurant news
- News10 ABC: Albany County legislators vote down proposed Styrofoam ban
- Times Union: Beff's PWB in Latham is closed
- Times Union: Johnny Rockets planned for Times Union Center in Albany
- Times Union: Noodles & Co. abruptly closes both local shops
- The Troy Record: New Troy restaurant plans to blend old, new
- The Troy Record: Tara Kitchen to open second location in Troy this spring