Eating at Bars

In the past it was unlikely you'd find J and I at bars on Friday and Saturday nights, but I think we finally found our time/place/manner for watering hole attendance.  The ideal situation is as follows:

- 8pm
- Bar that has real food, not just mozzarella sticks, loaded potato skins, and chicken fingers.  (Delicious chicken wings are real food, FWIW.)  Also: non-fratty beers.
- 2-4 additional friends

Recently we had some good times at three establishments that meet the criteria.

City Beer Hall has a really nice environment, particularly in the winter.  It's lodgy and roomy, there's a fireplace.  One of their gimmicks is that with every drink ordered you get a ticket for a free little pizza.  The pizzas are, as I said, little (teeny) and thin, but they are food and they are free.  The beers on tap are actually interesting and include a bunch from NY (as they should).  Next time we go I want the Juicy Lucy, a New York grass-fed burger stuffed with gouda.  YUM.  J would probably choose the chicken & waffles.  I'll let you know how it goes.

On a weekday it was easy for 8 or so of us to comfortably hang out and talk.  Note: There is a mechanical bull, but I gathered that it's upstairs, which was closed off because of a private party.  Next time.

The City Beer Hall on Urbanspoon

The Merry Monk was also comfortably quiet on a recent weekday--3/4 of us were on winter break, and it was nice to catch up without loud craziness going on.  A lot of good Belgian and Belgian-style beers were available, including all the Ommegangs.  Mussels and other yums await.  We liked the frites, but apparently they were frozen.  Shows how refined our taste is--give us hot fries and some tasty dipping sauce and we're psyched.  The only issues we had were that a few beers were out (which we weren't told until we ordered, after spending probably too much time figuring that part out) and our server didn't seem particularly knowledgeable about the beers.  Which is a problem if you're working at a place that prides itself on having all Belgian or Belgian-style beers.

The Merry Monk on Urbanspoon

The Olde English delighted us with fried wonders.  Battered sausage, fries, and fried cod were all delicious.  Don't go for the battered sausage alone, though; it's a salty situation, so a few bites are all you need.  The lamb sliders were pretty good, but there was too much bread for the meat, which was disappearing in the fluff.  I stuck to oatmeal stouts and was pleased in the beverage department.  Fun surprise: games, from Jenga to Scrabble and beyond.  A little sad: so damned loud. So very, very loud.  Obviously this varies from night to night (unless it's always loud, in which case, sorry I gave you hope of respite).

Where else should I go for these kinds of excursions?


  1. The Merry Monk's fries are, when compared to the mussels and beer, pretty disappointing. I'll give them points for freshness (minimal time under heat lamp), but they don't stand up to frozen fries at many other local joints, let-alone those of the Belgian bar/restaurants from Philadelphia/DC they are drawing inspiration from. Never-the-less, the prices for the mussels are great, as is their selection of Belgian (and Belgian-style) beer. Pro-tip: they have a beer menu that gives descriptions for all of their bottled beers, whereas the descriptions for the draught beers are already on the menu.

    And, if you're a beer enthusiast like myself, don't leave home w/o downloading "Beer Reviews" on your iphone. It links directly with Beer Advocate, the holy grail for beer ratings/reviews.

    I'm also a fan of city beer hall's size and atmosphere. Their beer selection is fantastic, too! I haven't been to Olde English yet, but I plan to. Have you been to the Gastro Pub where Pasquale's used to be?

    And a quick side-note: I wouldn't expect anyone in the Capital District, short of a handful of guys at Mahar's or bartender's specifically at breweries (not even then, sometimes), to give you an accurate description of a specific beer, let-alone be able to answer questions about them. It would be nice, though!

    I think I asked you this before, but have you ever been to Dr. Granville Moore's in DC? It is EXACTLY what the Merry Monk wants to be, I imagine.

    Love the blog, thanks again!

    1. Nope, never been to Granville Moore's. I really was happy with the fries, for whatever reason. They were piping hot and served to us on a very enjoyable night with good friends where very little went wrong - it tends to make even less-awesome dishes taste a little better to me. The better my company, the better the food, too often.

      I think if a place wants to make a big deal out of the kind of beers they have available then everyone who serves the beers should have an idea of what they taste like or where that information might be located. While I think an app is nice, I shouldn't be expected to do people's jobs. The beers we wanted explained were replacing a few that were out, and if their description was written somewhere, we weren't told about it!

      It's analogous to the following: A fish I'm not familiar with is listed on a menu. I ask what it's like - the likely answer with many fish is that it's light, white, and flaky--seems like most of them are. But the server looks blankly at me and says, "Hmm I don't really know, I can't explain it." Not acceptable.

      I'm not a beer expert by any means. I'm not really an expert on anything, except knowing what I enjoy. "Like an IPA" or "light and wheat-y" or "dark and stout-y" would be appropriate responses to my inquiries about a beer!

      I did go to the Gastropub, and it was interesting. Some dishes were better than others, but it was definitely much more fun to go there and try some creative dishes than many of the other local snoozy alternatives. I thought it was funny that it didn't have a bar, because pub to me = bar.

  2. The bar at New World starts emptying a bit around 8:30 or so, but you'd still have a hard time getting 6 seats there... the bar dining area would do the trick though. Not sure if that's what you're looking for but I've been enjoying some regular Scrabble games at the bar there (it's BYOB though -- bring your own board).

    The Gastropub has a bar now, they installed it a week or two after they opened.

    Pump Station?

  3. Good to know Gastropub gained a bar. I'm sure we'll be back there, we had a good time. NWBB bar/lounge area is definitely a great place to eat - I'd marry NWBB because it's not perfect, but what is? And to me its positive qualities far outweigh the negative.

    Pump Station seems to reliably have room (it's HUGE) but I've never eaten anything there that's made me anxious to get back, and I've been 3 times so far.