City Spotlight: Splendid Schenectady

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by Karen Bjornland

Throughout this year, we’ll be focusing in on a different city in the Capital Region in each new issue. We’ll take you on a tour of all the top restaurants, bars, clubs and hotels in town—as well as introduce you to some of each city’s most memorable residents.This month, we’re taking a closer look at Schenectady, NY.

STAY

Photographer: Jay Ratchford

For a luxury room on the scenic Mohawk River, your best bet is The Landing Hotel at Rivers Casino & Resort, where after a fun night of gambling, you can enjoy your morning cup of joe on a wrap‐around balcony.

For spectacular downtown views, check out the Parker Inn, a boutique hotel in what was once the tallest building in Schenectady. For that special occasion, guests book the 700‐square‐foot Presidential Suite, a.k.a. “The Penthouse.” The Parker oozes history, and did we mention that it’s nearly next door to Schenectady’s top arts venue, Proctors?

EAT

Cornells in Little Italy

Ah, there’s nothing better than homestyle Italian food! At Cornells in Schenectady’s Little Italy, its owners take that hominess up a notch with the chef’s special touch, a red carpet and white linen tablecloths. Homemade cavatelli, monster meatballs, broccoli rabe and sausage and pasta e fagiole are all on the menu. And Cornells is just steps away from other Electric City favorites such as Perreca’s Bakery and Civitello’s Italian Pastry Shoppe.

Tara Kitchen Photo by Tom Watkins

At Tara Kitchen, the fragrant aroma of cinnamon, cumin and sweet paprika float from earthenware tagines. Seven years ago, it was the only Moroccan restaurant in the Capital Region, but the owners are spreading the love around. They opened a second location in Troy in 2017, and a third is due this spring in Guilderland. Can’t get enough? Tara Kitchen sauces are sold online and in stores all over the Northeast.

Joseph’s 23 is the new restaurant at The Stockade Inn, a beloved landmark in the Stockade District, one of America’s oldest neighborhoods. (The Stockade Inn doubles as a boutique hotel, with 18 rooms upstairs.) The dining room, with dramatic windows and chandeliers—and an intimate, old‐fashioned barroom—makes it easy to imagine that this was once a bank and then a prestigious men’s club. Joseph’s has food for every mood, from lobster BLTs to rib eyes. Plus, the homemade bread pudding is to die for.

PLAY

The Shaker & Vine, the Capital Region’s first self‐serve wine bar, has popped up in Mohawk Harbor. With a push of a button, customers can select a 3‐ounce, 5‐ounce or full pour of wine from a stacked wall of 50 bottles. There’s a full‐service cocktail bar, cushy furniture and river views. There’s cheese, chocolate and paninis, too.

Daley’s on Yates has a Manhattan vibe, and its conversion from beat‐up taxi garage to swanky social hub was praised by preservationists. At the gorgeous bar, one can energize with cool cocktails such as the Careless Hipster and Pink Widow. Good food? The Troy‐based Old Daley catering biz runs this place, so the answer is “yes.”

Mad Jack Brewing Co. at The Van Dyck. Photo by Caasey Daversa

Dizzy Gillespie, Dave Brubeck and Thelonius Monk all did their jazz thing many moons ago at The Van Dyck. Schenectady’s favorite bar/restaurant/music venue is also home to award‐winning Mad Jack Brewing Co. Grab a spot at the bar and sample a draft from the ten‐plus beers on tap or dig into their gigantic IPA‐battered fish fry.

Kelsey Grammer and Jay St. Pub ower Mitch Ramsey

Get To Know…Mitch Ramsey, Owner Of Jay St. Pub

When 27‐year‐old Mitch Ramsey opened Schenectady’s Jay St. Pub in 2018, the neighborly vibe reminded his customers of the TV show Cheers. Ramsey was unfamiliar with the sitcom, so he watched it on Netflix. Then he ordered a keg of Cheers star Kelsey Grammer’s signature beer. And one day, with only ten minutes notice, Grammer strolled into Jay St. Pub and hung out at the bar. “He was a super‐nice guy,” says Ramsey.

A millennial on the move, Ramsey’s goal is to bring people over to the Electric City. Last year, his pub hosted the city’s first Fall Fest Block Party and SantaCon. A Winter Fest is set to go down in February, and there’s a Country Fest planned for June.

Like a growing number of young people, the Burnt Hills native lives in a new downtown apartment building. He also runs his business, Ramsey Media, from there. And that’s not all. The SUNY Plattsburgh graduate is the youngest person on a 16‐member panel that will tackle a $10 million state grant aimed at Schenectady redevelopment.

Back at the pub, Ramsey loves the laid‐back, hometown atmosphere. “I see a 26 year old having a conversation with a 55‐year‐old couple,” Ramsey says. “And everybody just gets along.”

Tough Traveler’s dog carrier backpack.

Get To Know…Nancy Gold, President Of Tough Traveler

Wherever people wander, they’ll find computer bags, backpacks, camera bags, luggage or purses made in Schenectady by Tough Traveler. As the company celebrates its 50th year in business in 2020, a “Buy American” sign hangs proudly at its store and factory site. With high‐quality products designed and sewn to last, Tough Traveler is a survivor in a market flooded with foreign imports. EMTs rush to accidents with Tough Traveler medical bags and musicians tote their instruments in Tough Traveler guitar and cymbal bags. “We receive thank you notes from people worldwide,” says President Nancy Gold.

In 1970, the company’s first product was a comfort backpack for hikers. Now packs for pooches are hot. “Our dog carrier backpacks go out throughout the world to Australia and the UK as well as the US,” says Gold. Tough Traveler bags are sold online at toughtraveler.com and on amazon.com. Locals can browse its products in the store or make an appointment for a factory tour.

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