Nomad by Trade

A travel blog for the kid at heart.

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Albany dining guide

Albany, New York Dining Guide

One of my favorite things about traveling for work is getting to try new restaurants in the areas I visit. After eight weeks in Albany, New York, I’ve compiled my list of my nine favorite places to eat. Read on for my Albany dining guide.

C.H. Evans Brewing Company at the Albany Pump Station

Food at the Albany Pump Station - Albany Dining Guide

This brewery is housed in an old water pumping facility that was originally used to pump water from the Hudson river to supply the city. Nowadays instead of water tanks, it holds vats of beer, although the still-operational crane from its previous life still hangs above the dining room as a reminder of the past.

I was determined to order a salad, but a delicious BBQ pork entree caught my eye on the menu. The dish is layered with scalloped cheesy potatoes on the bottom and topped with pulled pork, melted white cheddar, and delicious BBQ sauce. Health-wise, it’s about as far away from a salad as you can get, but it was well-worth it.

Public House 42

I loved the atmosphere at this Irish pub. You had to climb down a few stairs to get into the half-street level bar felt a little like entering a secret hideout. There was a decent sized bar and a handful of tables, so between that and the low ceilings and dim lighting, it felt very intimate.

Shepherd's pie at Public House 42 - Albany dining guide

Their menu was pretty standard Irish pub food, so I went with a shepherd’s pie since that’s my perfect collection of foods all thrown together in a dish that warms your heart. I was a little disappointed by my first bite, but I think I just happened to get a dry part because the rest of the dish was amazing. When the mountain of food was set down in front of me, I figured I’d maybe get through half of it and take the rest home for leftovers the next day. I was wrong; I inhaled all but a few bites because I just couldn’t stop eating it. The veggies were crisp, the mashed potatoes were delicious, and the cheese baked on top had a perfect little bit of crunch to it.

Dinosaur BBQ

Pulled pork at Dinosaur BBQ in Troy, NY - Albany Dining Guide

You’ll have to head out of Albany a bit to visit this spot, but Troy is only a few minutes up the road and Dinosaur BBQ is well worth the short drive. It’s a New York chain, and I’ve been to several of their locations, including the original in Syracuse. Whenever I’m in New York state for work, I try to have dinner at one of these restaurants if I can find one nearby. All of the locations I’ve been to feature eclectic décor, and the  Troy location has the added benefit of an outdoor patio overlooking the Hudson River.

BBQ sauce at Dinosaur BBQ in Troy, NY - Albany Dining Guide

There are two different sauces on the table for you to dress your own meat – a regular and a spicy. I’m partial to pulled pork when I get BBQ, but I’ve been told by co-workers that their chicken is phenomenal as well. I always get their BBQ fried rice as a side because it’s both delicious and unique, and their macaroni and cheese and baked beans are great as well.

Pulled pork at Dinosaur BBQ - Albany Dining Guide

The Recovery Sports Grill

This small chain of sports bars has a few locations around the area, and it’s a great location to watch a game if you’re looking for good food to accompany it. The original location in Albany is fittingly right across from the medical center, and they’ve expanded to other locations in the area.

Thai chicken salad at the Recovery Room - Albany Dining Guide

I fell hard for their Thai peanut salad – I’m a picky eater, and I’m pretty sure this is the first time in my life that I’ve ordered a salad exactly as it appeared on the menu without asking for them to keep certain items off of it. it’s unique because it doesn’t come with dressing, substituting a delicious peanut sauce that is perfect for dipping the grilled chicken in. The cold noodles seemed like an odd choice at first, but they ended up being my favorite part of the salad.

Recovery Room in Albany, New York

Parish Public House

Ham po'boy from the Paris Public House - Albany Dining Guide

I inadvertently visited this bar/restaurant on Mardi Gras – I should’ve seen this coming since the menu is Cajun themed – and was pleased to find the place draped in beads and full of people celebrating. There was a live band playing for the first couple of minutes I was there, but they went on break when they finished that song. Unfortunately, the large crowd meant that most of the menu items I was interested in were gone, so I ended up with a ham po’ boy sandwich to go. I was a little disappointed because I’m used to po’ boys being served hot, so when I got back to the hotel room and found out that it was cold, I wasn’t thrill. The ham was fantastic though, and the bread was top notch.

Macaroni and cheese at the Paris Public House - Albany Dining Guide

I naturally had to go back again to try what I really wanted, and was thoroughly delighted by their crawfish and tasso ham mac and cheese (I ordered it with just ham). It was incredible. It’s some of the best mac and cheese I’ve ever had.

The Olde English Pub

English phone booth at the Olde English Pub in Albany, New York

This English pub is adorable. It really looked like a little cottage, and the interior was well-themed. There’s a cute little garden in the front that  features a classic red English photo booth. The first level of the restaurant has a perfect neighborhood-style bar that was lined with patrons. I happened to stumble across trivia night, so while I didn’t play, I also enjoyed listening to the questions being read off.

Fish 'n chips at the Olde English Pub - Albany dining guide

I chose to sit upstairs where it was a bit quieter and had some fantastic fish and chips. I’m not generally a fan of fish, but theirs looked good enough that I decided to try it and I was not disappointed. The batter was perfectly crispy, and I left completely stuffed.

Wellington’s

Wellington’s caught my eye as I was walking back to my car from another restaurant, so I made a point to visit it later in the week. I was mostly drawn to the sleek décor seen through the large windows, so I checked out their menu online and decided to give it a try. I got a fantastic seat in an armchair by the window, and I even got a view of the capitol building.

I started off with their Saratoga kettle chips since they were only 99 cents. I was glad they were so cheap, because I didn’t like whatever seasoning they used and only ate a few of them. The restaurant was redeemed by the next two courses though.

Though their menu has numerous fine dining options, I opted for a simple caesar salad with grilled chicken added. I really liked it despite the fact that I forgot to ask for the dressing on the side so it had a little more on it than I usually use. The lettuce was chopped into the perfect size to eat it gracefully – a vastly underrated quality in salads if you ask me – and there were large croutons that offered a delicious crunch. The chicken on top was what blew me away though. Most of the time when you add chicken to a salad, you get a sad, bland little piece of luke warm meat. This was not the case at Wellington’s. The chicken I got was so good that I’d gladly order it for an entrée if that was an option. It was steaming hot and coated in a delicious seasoning that gave it just a little bit of a spicy kick.

I almost never order dessert when I’m eating out, but there was a “pumpkin pie” option that was so different that I couldn’t pass it up. It came with two cinnamon waffle triangles with pumpkin gelato and cinnamon whipped crème all stacked together. It was a little melted by the time it was brought to me, but it still tasted fantastic. I love finding unique things like that, and I especially love pumpkin pie.

City Beer Hall

City Beer Hall in Albany, New York

This bar and restaurant was recommended by a local. It has a cool, biergarten-like atmosphere with large tables and benches on the first floor. There’s a large bar area with tons of beers on draft and in bottles and cans. If you’re feeling adventurous, they even have a mechanical bull to try.

Food at City Beer Hall - Albany Dining Guide

I had an incredible pulled pork sandwich with a side of fries. I’m somewhat picky about pulled pork, and this was perfectly moist and not too fatty. The fries were also my favorite style of battered crispiness.

Capitol Melts

I found myself in Albany on National Grilled Cheese Day, so what better way to celebrate than by having lunch at Capitol Melts, a grilled cheese place just down the hill from the capitol building? I had an incredible mac & cheese melt with added bacon. The mac & cheese was good enough that you could just eat that – you can, in fact, just order it as a side. It was the perfect way to celebrate Grilled Cheese Day.

Grilled macaroni and cheese at Capitol Melts - Albany dining guide

Capitol Melts is a great place to grab a quick lunch during the week. It’s only open until 2 pm on weekdays, so you’ll have to time your visit for the workweek. It’s a fast counter-service style place, so you’ll be able to grab your food and get back to work quickly if you’re in the area.

Have you visited any of these restaurants? Did I miss any favorites that I should hit if I go back again? Let me know in the comments.

Read more posts about my work travels here:

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From BBQ to beer halls, Albany, New York has some great restaurants. Check out the Albany dining guide for the best places to eat.

From BBQ to beer halls, Albany, New York has some great restaurants. Check out the Albany dining guide for the best places to eat. From BBQ to beer halls, Albany, New York has some great restaurants. Check out the Albany dining guide for the best places to eat.

The Grown-Up’s Guide to Epcot

After being a bit neglected over the last few years, Epcot is about to see some big changes that will be a bit of a departure from its original vision. I picked it to be my first park guide in my series about Disney World for grown-ups because it’s historically been considered the non-kiddie park. I dispute that, as it was always my favorite as a kid, but I was also kind of a weirdo. This is the place where you’ll see the most childless adults hanging around, so feel free to start here if you still feel awkward. Read on for my top tips about Epcot for adults. Don’t forget to check out my grown-up’s guide to all of Disney World here.

Drinking around the world

I guess I have to start with this one. Any Disney fan over the age of 21 (sorry, even though you’re drinking in pavilions made to resemble other lands, the standard American drinking age still applies) has probably heard about drinking around the world. It’s a pretty simple concept: you head to World Showcase – that’s the part around the large lagoon at the back where all of the different countries are– and have a drink from each of the 11 pavilions. You’ll want to get an early start – most places open at 11 – to make sure you can pace yourself throughout the day. You don’t want to be the person who gets kicked out of Epcot because you’re falling over drunk. I highly recommend saving your last drink for just before Illuminations so you can enjoy it during the fireworks show.

Margarita inside of Epcot's Mexico pavilion

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Tahquamenon Falls in Michigan's Upper Peninsula

Tahquamenon Falls State Park

I love spontaneous adventures. So, when my boyfriend mentioned that he’d never seen Tahquamenon Falls when we were packing up to leave St. Ignace, I immediately suggested that we stop there before heading home. Sure, it was a couple hours in the opposite direction from where we needed to go, but we had all day to kill and it had been a long time since I’d been there too.

What’s generally referred to as Tahquamenon Falls is actually a series of waterfalls on the Tahquamenon River. The larger Upper Falls is more spectacular and is one of the most well-known spots in the state. The Lower Falls area consists of multiple smaller cascades that require some more effort to view, but offer a chance to play in the water a bit.

Tahquamenon Falls in Michigan's Upper Peninsula

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Disney Springs is a great spot for adults at Disney World.

The Grown-Up’s Guide to Disney World

Disney is just for kids, right? Think again. Whether you’re reliving childhood memories or visiting for the first time, a Disney vacation is a blast for adults of all ages too. As a veteran of several grown-ups only trips, here are my best tips for making the most of your vacation to Disney World for adults only.

Don’t be self-conscious

A bus ride at Disney World - Disney World for Adults

I’m wearing a Pocahontas tank top. I’m drinking pop for breakfast. I am ready for some Disney magic sans kids.

Even if friends and family back home think you’re a little weird for going to Disney World or Disneyland without kids, no one at the parks will care. If you look around, you’ll see plenty of adults there by themselves from college-aged travelers to honeymooners to retired couples to intrepid solo travelers soaking up the magic on their own. And even if you were the only adults there sans children, everyone else would be too busy enjoying themselves to care. Don’t let worrying about what other people think of you put a damper on your fun.

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Alberta Falls in Rocky Mountain National Park

Hiking Alberta Falls

The Alberta Falls trail is fairly easy and offers a rewarding view of a cool little waterfall. The trail to the falls is about 1.6 miles, and hikers can continue past the waterfall for a few miles to view some scenic lakes and ponds. We decided to turn back after reaching Alberta Falls because we wanted to explore some other areas on our last day, and it made for a perfect morning warm-up hike.

Alberta Falls in Rocky Mountain National Park

The destination

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Minelot Falls in Thacher State Park

Thacher State Park

If you’re a fan of waterfalls, Thacher State Park might be a perfect escape in the New York capital region. Located about half an hour west of Albany, it’s a great spot to visit if you find yourself in the area. It’s an easy drive, and at only $6/vehicle for a day pass, it’s an affordable place to explore.

I visited in the evening after work, so I didn’t have time to explore the whole park. Even though I only had a couple of hours before dark, playing in nature beats sitting in a hotel room watching bad tv reruns any day. Based on recommendations from some of the locals I was working with, I focused on the Indian Ladder trail. It’s a relatively easy hike that can be completed in less than an hour if you don’t spend too much time enjoying the scenery. From end to end, the trail is about half a mile.

Minelot Falls in Thacher State Park

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Mackinac Island from Fort Mackinac

Summer on Mackinac Island

It just so worked out that my birthday fell on a Saturday last summer, and as soon as I realized this, I decided to take a weekend trip somewhere. I picked Mackinac Island, one of my favorite places in my home state. I went there regularly with my family when I was growing up, but I had somehow managed to go eight whole years without visiting, and I was super excited to see it again. Summer on Mackinac Island is perfect and there’s something for all ages and interests.

Mackinac is a little island in Lake Huron between the Upper and Lower Peninsulas. No cars (except emergency vehicles) are allowed on the island, and it gives it a charming, old-fashioned atmosphere. Fun fact: it was the US’ second National Park, after Yellowstone, though it is no longer part of the National Park system. Bikes and horses are the preferred methods of transportation during the summer, so we borrowed my parents’ SUV and bike rack to haul our gear Up North (yes, that’s a proper noun in these parts) and hit the road for the weekend.

Hotels on the island and in the closest cities (Mackinaw City in the Lower Peninsula and St. Ignace in the Upper) are crazy expensive for summer weekends. The Holiday Inn Express in St. Ignace (I’ve found that the hotels on the UP side are slightly cheaper) was going for almost $500/night when I was trying to make reservations six months in advance. Instead, I opted to stay at Straits State Park, a gorgeous campground right at the base of the Mackinac Bridge and we took a ferry over first thing in the morning.

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View of the Strip in Las Vegas, Nevada

5 Things that Surprised Me in Las Vegas

Las Vegas never really seemed like my kind of place, but I’ve always been curious about it because it also kind of seems like somewhere everyone should try to see at least once in their lives. Due to a last-minute booking for a recent work trip, I ended up with a six-hour layover there, and since LAS is right next to the Strip (I’m not joking – it’s basically across the street from the Luxor and Mandalay Bay.), I decided that it was the perfect opportunity to get a taste of the town. Plus, I got to check off Nevada (hey, #45) on my list of states that I’ve visited. Here are five things that I learned in my four hours in Las Vegas.

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First Timer’s Guide to the Garden of the Gods

I’d somehow never heard of Garden of the Gods until I started planning a trip to Colorado Springs. As soon as I saw pictures of it, I knew I’d have to visit. It’s an incredible naturally formed area full of red rock formations that will dazzle you. I loved wandering through the enormous boulders and spires and marveling at the power of nature. Bring your camera and some hiking boots and be prepared to explore some awe-inspiring scenery. Best of all? It’s free!

What to Do

Perkins Central Gardens Trail

Kissing Camels formation in Garden of the Gods Colorado Springs

So cute!

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Hiking the Gem Lake Trail

Rocky Mountain National Park is full of gorgeous scenery and offers all kinds of hiking trails, from an easy stroll around Sprague Lake to a climb to the summit of Longs Peak. As Midwesterners (aka from low elevation) of average fitness level, we stuck to the easy/moderate rated trails. Mostly. Our last hike of the weekend challenged us a lot more than we expected, and left us so exhausted that we barely made it out for dinner that night.

Hiking the Gem Lake trail in Rocky Mountain National Park taught us a very important lesson: always be very clear about your level of fitness when inquiring about hiking trails in the mountains. We were pointed toward Gem Lake by a NPS volunteer at one of the visitor centers and eagerly headed off to check out the views he talked about. The problem: when we told the first park volunteer that we were looking for a moderately easy trail to fill up the rest of the afternoon, she called over this other guy and didn’t relay the message that we weren’t looking for something strenuous. Based on his enthusiastic recommendation, we set off to hike to Gem Lake, with stomachs full of elk and bison burgers, fries, and pop.

Gem Lake Trail in Rocky Mountain National Park

There will be a lot of stairs along the way.

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