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Oh, SmAlbany!

Daily posts and occasional longer essays about politics, culture, and life in the Capital Region...updated M-F, midmorning

"I write this not as a booster of Albany, which I am, nor an apologist for the city, which I sometimes am, but rather as a person whose imagination has become fused with a single place, and in that place finds all the elements that a man ever needs..." -W. Kennedy, from O Albany!

Early summer bars...

Early summer bars...:The period of time between the college graduations and the opening of the track (roughly Memorial Day until the last week of July) is an excellent time to check out some of the bars in both Albany and Saratoga. There are a number of bars in both locations that absolutely need to be enjoyed when they are not crowded. June and July is the time to do it. Here's a quick review:


During the school year, much of Albany is overrun with the SUNY crowd, and that's fine, but it makes many of the bars hot, loud, and meat-market-ish. If you're looking for a good place for a relaxing pint, it's not quite what you are looking for - you really have to stick to the lark street scene. However, now is the perfect time to check out some of the SUNY bars, as they are decent places, especially in mid-town, when the crowds settle down. The following places are recommended not as the best bars in Albany, but as the bars that improve the most when the college kids go home:

#1) Washington Tavern (Western Ave., near the Quail street intersection) - without a doubt, the single bar in Albany that changes the most when the kids head home. The specials are the same, but the atmosphere goes from frat party to relaxed pub. You can access the dartboard, find a table easy, and even hear other people talking. A great bar that just isn't great when it's crowded.

#2) The Long Branch (N. Lake Ave, near SUNY downtown campus) - a nice college bar that has a good "old school" feel when there aren't many people there. Scarred wood tables, cheap pitchers. Absolutely can't go there during the school year.


The Saratoga bars are certainly fun in August. No one will deny that. You can't put 40 bars and 10,000 people in 3 square blocks of small town and not generate a good time. But many of them are actually more fun in June and July. The crowds are smaller, the prices are cheaper, and the weather is already good enough to sit outside. Again, the following bars are not the best bars in Saratoga, but they are the ones that you should check out before the August crush:

#1) City Tavern (Corner of Caroline and Putnam) - This is the new hotspot, I guess. The only really great part of this bar is the roofdeck, and that's just a zoo in August. Definitely check it out before then, but realize that it will still be somewhat crowded up there. Just a great view of the city.

#2) Gaffney's (Other Corner of Caroline and Putnam): You just can't go to Gaffney's in August, it's just too crowded, and it's full of the college crowd. But it does have the best outdoor seating in Saratoga, and the drinks are actually reasonably priced. Just make sure you don't eat dinner there, not worth it.

#3) The Tin and Lint (Caroline near Broadway): A great college-style basement bar There is literally no air-ciruclation in the place, but it's a great atmosphere for splitting a pitcher with some buddies. Plus you can actually use the pool table if it's not crowded. Translation: stay the hell away in August.

#4) The Parting Glass (Lake Ave., out of the way): A tremendous Irish pub, complete with live music, 10 dartboards, italian shuffleboard, two large bars, and great pub food. Unfortunately, you'll never get a table in August, and you can't play darts when people are standing in front of all the boards. Check it out before July 27.

Obviously, before the track opens, we'll review the best August bars in Saratoga - there still are some secret gems up there.
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At 4:03 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said:

don't forget the Icehouse...    

At 4:06 PM , Blogger Matt said:

Nah, i disagree...the Icehouse is at its best in August. When it's empty, it's boring.    

At 5:24 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said:

The Longbranch is not open in the summer. Which makes me sad, because I live right across the street :-(

Even though I am in college, I love when the kids are gone. WTs in the summer is the best. I eat dinner their usually 3 times a week, but would not dare go in their past 11 on a Friday or Saturday when the kids are in town.    

At 5:36 PM , Blogger Matt said:

Long Branch closed in summer? That's news to me, although i confess I haven't been there in a good 3 years or so. Perhaps I was there over spring break or whatever. I know it was miserable when i once went there during the SUNY school year.    

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