Saturday, November 1, 2014

City Line Bar and Grill: Dos and Don'ts

I have officially visited City Line Bar and Grill and have a short list of dos and don'ts for this new bar, a from-the-ground-up replacement for the old Sutter's Mill pub on Western Avenue opposite the University at Albany entrance.




Do take in the surroundings, which are a welcome break from the usual sort of  cozy but moldering and somewhat sticky ambiance of Albany bars and pubs.  Sutter's Mill was bulldozed and a completely new building has been constructed and nicely appointed. Steve Barnes describes it as: "150 dining-room seats, room for 50 at the bar and another 75 seasonal spaces on the deck."  Did you see that?  Room for 50 at the bar.  75 spaces on the deck, which has a great big stone gas fireplace. The bar takes up half of the entire space and it's the coolest bar to come along to Albany in a while. All the natural light streaming in gives it a fantastic glow as the cocktails take hold. The bar and grill in total is one huge room with a very high ceiling that somehow makes the acoustics perfect. With good acoustics and the music volume low, the atmosphere is very refreshing. The entire back wall is glass panels that fold so that the back can be opened onto the deck. One very mild evening the back was open and for the duration it took to absorb a lovely cocktail after a hard day of work I was in an extremely pleasant place.  For more photos see the All Over Albany photo  spread: http://alloveralbany.com/archive/2014/09/12/city-line-bar-and-grill


Do visit the bar and go for drinks with friends and enjoy the crowd, which has been pleasantly at a low volume so that as you drink you can actually still hear all the people in your party. It's wonderful!!! 



Please, however, do not order any food. I've tried it for research purposes four times.  I've never experienced such consistently bad food in my life, except in a school cafeteria, which is actually what this food reminds me of. Believe me - I'm an education professional, so I've spent over 30 years of my life around institutional food. The names and descriptions sound good, but the food is almost always bad. The turkey burger above was the best thing I tried, but for the life of me I can't understand why the flat bread was rolled up on the left side of the burger and was tough - I mean it was tough to cut it  with a knife.  Was it for cuteness?

I won't go into the strange and inadequate service except to say that service there is a combination of disdainful and nice but bad. The time I went for just drinks my companion and I were treated to indifference, then condescension and finally shown a table in a half-empty area. They served us horrible hummus!!!  How can anyone over 18 years old screw up hummus?  It was watery and I have no idea if they even know what tahini is, not to mention that hummus has lemon in it. Whatever it was they served us didn't.

I was served the wrong meal one of my visits. The final insult was the full entree dinner I decided to try that was described as a steak dusted with peppercorns and set alight when served on a nest of potatoes and kale. It tasted like steak that was grilled and then dunked in cheap whiskey mildly flavored with maple - I mean like if you took the steak off your plate and dunked it in your cocktail. This is not a good combination of flavors. It had a different combination of veggies than was described on the menu and they were poorly prepared - one was overcooked and the other was undercooked. Knowing by that time that I was not likely to get a better meal, I sent it back and paid my check, which did not include the entree - at least both times the kitchen/serving staff completely obliterated my meal they didn't charge me for it. 

My recommendation is that the "grill" half of the place be revamped, meaning that the service staff be trained to welcome customers and serve food, and the kitchen staff be trained to prepare good food.  That would be sort of analogous to bulldozing the building and starting from the ground up, which the owners know how to do.

They have a basic web page with no menu: http://www.citylinebar.com/ and a facebook page with a teeny bit more information: https://www.facebook.com/citylinebar

LorreBob sez: Go and drink then have dinner somewhere that has good food.

11 comments:

Chopsticks Optional said...

we had a disappointing meal as well. the menu seemed promising but the dishes lacked execution.

Zena G.O.F. said...

Thank you. I agree totally. Stale flatbread and dirty/flavorless carrots came with a large wad of poofy hummus that tasted like, well, like nothing at all. The beer was good. (:

DelSo said...

We had some pretty dismal service and food, as well. The bar was absolutely littered with bartenders, yet we didn't get acknowledged for an inordinate length of time. When we paid our check (with cash), I asked for $5 change intending to leave the bartender $7+ on a $37 check. The change never came. I'm still annoyed that she somehow felt deserving of a 34% tip. Not in a rush to go back, although that back deck with the fireplace looks lovely.

Lorre S said...

Lots of other folks have had similar comments - The Goddess of Fire and I made bold and pretty much bulldozed the poor service. We were sort of loud and obnoxious and they finally seemed to notice. I'm not getting their model at all. Maybe they don't like it to be crowded.

Anonymous said...

"research purposes" amazing.

Lorre S said...

Yes - I went back several times to see if the service and food were a fluke or not. My experience does not seem to be a fluke and several people have commented offline that they had similar experiences both with food and service.

Anonymous said...

The food and service has gotten much better since they opened! When we went it was a full house. We enjoyed ourselves and will definitely go back.

Lorre S said...

This is VERY GOOD NEWS!

Unknown said...

Gave it a couple tries. Last try Valentine's day for lunch at 12:50 pm. Fodder was always bad. Server was great and efficient. Food advice? Don't let a couple meals from a 5 person table order sit under the very visible heat lamps drying out and overcooking. Don't put a bunch of cold fries on these same overcooked meals. Don't have the kitchen inform us that we're ten minutes too early for the real menu...so we get a tacky piece of typed paper with a couple breakfast items on the left. Couple lunch items on the right. And all. All. Of the tables sat after us got the real menu. Never will return. Would have to improve food execution and kithen courtesy a lot.

Wendy said...

I've been 4 times dinner, lunch and most recently brunch...delish...great server...great food...great ambiance...highly recommended to colleagues, friends and family all of whom have taken me up my suggestion with great satisfaction...cannoli french toast- decadent...salmon and zoodles- not only healthy but very tasty...avocado FRIES-OMG so good...

jody said...

I've been there three or four times and enjoyed my meal every time.