Stephen Travels

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Jack's Oyster House, Albany, New York

Jack’s Oyster House (Albany, New York)

At any moment, I almost expected to see Sinatra, Martin, or Davis walk by my table at Jack’s Oyster House. This Albany, New York, mainstay conjures up the vibe of the Rat Pack, aided by the background music from a couple of generations ago. A black and white motif keeps it classy, from the checkerboard floor to the archival photos of the city, from the exterior signage to the waiters’ uniforms and the chairs and tablecloths. Tall windows fronting State Street flood the 150-seat restaurant with light, supplemented by chandeliers hanging from plaster medallions. Crown molding runs along the ceiling and original dark-wood paneling covers much of the walls.

Opened in 1913, Jack’s has been operated by the same family ever since and is now run by the grandson of the founder, who was a former oyster shucker. The restaurant has weathered the many peaks and troughs of Albany’s tumultuous history for more than a century, and it still retains its reputation as the city’s renowned dining institution.

Fork and KnifeTry This: Of course, you’re going to want to start with a serving of oysters, but you may also want to sample a classic chopped salad of crisp lettuce, crumbled blue cheese, tomatoes, cucumbers, and applewood smoked bacon. For the main course, you can choose from half a dozen different steaks, but if the fresh fish of the day appeals to you, go with that; in my case, Boston scrod with citrus sauce alongside some broccoli and carrots, and creamy mashed potatoes. The best bet for dessert is the bananas Foster: bananas with brown-butter sugar-rum sauce, served warm over Tahitian vanilla ice cream and whipped cream.