My wife and I had been once to the original location of Druthers in Saratoga. To be frank, we weren't impressed. It was a couple of years ago, but I distinctly remember that the descriptions of the food on the menu sounded interesting, different, and delicious, but the execution left something to be desired, and the food left us disappointed.
Consequently, with Druthers opening a location in Albany I wasn't terribly excited, but the positive reviews on yelp convinced me to at least check it out.
Before I get to the food, I want to mention the interior design. They obviously were trying for a retro warehouse feel. But in my opinion it's a complete fail. There's the now ubiquitous old looking clear glass bulbs with elongated filaments hanging everywhere. The rafters are exposed. And the piping for the sprinkler system is exposed. They also have wood clad, old steel mesh screens separating the bar from the dining area.
But the one side near where the bathrooms are is painted drywall. It's so out of place as to be laughable. The aluminum clad glass and the door which looks into the brew tanks, looks like something you'd see in a strip mall, or grocery store. The bathroom has floor to ceiling wainscoting, and it looks like a page out of a Pottery Barn catalog. There's brand new knotty pine, scattered throughout, that is intended to be original looking. The open kitchen is aluminum with modern tile. The fireplace in the center of the space, covered in stone, is reminiscent of an adirondack lodge. It's as though 4 different designers worked separately on the space and then they threw it all together after the fact.
I really didn't care though, because I ordered the mussels and they were outstanding.
I started with a beer, and being an IPA fan, I ordered their IPA. It was quite good. It's not overly hopped and has a just a hint of sweetness. I very much enjoyed it, and it's obvious they're very serious about the beer side of the operation.
Ah, but those mussels.
The menu describes them such:
Wood Fired Mussels — pistatchios, bacon, cherry tomatoes, pickled ginger, hefeweizen, brown butter, tarragon, sliced pizza crust.
My dish also included some mini-greens scattered on top and wow, that's a lot of stuff. It's all stuff that's full of flavor, and it all works together wonderfully. It's a huge portion too. My serving must've had 25 mussels in it, in a large bowl, brimming with that flavorful beer based broth. The mussels themselves were tender, and not overcooked.
The pizza crust worked well too. It was soft and readily absorbed the broth. I'd get a bite of the chewy/smoky bacon, then a bite of the crunchy pistachios. Then I'd get a bite of the sweet and slightly charred tomato, all of it studded with minced pickled ginger, tarragon, and the subtle nuttiness of the brown butter. It's a dish with lots of flavor and texture contrasts.
It's delicious, and I must've looked like a fool as I slurped the broth and moaned, with my face buried in the bowl.
It's nice to see that they're taking the food side of the business as seriously as they are the beer side, and if the rest of the dishes are as good as the mussels, I'm sure Druthers will be very popular.