Today, I'm giving the dubious honor of bad chain to Recovery Sports Grill. The concept started in Albany with a single location across the street from Albany Med as The Recovery Room. It has since expanded to eight locations in the immediate area, and is expanding west—there's one in Amsterdam and one near Turning Stone Casino in Verona—and south with locations in New Jersey, Virginia, West Virginia, and Florida.
Congratulations Albany! You are the progenitor of your very own bad chain. We have supported and enabled an expanding empire of uninspired pub fare and its ubiquitous "throw a bunch of crap on the wall along with lots of giant TVs" ambiance. Yes, folks, our beloved Captial Region has unleashed a bad chain on an unsuspecting world. May God have mercy on us.
I've been to Recovery about six or seven times now. Twice to watch a game at the behest of my brother, and several times with a group of coworkers who like to go occasionally for lunch. I've had a chance to explore the menu a bit, and I'll be damned if I can find even one stand-out dish. I have tried in vain to find something that rises above mediocre. Something I'm happy to eat, whenever someone drags (um, invites) me there.
I had high hopes for the wings. After all, wings are a sports bar staple, and you'd think a sports bar chain would make sure they do them well. The wings are ok I guess but hardly memorable, and the sauce tastes like it's straight out of a gallon jug. My taste buds tell me Recovery is not making their own sauces.
The burgers too are ok, but if you're really craving a burger, Recovery's burgers will not scratch that itch. They consist of an average beef patty, topped with boring, average quality toppings. Meh.
I ordered the fried buffalo chicken sandwich on one visit. It's edible as long as you don't mind the neon-orange, processed tasting wing sauce.
Thinking perhaps their lighter fare would be better I tried the mahi-mahi tacos. They were terrible. The fish tasted sour, and I wondered if the fish wasn't bad, but this is Recovery Sports Grill. It's possible they just sell poor quality, bad tasting fish.
Our table ordered the "Carolina BBQ Nachos" on one visit. These were awful. Chewy, overcooked pulled pork, way too sweet BBQ sauce, rubbery and salty "queso" sauce, sour cream, and a bland pico de gallo haplessly thrown on top of a mound of lukewarm tortilla chips. Even our large hungry group refused to finish it. A few bites and we'd all had our fill.
I could go on, but you get the point.
Recovery's success is a bit of a mystery. There's nothing unique, or special about it. It doesn't have Hooter's 'Hooter's Girls' (or their great wings). There's no signature menu item they do really well that would draw in crowds. The prices are low but no lower than similar chains. The beer selection is pedestrian. They have a million TVs, but so does every other sports bar.
I'd be far more apathetic if the chain weren't so popular. That it's thriving, and people flock to it is a statement too many people in Albany are happy with mediocrity. This in spite of the fact the Capital Region is bursting with great pubs that are raising the bar and making delicious pub fare. Druther's, Tipsy Moose, Albany Ale & Oyster, Capital City Gastropub, Finnbar's, The City Beer Hall, The Ruck—to name just a few. It's not like there aren't choices. Those bars all have fantastic beer selections too. And they all have TVs.
Yet, Recovery's mediocrity finds a hungry audience.
Just as the nation is politically divided, I'm becoming more and more convinced Albany is culinarily divided. On the one hand, there are those who—like me—support and encourage an elevation of the local food scene. And then there's those who have no problem with average food, happily embracing its familiarity and the comfort it provides, so much so they're complicit in incubating a chain and furthering its success.