Lunch Break (Downtown Albany)

Lunch Break: Steuben St. Market

The opening of the new Steuben St. Market grocery store in downtown Albany has been widely heralded by residents as a potential turning point in the neighborhood’s character. Many believe that more people would move downtown, and more developers would be willing to invest in residential conversions, if only there were more household friendly amenities nearby. Steuben St. Market aims to address that sentiment by providing a small grocery experience that is walkable for several neighborhoods without other grocery alternatives.  In addition to the benefits from an urban planning perspective, I think the Market’s opening may be of interest to downtown workers who need to grab a quick grocery item on their lunch break or on their way home.

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When I discovered that the Market would also be selling sandwiches at its deli counter, it became the perfect excuse to check out the store and try a new lunch option.  I opted to try the Black Bean Burger, which is served on gluten free, vegan bread (Note: the sandwich is normally served with sprouts instead of mixed greens, which were substituted due to availability the day I ordered).

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I am a huge veggie burger fan, so my expectations were admittedly high.  My first impression of the sandwich was that for around $9, the value wasn’t great relative to the portion size. Perhaps adding a small side (e.g. something like a macaroni salad) would make me feel better about the pricing.  I also noticed that despite displaying the burgers as neatly formed patties in the deli display case, it barely held together in the sandwich. I tend to prefer a veggie burger with more firmness and shape to it.

Texture and shape aside, I also wasn’t blown away by the burger itself.  The seasoning was a little heavy with garlic, and some of the beans weren’t quite soft enough for my liking. The strongest components of the sandwich were the mixed greens and tomato, which were fresh and crisp. The vegetables were added in a nice proportion along with a light garlic aioli.  I also enjoyed the bread, which was soft and flavorful.

The line to order sandwiches makes you wait in front of the deli display case, which contained a number of fantastic looking salad items. I was convinced to try the Root Down salad, which has a mix of root vegetables (including beets, carrots, and sweet potatoes) and fresh peas in an herbed vinaigrette-type dressing.

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This salad was phenomenal.  It contained a nice mix of vegetables that tasted like quality, fresh produce, and the herb notes played well off the earthy tones of the root vegetables.

My overall lunch experience was somewhat of a mixed bag at the Steuben St. Market, but I still maintain that there is a lot of potential here.  I am curious to try other sandwich combinations (especially a turkey BLT wrap with avocado and chipotle mayo), as well as the panini sandwiches.  Several of the other deli salads looked wonderful, including a black bean quinoa salad and an asian chicken salad. And I loved the grocery store’s offerings and general vibe.  Worth a visit to see for yourself!

Side Note: For some great coverage on the general grocery offerings at the Market, including lots of pictures, see the recent press from Steve at Table Hopping and from All Over Albany.

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