There’s something about the first visit to Kay’s Pizza in Averill Park every season that is kind of magical. I’m not here to tell you that they have the Capital District’s best pizza, because truthfully I don’t think they do. Especially not if you’re looking for a classic, thin crust, NY style pizza with fold-able slices and the perfect ratio of cheese to sauce. Because these pizzas have cheese – and lots of it. Big stringy clumps of cheese that get everywhere when you try to pull away a slice. But it’s ok, because you didn’t come here for a neat little slice.
You came to Kay’s for a big serving of nostalgia and comfort food and family. You get there when it’s crowded (pretty much all the time) and have to park way up on the hill, but walking down the sun dappled road along Burden Lake feels peaceful. That first visit is the moment that summer feels like it’s finally here to stay.
Pizza toppings are not skimpy, especially if you get something with bacon, which comes out piled high with crispy strands of meat. The sausage topping is composed of nice hearty crumbles, and I often like to pair it with some acidic jalapenos to cut the heaviness of the cheese. But the true beauty of this pizza for me is the buttery tavern style crust. Nicely crisp on the bottom with a little bit of poof in the dough and shreds of cheese scattered all the way to the edge for those perfect, crunchy, baked-on bits.
If one of these pizzas somehow isn’t enough to fill you up, Kay’s also has some seafood items and other fried appetizers that are worth a try. I’m quite partial to the New England style fried clams, which have a fantastic breading over very plump and juicy clam strips.
Of note for the uninitiated – Kay’s is a bustling place full of young families (read: lots of boisterous kids) and can get quite crowded and hot inside. Many of the tables are communal, meaning you get seated in a spot squeezed between two other groups. And there isn’t really a water view or outside seating. But the folksy charm of the red checkered tablecloths and the chit chatting with your neighbors adds something unique to the whole experience. You’ll quickly find yourself planning your next visit or pining for this place to open again while you wait out the slow slog of winter (it usually opens sometime in April and closes in October). Once you’ve gone a time or two, Kay’s just becomes an interwoven piece of your Capital Region summertime experience, even if you weren’t born and raised in the area. And that kind of seasonal excitement for pizza is unique to Kay’s, although it echoes the anticipation for seasonal burger stands and fish fries in the region.
Kay’s wins the Times Union’s “best pizza” category on a pretty regular basis, but I’m guessing that you won’t come away with the same opinion on the pizza alone. What makes this place so special is the sum of all its parts – even with the parking challenges, crowded tables, and overwhelming cheese to sauce ratio, you’ll be eager to come back again. And that’s what is going to allow Kay’s to remain a community fixture for years to come.