So I finally made it over to Chester's Smokehouse over on Watervliet Ave. in Albany. The impetus for my trip was the following tweet -
Hey @FUSSYlittleBLOG have you tried the mini kielbasa at Chester's Smokehouse yet? #518eats pic.twitter.com/mbQQiRXnzJ— Chopsticks Optional (@chopsticksopt) January 8, 2016
It turns out that Chester's has a serve yourself mini-hotdog bar! As I was already curious enough about Chester's this gave me the inertia necessary to swing by whilst running errands in Albany this afternoon.
Walking in I noticed that the establishment seemed to be doing quite a brisk lunch business with the clientele trending towards elderly. The space is quite large and a bit sparse. Chester's has a wonderful lengthy cold case to display their smokey wares. There is an odd smattering of Polish/Eastern European sundry goods that seem to be a bit of an afterthought.
I started by perusing the large refrigerator section. Chester's has a mammoth selection of smoked cheeses. Now here is the thing. Smoked cheese doesn't really flip my switch. Listening to the chatter concerning Chester's it seems that much of the buzz concerns their smoked cheese.
I have a cold-smoking rig at home and if I want smoked cheese I will go buy a block of cheese and smoke it (one day I will write a post on this subject). Smoke won't improve bad cheese, so I tend to like to select my own cheeses for smoking.
I did, however, make a purchase. Among your usual suspects (provolone, mozzarella, cheddar, etc...) I spied something funny. I stopped and went, "is that Huntsman?" What a weird thing to smoke! I had to buy it. I took a nibble and as I suspected, I think I would have rather just had the plain old huntsman...
I then turned my attention to the meats for offer in the cold case. I didn't really have a yen to purchase too much today, so I asked for simple pound of sliced bacon. If a smokehouse can't do good bacon this does not bode well for the rest of their selection. There were a few things in the cold case that piqued my interest for the future (stuffed bacon, ham bacon, pierogies, kabanos, jerky).
Being a scatter brained dolt, I almost left before remembering the very purpose of my journey! The mini-hotdog bar. As I checked out I had the good gentlemen cashier throw three to go onto my bill. Here they are.
The hot dog bar consists of a wee combo bun/dog steamer and an array of condiments to include cheese, chili, sauerkraut, onions, etc... You can select normal mini-dogs or kielbasa. I took three dogs and dressed them with onion/mustard/sauce ("the works").
The onion dice was a bit large and the meat sauce is a bit off (more of a "chili," too thick), but they are thoroughly serviceable. As Chester's is not a hot dog joint per se I am cutting them a lot of slack in the traditional Capital Region style hot dog category...
So this is what I brought home from Chester's (aside from the hot dogs which I shoved down my food-hole in the car). I am a sucker for a good loaf of rye bread.
The bacon is good, I cooked some up. Gentle smoke flavor (they sell double smoked as well) and made from nice meaty bellies.
So, some final thoughts. Will Chester's tear me away from Rolf's Pork Store for any of my smokey meat needs? Just from my observations during this cursory experience -- no, probably not. There is bit of difference in selection, but also a lot of overlap. Where I in the meat business, I would not like to go toe to toe with Rolf's. They are a force of meat-nature.
However, it seems that Chester's seems to be trying to make a run as more of a Deli then just a smokey-meat shop. They have an expansive menu of sandwiches and the like. I think I owe them a visit for lunch before I fully form my full opinion. They have this giant meatball sandwich thing that looks absolutely ridiculous and I have to try it!
In any event, I welcome Chester's to the area and I wish them nothing but success. Anyone who trades in the art of smokey-meats is OK in my book.