The bad news is, I'm too busy working with my clients to create new content for this blog. The good news is, I have copies of a bunch of posts I created for a community blog that were lost from that site through a technology glitch. Here's an example from August, 2019.
UPDATED TO ADD - Frajee's Grill only lasted a few months, it seems. Currently the storefront is occupied by Keobi Restaurant, which brings a taste of Africa to Lark Street. Three years later, 202 Washington is still vacant, for rent at $3,500/month; The Larson's ground floor commercial space is still vacant; 196 Washington Avenue's ground floor commercial space is still vacant, and the Lark Street BID is looking for a manager.
Tulips, chrysanthemums and a who’s who of local officials graced the ribbon cutting of Frajee’s Grill at 189 Lark Street. Owners Ibraheem and Wael Faraj came to Albany from Syria as refugees in 2013. Now they’re bringing the hospitality and culinary traditions of their home country to the street where, according to Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan, “business owners come to fulfill their dreams.”
The announcement prepared by the Lark Street Business Improvement District (BID) says:
Frajee’s Grill, a new Mediterranean restaurant with a focus on fresh, locally sourced ingredients opened in July … [The] menu is inspired by the flavors and spices used in authentic Mediterranean recipes,” and uses ingredients sourced from local farms.
The storefront, nestled between Jewel of India and the Imperial Market, has seen several businesses come and go in recent years. It was Ikes’ Pizzeria in 2008; Romeo’s Pizza for several years; one of those sketchy cell phone shops that painted the exterior a nasty neon green in 2016; and My Dacha Slavonian European Café was open in the summer of 2017 but closed the following year. The Dacha’s interior featured brick walls painted dark red and terra cotta vinyl floor tiles, but the new shop has been completely overhauled.
The exterior brick is painted light brown and a crisp orange sign hangs above the entrance with white and black lettering. The inside is bright and airy, with silvery whitewashed floor planking and ivory, grey and white geometric wallpaper above a white wainscot. A natural-wood pergola runs the depth of the dining room’s ceiling, wrapped in faux ivy vines, evoking the atmosphere of the owners’ home country. The room is well-lighted without feeling harsh, and large menu-board monitors add to the modern, clean feel.
The menu hedges its bets with pizza, pasta, burgers and chicken wings, but stands out with rice bowls, wraps - including chicken and lamb shawarma and gyros, and Mediterranean sides like baba ganoush, hummus, falafel and stuffed grape leaves. There’s a short dessert menu, and delivery is available through GrubHub.
With this latest addition, Lark Street seems to be continuing its upswing, with several new shops and restaurants filling previously dark storefronts. Unfortunately, three anchor locations – the gateways to Lark Street – remain vacant.
In addition to these corner locations, several other significant addresses remain vacant (former Larkin at 199 Lark; McGuire’s at 353 State) plus smaller storefronts like Sam’s Home Cooking at 222 Lark. What kind of business owners do you think should come and fulfill their dreams on Lark Street? Please comment below!
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Colleen M. Ryan is an