Category Archives: Restaurants

Turn the page

As of 4:55 on a Wednesday in June, I no longer belong to the ranks of business owner – and it feels great. The transaction was as low-key and undramatic as are all of the involved parties. The deal was put together without realtor representation and the terms were easily agreed upon with minimal negotiation. I walked out of the attorney’s office downtown positively elated.

Don’t get me wrong, there have been moments in the past few months when I had twinges of regret and times when I had to fight against a feeling of having failed. Maybe if I had done X or Y differently, perhaps I needed to stick it out longer or make dramatic changes to achieve the level of success necessary to make remaining in business an appealing prospect. Ultimately though, I know this was the right move. I can return to what I do best and enjoy most – providing hospitality. Later, for you Quickbooks and Paychex. We’re officially over.

The experience of owning a business has been life changing. I tried something I never imagined doing. I stretched myself thinner than ever before and did not allow myself to get broken. It was more than, as I overheard one of my former employees say, “that old cliche, a waitress who thinks she can be an owner.” See, unlike the person who uttered that statement, I could be an owner. It just didn’t bring me joy and joy, not money, not ego, is the currency of my life.

I’m so excited to witness the success of Mio Posto and to play even a small part in that goal. I’ve worked a couple of nights already and Danny’s food is exactly at the level that I knew it would be – creative, high quality and composed with passion and professionalism. It’s wonderful. I wasn’t certain how it would feel to be “just” an employee, but I’m really happy to fill that role and to realize that my pride comes from providing guests with a memorable dining experience, not from signing paychecks.

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Filed under Albany, Lark Street, Observations, Restaurants

3 nights, 3 burgers

It’s been a weird week. I’ve consistently been one day ahead of the calendar, thinking today was tomorrow, and each time I mentally corrected myself, I was disappointed to find myself a day “behind.” See? This is what happens when I have too much free time – I can’t keep track of it.

While concluding that what I thought was Thursday was really only Wednesday was a bit of a bummer, what didn’t disappoint were the meals I ate on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. Let’s start at the beginning…

Albany to Troy

Wednesday was the night of the sick storm that dumped rain, and even hail, around the area. It was the last pre-half marathon, long run that Chrissy and I were doing and we organized ourselves so that we left a car in Troy, drove to Albany and then ran back to Troy to get the car. When we met in Troy jagged bolts of lightning were flying to the west and, as we headed south on 787, the rain began. Out timing, though, was perfect and by the time we parked at my house and got ourselves ready to run, the sky was clearing and the temperature had dropped 20 degrees – perfect weather for a run along the Hudson.

That 10+ miles left us hungry with me craving a burger and an adult beverage. We made our way to McGeary’s, where Tess’ warm welcome and the kitchen’s well executed plate set us right. The burger was generously portioned (Seriously, I could have been satisfied with half the burger. Naturally, I ate all of it.) and nicely cooked to the requested medium rare. The fries were crispy like I requested and the draft cider, recommended by our server, was perfect. I slept well that night.

Dirty Bird

The next night, Thursday, I finally made my way down to Nine-Pin for their Cider and Sliders event. I’ve been wanting get to one of these forever to have a cider and some food from one of the food trucks they have organized and I picked a good night – the weather was ideal and I got the chance to try Slidin Dirty. I had a really hard time choosing from the menu options,  but eventually selected the Dirty Bird BLT, a delicious chicken burger with bacon, cheddar, arugula, tomato, red onion, avocado and chipotle cream. I mean, really? There’s nothing on there that I don’t love! I added some Asian noodle on the side (I’m carb loading, people!) and washed it all down with a raspberry cider. It was a terrific al fresco meal for less than $20.

Lamb burger!

Friday night my son filled up on pizza and popcorn at his school’s carnival and my older guys were out and about, leaving me solo for dinner. I impulsively decided to walk to the Cheese Traveler to see what was on their Friday Night Cookout menu and was lucky to find a seat outside within range of the grill and its wafting aromas. The lamb burger was an easy choice and, after some assistance from my server, I chose an interesting cider that featured hops. As the sky darkened and night fell, I lingered, savoring my dinner and the live jazz music. It was a great way to ease into the weekend and I really hope to repeat that experience soon.

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Filed under Albany, Eating, Exercise, favorites, friends, Local, Recommendations, Restaurants, running, Troy

Humor is kind of funny

humor-1We’ve probably all, at one time or another, told a joke or attempted a prank that simply fell flat. The timing was off, perhaps, or maybe our audience just didn’t have an appreciation for whatever it was that we personally found to be amusing. It happens.

In the past week there have been two instances when, I think, people were trying to be funny, yet their actions were perceived as anything but humorous. One of these situations was a stunt performed on social media, the other in a much smaller, yet still public manner. Neither felt particularly funny to me.

The image that Kathy Griffin tweeted out was nothing short of repulsive. It’s no secret that I find Donald Trump to be despicable, but the tasteless depiction of his decapitated and bloody head was just beyond the limits of acceptability. It was gruesome in a way that didn’t tickle my funny bone, but instead turned my stomach. I won’t link to it and prefer to not see it again because it doesn’t make me imagine a world without Trump, but instead reminds me of human beings who have actually suffered that exact fate at the hands of violent regimes. Remember James Foley? Daniel Pearl? Steven Sotloff? It’s not funny.

Last Friday was the final night my restaurant was open for business. It was busy and I was really happy to see so many guests who felt compelled to share this last night with us on Lark Street. It felt like a big hug, to be honest and I really appreciated the presence of each of those positive people. There was, however, a dark cloud hanging over what was such an affirmative night.

For some reason, maybe irony or humor, my staff elected to all wear t-shirts or tank tops that were purchased by the owner of the previous business to have been in the 200 Lark space, The Wine Bar and Bistro on Lark. When I noticed the first one, I thought it was kind of funny, but when I realized that each of them was wearing clothing that advertised a business that hadn’t been open for close to two years on my business’ last night, it didn’t feel humorous at all. It felt mean.

I’m all about irony and if I had been included in the joke (hey, I have two of those shirts myself!), I truly believe it would have been a great gag. I would have loved a group photo of all of us wearing those shirts to have been our final image on our social media pages. Instead, though, I was left feeling utterly disappointed, which I suppose is better than disgusted on the spectrum of negative emotions. What I wasn’t doing was laughing.

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Filed under News, Observations, Restaurants, Uncategorized

PS L+L v2

61884248-707A-4D7A-9EAB-26775B959505-261-000000982DC18EBFI’ve written before about some of what I’ve learned from owning a business, specifically a restaurant. I recently reread that piece and, while every single thing I said at that time remains true, I was struck more by what I didn’t say. It was pretty friggin vague in a lot of ways.

I went into the project with an ultimate goal of creating a warm, comfortable environment for a diverse group of guests, feeding them and taking care of them with sincere professionalism. God, that sounds pretty damn Pollyanna-esque, yes? Note: making money was never primary. I’ve concluded I’m not a good businesswoman, but I am a good hostess and that’s truly more important to me.

I’m sure it’s challenging to work for someone like me. I was not incredibly consistent,  other than about the ambiance I wanted to create. I gave a lot of leash because it wasn’t possible for me to be on site enough hours to micromanage all the details. Maybe that was perceived as a lack of interest, but that wasn’t really the case.

If I couldn’t be there, I couldn’t be certain that the business was reflecting me and my hospitality sensibilities. If the business wasn’t projecting the way I wanted it to, it frustrated me, a feeling which was multiplied by all the pressure to keep things going. My business life was negatively impacting the quality of my life, something I just won’t tolerate.

Physically, I could do it. I let the accountant go and began managing all the banking and invoicing and daily sales journal activities. I figured it the f*ck out. I canceled the linen service and took on the laundry, front and back of the house. Despite all of this additional responsibility, and the physical exhaustion from running 20+ miles a week, I couldn’t sleep more than 3 hours before being interrupted by thoughts of the restaurant. Mentally doing math, feeling heavier and missing free time and, now, missing rest.

Something had to change.

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Filed under aging, Albany, Lark Street, Local, musings, Observations, relationships, Restaurants, stress

Postscript L+L

There are so many thoughts and ideas bouncing around in my head about my experience as a business owner. It’s like too many, almost, and the words are choking me instead of flying out of my mouth. I can’t settle on where to start.

Other than with Day 1.

Waking up Saturday morning was different. The entire day ahead was completely my own and immediately it felt new. Don’t get me wrong. I’ve had other days off when I had no professional responsibilities to address, but after knocking off the banking and the daily journal, there was nothing left for me to do, nothing further to take care of.

It was Day 1 of not owning a restaurant, the perfect day to begin processing the experience of owning a restaurant.

Well…

  • Owning a restaurant is like adopting a family.
  • Owning a restaurant is more stressful than you can ever imagine.
  • Owning a restaurant is unequal parts challenging and inspiring.
  • Owning a restaurant taught me so much.

Each of those above bullets deserves its own spotlight. Stay tuned.

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Filed under Local, musings, Observations, Restaurants, stress, Uncategorized

Answering the question

Ever since the news came out that I was selling Lark + Lily, I’ve been asked what I’ll do with all of the time with which I will find myself. Because my love for the hospitality industry remains, (and may in fact become stronger than ever once I no longer bear the business responsibilities), I’ll continue to work a couple of nights a week. As for the rest of the “extra” time, here’s what I’m going to do:

Hang out with my kids

Cook more interesting meals

Participate more politically

Read more

Dust my house

Take at least one yoga class a week, every week

Write more – blog posts, letters, cards, poems

Go to more events and shows

Take naps

Try to amp up my running a bit

Day trips

Work on my yard and house

Go out for cocktails

Spend some time eliminating possessions which do not bring me joy

Learn how to sell some of said possessions

Entertain at home

Breathe.

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Filed under Boys, family, friends, ideas, musings, Random, Restaurants

The peaceful transference of power

Danny & Heidi Urschel

Thursday night I had the pleasure of working alongside Danny & Heidi Urschel, the couple who are in the process of purchasing my business. Weeks ago I had mentioned to them that Champagne on the Park was a big event for our neighborhood and suggested they participate by providing some food and their presence as a means of introducing themselves to Lark St. It was a perfect evening and I was really pleased by the welcome offered by residents and Lark + Lily regulars. Mio Posto is going to be a wonderful addition to the neighborhood.

In the weeks since Danny, Heidi and I first met to talk about their business occupying 200 Lark Street our “negotiations” have consistently been easy. We have the same goal – get me out and get them in and make them successful. Simple. They, and their concept, are absolutely perfect for the beautiful space I’ve called my own and it truly feels like the stars aligned to bring us all together in the right place at the right time.

In some ways, the sale of my business reminds me of my divorce. There’s a lot of stuff to itemize and assign ownership, lawyers are involved and there’s a mess of paperwork. Similar, right?  The other thing consistent with my divorce process and the sale of the business, is a conscious effort to keep an eye on the ultimate goal. In the first instance it was all about what was best for the children, while in the current situation it is about what is best for the very special space that is 200 Lark. The civility of our divorce earned the boys’ dad and me the title of posterchildren of healthy divorce and I fully expect the same positive transition to occur with the business transaction.

As I get closer to the end of my business endeavor, I feel an array of emotions – satisfaction, twinges of sadness, excitement, relief and acceptance. I’ve learned a lot of things in the past two years and it’s going to take some time for me to process it all. The takeaway, though, is that I have few regrets. As Memorial Day weekend and finalizing the sale draws closer, I’m truly looking forward to the summer with a new appreciation of the time I will have available to spend doing things I’ve missed. It’s going to be fun.

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Filed under Albany, Events, Lark Street, Local, Restaurants