Do we love our own downtown? Hells yes, but there’s a revival happening in downtown Albany, and if you haven’t crossed the bridge lately to find out for yourself, you may not even recognize the place. New businesses are breathing life into the historic spot down Highway 20—think new entertainment options, innovative restaurants and bars, and a collection of kitschy creative boutiques.
Look, there’s even an authentic haberdashery and a wine bar featuring jazz.
In the past, describing nightlife in Albany as posh or classy might have resulted in a laugh, but now it would just be accurate. The newest addition to this downtown scene is a swanky bar and restaurant on 2nd Avenue called The Still. It used to be JP’s, but the inside is unrecognizable after the remodel. With frilly chandeliers over the tables and a bar showcased in all the right ways, there is the good kind of drama here. They have a full bar and restaurant menu and live music some nights of the week. So far, they seem to be getting good reviews and creating quite the buzz.
Live jazz in Albany? Cellar Cat opened up last fall and has lived up to all of the hype that surrounded its arrival. They moved into the brick building on 1st and Ellsworth, and after spending months remodeling it, their hard work has paid off. Cellar Cat’s previous location in Sonoma Valley was well known for its food, extensive wine selection, and live jazz music, and they’ve managed to create a similar experience here. The atmosphere is both upscale and homey, with seating on the main floor and up in the open loft that overlooks the bar. All of their food is made from scratch (even the ketchup!) and you won’t recognize most of their wines if you only buy yours at the grocery store. Their presence has added a whole new element to Albany’s historic downtown area.
A few restaurants downtown do serve breakfast, but Brick & Mortar Cafe specializes in it. Located in the Flinn Block Hall building, think historic architecture and tall decorative ceilings. Added to the customary breakfast and lunch offerings are specialties like Salmon Lox Benedict and unique menu items like the Buffalo & Liege Sandwich (buffalo fried chicken between Liege waffles). They also serve espresso, bakery items, and a have a killer Bloody Mary bar, complete with pepperoni straws.
Novak’s Hungarian Restaurant is an old favorite in the valley, and they just moved into a newly renovated location right downtown on 2nd Avenue. They’re still offering their famous, authentic Hungarian food, and have been since 1984, but they’re much more conveniently located for us Corvallis folk now. Novak’s serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner… oh, and don’t forget about dessert, you must try their traditional apple strudel. Their sausage is homemade and whether you’re in the mood for schnitzel, spaetzle, or paprikas, they’ve got it all.
In addition to restaurants, downtown Albany has new retailers. Sandbox Rebel is located on Broadalbin between 1st and 2nd Avenue, and it is just what the name suggests: a store for parents and children who subscribe to a more alternative aesthetic. From baby vests made out of band shirts to onesies with iron-on patches, the owner hand-makes her clothing items and orders toys and accessories that you won’t find in any other stores in the area. If you want a one-of-a-kind baby shower gift or birthday party gift, look no further.
Until now, there hasn’t been a place downtown for the true wedding dress shopping experience that you see on all those reality TV shows you’ll never admit to watching. Merrime Bride & Soireé Boutique just opened up on 1st Avenue and offers elegant wedding dresses and a unique experience for any wedding party.
In the market for a new suit, hat, or high-end pair of shoes? The Natty Dresser opened up on 1st Avenue in July of 2014, and has brought a new element of outstanding taste to Albany. They offer top quality brands and styles that you won’t find anywhere else nearby. Also offering a wide selection of ties and socks, it’s a great place to poke around for a gift or to treat yourself. They also offer tailoring services.
Downtown Albany isn’t just about eating and shopping. It is also getting more entertainment! The Pix Theater on 2nd Avenue has been under new ownership for about two years now. They show first run movies seven days a week, and host some special events from time to time. The Pix also has a great seating area in their lobby where they invite people to come hang out and enjoy food off their menu, which includes regular theater cuisine like popcorn and candy as well as items not typically found at the theater like pie, burgers, wine, and beer.
Bouncy houses and blacklight miniature golf? Downtown Albany has that, too. G2 Fun Zone, located on 2nd Avenue, is a favorite of children in Albany. They have a large room full of inflatables upstairs and the downstairs is dark with a glowing miniature golf course.
Two Rivers Market has a new arcade! They have classic games as well as a bumper cars that run during certain times.
For more information or to find other places to eat, shop, or play in downtown Albany, visit http://www.albanydowntown.com/
By Hannah Darling