As much as Troy has changed in recent years, ask someone where to eat downtown and you'll probably still get hit with the old standards. It's time we refresh that conversation.

In the last year of living downtown, I've discovered four places that I would consider hidden gems - these places don’t enter the conversation nearly as early as they should. At the risk of making my own life harder by bringing more people to my favorite spots and making a longer wait for me, these under the radar places are too good to miss.

Seasons Café and Tea House

The interior of Seasons Cafe and Tea House in Troy, NY
Seasons Cafe and Tea House

212 River St.

Allow me to blow your mind: an unpretentious coffee shop. A place where you don’t have to dress like Mumford and Sons or the cast of Euphoria to feel welcome. Seasons is all smiles, no sneers.

Seasons may move off the underrated list soon. The café gained a big following in 2022 with the return of the Farmers Market to River Street. Seasons feels like you're eating at a friend’s house but with all the fun of people watching downtown. Also, good luck find a lower priced locally-owned coffee shop in the Capital Region.

The food’s great too: I recommend the chicken salad, but I’ve heard wonderful things about the soups and chili. (I’m a late luncher, so they’re always sold out before I can get a bowl.)

Mi Casa

Mi Casa restaurant in downtown Troy, NY

72 Congress St.

Mi Casa might be the best value in Troy. The owner and head chef is from the Dominican Republic, and wanted to bring her home country’s food to the Capital Region. The tiny spot is squeezed away on Congress Street and has exceptional Spanish cuisine. While there is limited inside, it’s a takeout joint.

The rotating menu features roast pork, jerk chicken, and stewed cod. Mi Casa also offers vegetarian options that might make you want to eat vegetarian. Their stellar empanadas are also worth mentioning - guava and cheese is an unexpected treat.

At Mi Casa, you can get a delicious, filling meal for two for around $10 per person. As obscene as fast food prices have become, I’d much rather have a full plate of stewed pork, yellow rice, beans, and roasted sweet plantains for my ten bucks.

The Greek House

The Greek House in Troy, NY
The Greek House

27 3rd St.

Sometimes you just need a good gyro in your life. When it’s your time, go to The Greek House. It’s a fun, family-owned-and-run restaurant in the center of Troy.

The details make the difference here. This place isn’t overly Americanized. Their Greek Coffee is actually Greek Coffee. (And it’s better than most of the Greek Coffee you’d have in Athens.) They have Greek beer and wine brought up from NYC. They make their tzatziki in-house.

Word of warning: Greek House is cash-only, so visit an ATM first. And if you’re now ruling this place out because of some weird disdain for cash-only restaurants, you’re willingly missing out and you should reconsider your choices. Also, get the eggplant fries.

Carmen’s Café

Carmen's Cafe in Troy, NY
Carmen's Cafe

198 1st St.

If a restaurant is only open two days a week and it’s still in business the food has to be dang good. At the southern edge of downtown Troy, Carmen’s Café serves one of the best brunches in the Capital Region.

Carmen herself is in the kitchen making a mix of Cuban and Puerto Rican dishes, from Picadillos and Cubanos to Spanish-inspired omelets like the Lucy, Little Ricky, and the Ricardo. They serve beer and wine if you prefer a boozy brunch, but also have a selection of upscale hot teas and house-made fruit sodas that are worth trying.

Inside is a relaxed atmosphere that features local artists on a seasonal rotation, with outdoor seating available during the warmer months. Carmen’s really is only open on weekends, so stop fighting the usual brunch crowds and give something different a go.

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