Just north of downtown reigns the yellow-and-maroon Miss Albany Diner (893 Broadway, 518/465-9148), which dates back to 1941. Once known as Lil’s Diner, it was renamed after the filming of William Kennedy’s novel Ironweed here in 1986.
A classic downtown Albany  restaurant, frequented by legislators, is Jack’s Oyster House (42 State St., 518/465-8854, $16). Specializing in seafood, it is said to be the oldest eatery in Albany. Run by the same family for generations, it features white tablecloths, tiled floors, and big pane-glass windows. Reservations are highly recommended.
Master Chef Dale Miller (30 S. Pearl St., 518/694-3322, www.dalemillerrestaurant.com , $26), offers a contemporary take on traditional fare with a menu that offers ‘First Impressions’ and other small portion options for a light meal or a wealth of choices.
Chef-owner Jean-Jacques’ Le Canard Enchaine Brasserie (25 Quackenbush Sq., 518/465-1111, http://le-canardenchainesrestaurant.com , $26) offers foodies a romantic option down by the waterfront. Located in the city’s oldest residence, dating back to the 1700s, it serves fine French cuisine. It also serves a two-course prix-fixe lunch ($14).
Along this lively street are many small restaurants serving both lunch and dinner. For imaginative and contemporary American fare, try Justin’s (301 Lark St., 518/436-7008, $14), a lively and inviting basement spot partially housed in a historic building. Jazz is often featured on the weekends. Debbie’s Kitchen (456 Madison Ave., near Lark St., 518/463-3829, $8) is famed locally for its overstuffed sandwiches.
New World Bistro Bar (300 Delaware Ave., 518/694-0520, www.newworldbistrobar.com , $19) near Lark Street , recently opened by chef Ric Orlando of Saugerties New World Home Cooking, offers ‘global soul food’ using seasonal and sustainable goods, many from regional farms. There’s an extensive small plate menu; check the website for frequently updated offerings.
The C.H. Evans Brewing Company at the Albany Pump Station (19 Quackenbush Sq., 518/447-9000) is a popular microbrewery and full-service restaurant with a 120-year family heritage. It’s located in the building that once housed the original pumping station for Albany Water Works.
A few blocks south of the Empire Plaza is the cozy 1861 Mansion Hill Inn (115 Philip St., 518/465-2038, $18) which serves innovative new American-style fare ranging from pasta to trout and leg of lamb. The restaurant, located in the inn by the same name, is usually open for dinner only.
The modern, upscale Cafe Capriccio (49 Grand St., 518/465-0439, $16) is a local favorite specializing in Northern Italian fare. For a more old-fashioned Italian dining experience, try the classic Lombardo’s (121 Madison Ave., 518/462-9180, $16), frequented by politicians. It offers wall murals, tile floors, and traditional Italian dishes.