Now 99 years old, Jack’s Oyster House has earned all kinds of accolades over the years, including being called “Albany’s version of the 21 Club.” Certainly the politicos from the Capitol building a couple of blocks away, local bigwigs, and other who’s-who in the city treat it that way.
Jack Rosenstein, a onetime oyster shucker who never ate oysters himself, opened his eatery in 1913. It survived the Depression, moving to its present location in 1937 before the worst was over; thrived through the ups and downs of the rest of the century; and is still going strong enough in these iffy economic times to have expanded into the former Hampton Hotel next door. There’s a new entrance with a fireplace, and more seating — including 14 additional black leather booths “that make it clubbier,” says Jack’s grandson, Brad Rosenstein, the third-generation owner. But the checkered floors, wood paneling, bentwood chairs and vintage photographs of Albany remain. “People who haven’t been for a while walk in and say it hasn’t changed a bit,” Brad says, pleased.
There have been a few innovations on the menu (most recently some Italian influences from new chef Larry Schepici), but the lineup hasn’t changed much over the years, either. Jack’s original 1913 recipe for Manhattan clam chowder is a constant, and you’ll still find oysters Rockefeller, steak Diane, duck a l’orange, porterhouse for two, calves liver with crispy bacon, and other classic dishes that were favorites back in the day. The celebrated cheesecake continues to go down well: General Colin Powell was one distinguished visitor who stopped in last year, sampled it, and “said it was the finest he’d ever had,” Rosenstein proudly declares.
“Jack lived to be 91 and was still working in the kitchen,” his grandson says. “We’re open 365 days a year — the only day we’ve closed was for his funeral, and I don’t think he’d have approved.”