The Oregon Trail

The grave of Uncle Sam and the birthplace of the detachable shirt collar are both across the river in Troy (pop. 49,702), eight miles north via the I-787 freeway. A world removed from downtown Albany, this narrow riverfront city was strategically situated at the point where the Erie Canal headed west from the Hudson River. It rose to national prominence as a manufacturing center in the 19th century, when its foundries and factories cranked out iron for stoves, stagecoaches, bells, and battleships.

Troy’s burly factories have given way to a quietly picturesque college town, with Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute rising on the steep hill to the east above the cast-iron business district downtown. In addition to its many impressive buildings, Troy’s dense downtown has two great road-food finds: Manory’s Restaurant (99 Congress St., 518/272-2422) doles out stuffed combo sandwiches, home-cooked pasta, and really, really big breakfasts, while The Famous Lunch (111 Congress St., 518/272-9481) is a delightfully worn-down greasy spoon with hand-lettered signs, tall wooden booths, and an eye-opening clientele of cops, winos, RPI students, and local businesspeople. From noon until late every day but Sunday, nearly all the clientele chow down on multiple four-inch-long chili-doused hot dogs served on Styrofoam plates with cold RC Colas on the side.