Remembering Valle’s Steak House

How young was I went I saw that gigantic Central Avenue sign?

You know… this one.

Valle’s Steak House sign on Central Avenue, Albany, circa 1969. The photo was released under the terms of the CC-BY-SA licensing agreement by Pat Boni of Saxton signs. Contact information: Saxton Sign 1320 Route 9, Castleton, New York 12033.

See, back in the day, when Central Avenue was better known as Albany-Schenectady Road, Valle’s Steak House was a popular eatery and banquet hall.  There were plenty of Valle’s Steak Houses around the Northeast; but the one in Albany had this beautiful marquee sign that was visible for miles.  Oh, and isn’t that the Carroll’s burger joint in the lower right hand corner of the picture?  Hmm… I’ll save that for another blog post.

In 1969, there were eleven Valle’s Steak House locations – ten in New England and one in Albany, according to an SEC filing from that time period.  The restaurant in Albany was a popular destination for awards banquets, meetings and get-togethers.  Eating at Valle’s Steak House was considered a top treat among the white-tablecloth restaurants that dotted Central Avenue at that time.

But Valle’s was dealt a deathblow when its founder passed away in 1977.  The restaurants in the Valle’s chain were hit with massive inheritance taxes.  That, combined with the restaurant’s chain’s concentration on food (and not liquor), killed the business.

Some time in the mid-1980’s, Valle’s shut down.  The building was later repurposed as Gorton’s, a Scandinavian furniture store (I still recall the advertisements of “Gorton’s, the Scandinavian People,” in that thick Swedish dictation).  By the early 1990’s, there were rumors that the building would become an OTB teletheater.  It became Carol’s Fish Market for a time.  Today, what was once Valle’s Steak House is now the home of a Bryant and Stratton college campus building.

I don’t recall ever eating at Valle’s; I do, however, recall that gigantic road sign.  I recall it as I rode the CDTA bus in the mid-1970’s from classes at Christian Brothers Academy in downtown Albany (school number 8 in the list of “The Twelve”) to my home in a trailer park near Lisha Kill Road.  It was one of those signs that – like the Mohawk Drive-In, Carroll’s, King’s Department Store and many others – have since disappeared or departed or were repainted or repurposed.

I wonder if it means something in that I remember the sign more than I remember the restaurant it promoted.