Over the years, Cati and I have been to many diners/breakfast-places here in the Capital District. Here is how we rank them; number one being the best (list excludes brunch places):
2. Four Corners Luncheonette (Delmar), Compton’s on Broadway (in Saratoga)
3. Alexis Diner (Rt. 4), Metro 20 Diner (Western Ave), Western Diner (western Western Ave), Peaches (Stuyvesant plaza), Glenmont Diner (9W), Jack’s Diner (Central Ave), Wolf Rd. Diner (guess), Cafe Madison (Madison and Allen), IHOP (Wolf Rd.), the Cracker Barrel (East Greenbush), Denny’s (Wesern Ave), Quintescence (currently defunct).
So there ya have it, there’s the best, second best, and all the rest. We did this with little deliberation, as the winner is obvious to us both. None of those on the list is/was terrible. Although, to be honest, I remember that Denny’s, Quintescence, and Jack’s Diner were a touch untidy, but hey, at least the plates were clean [uncomfortable grin]. The thing is, diners tend to be all the same. You know the formula: buttered toast, eggs, greasy bacon (not a bad thing), hashbrowns/home-fries, some enormous pancakes, and that’s it [shrug]. Keep our coffee cups filled, bring some tabasco, and we are happy campers. However, it’s something we can do just as well at home, right? I mean, all you need is a hot skillet, some cheap ingredients, and you are there.
But there is one place here in town that is head-and-shoulders above all other places on this list; Miss Albany Diner (MAD). Apparently, it has fans just because of the style of the building; see here, here, here, and here. We found this place on a Sunday drive and went there on a whim about a year ago; not knowing a thing about it. Naturally, we assumed we were in for the run-of-the-mill diner experience. When we skimmed the menu, we saw things like: Georgian eggs, The Bostonian, and MAD eggs, along with their descriptions. We literally had to look around to confirm we were in just a plain ol’ diner. Here are a few of our favorite dishes and their descriptions:
- MAD Irish Toast: Slices of thick (Texas Style) French toast cooked in an egg batter with a pecan cream cheese filling, then drowned in a butterscotch Irish whiskey sauce. No home fries. (Cati’s fave; pictured below.)
- Bostonian: Two slices of Boston Brown Bread (try saying that 3 times in a row), a cover of bacon, two poached eggs and house garnishes.
- Rocky Mountain High: Corn bread topped with bacon, 2 eggs any style, then covered with a jalepeño pepper cheese sauce.
- Smokin’ Benny: A butterflied English muffin topped with ham, eggs (any style), then topped with a smoked gouda cheese sauce. (incredible dish)
- *MAD Eggs (Our House Specialty): Two eggs, any style, served on a butterflied English muffin with a lightly curried sauce, then topped with thinly sliced scallions. Pictured below.
That’s part of the charm of this place; it has all the appeal of your classic diner, but the food is original, creative, and most-of-all, delicious. It’s a tiny little trailer with only eight small tables and a breakfast bar with stools. You might even think it’s a truck-stop given its industrial locale. But the food is serious business with unconventional ingredients that will surprise you. The chef takes no substitutions on the specials either. I take this as him saying, “I created this dish, I know how it should taste better than you do.” Patrons can, of course, order side items any way they want. On the off chance that you should mistake this place as some kind of stuck-up cafe, there are little paper signs all over the place that say things like (I’m paraphrasing a bit): “Butts in the seats, feet on the floor,” “No credit cards accepted,” “Have you ever been towed? Our neighbor wants to do that for you,” “If your child is making a scene, perhaps a drama class would be more appropriate breakfast venue” (That last one’s my fave, hehehehehe). MAD is a quirky and charming eatery that mixes the blue collar and silver spoon perfectly. Again, it’s tiny, and no more than four people will fit into one of their booths. I recommend you go with your favorite breakfast date, and that’s it. Their weekend hours are limited 9:00-2:15, so don’t go too early or too late. In fact, don’t go at all, the wait can be long enough; I kid. The wait-staff is almost-always busy (I think we’ve seen it slow there only once) filling coffee cups and hussling around, but they are courteous.
On a recent visit, Cati and I had the MAD Irish Toast, and the MAD eggs, respectively. I busted out my trusty Alexei-de-Sadesky camera and started popping off photos. We noticed that they recently switched (the waiter said a few weeks ago) from hashbrowns to home-fries. Oh the horror, the horror! I prefer crispy and grated hashbrowns, but hey, home-fries ain’t half bad. Sometimes, if we are planning on going to the gym later in the day, we’ll order a side of pancakes with real maple syrup. They have great pancakes that are always perfectly cooked and never rubbery. We really like this place and we are bonafide regulars. We are always down for a MAD breakfast; see why below:
We also really like The Four Corner’s Luncheonette in Delmar. Although it’s technically not a diner, they do breakfast all day (I think); so, close enough. The food is great and all homemade. Unfortunatley, they are a bit lax on the service. Oftentimes, we’ll have empty coffee cups and there will be 4-5 servers chatting behind the counter. Usually, my frustration is immediately erased with a full cup, and a “Here ya go, Hon” from the friendly mom-esque ladies that work there. (Note: Cati’s frustration remains intact by this.)
Compton’s is fun, as well. It’s the real deal with no-nonsense waitresses that are used to dealing with the sort of clientele you’d expect at a diner that opens at 3AM on Broadway in Saratoga; but they’re still sweet (just don’t be an idiot). Ok, maybe this place is pretty typical as far as the food, but Cati and I have made some great memories there (even if they are a bit hazy). I can’t recommend the stewed prunes highly enough. We went there with Jen, Gabe, and Johnny back in July ’06, and still laugh about the night we had. Hey, I never promised you an objective list.
Next time you are craving some good breakfast food in the Capital District, head to MAD.
You got a diner to add to the list? Leave a comment…