Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Albany Diners: A Step Up From the Rest

Many diners rely too heavily on what their customers expect the diner experience to be: a neat old building or restored dining car where mediocre food is served up by uninterested and exhausted staff. But just because many of us have become jaded by underperforming diners doesn't mean they can't be great.

Take the Albany area, for example: By and large, its diners are shining examples of why these simple culinary treasures are a quintessential part of the American experience. With huge menus, all-day breakfasts and servers who make you feel right at home, these Albany-area diners will send you on your way with a full belly and a huge smile.

alexis diner Alexis Diner 
294 N. Greenbush Rd. Troy, NY 12180

Located just over the Hudson River and in walking distance from the state capitol, the award-winning Alexis Diner has become an Albany-area staple since opening in 1999. The menu is so thick that it could be mistaken for a novella. There are over 300 items to choose from, including burgers, steaks, wraps, salads, a full breakfast menu and homemade desserts.

Different nights of the week are dedicated to different themes at the Alexis Diner. Monday is Texas night, Tuesday is pasta night and Wednesday is Greek night. The diner is also home to numerous car and bike shows throughout the year. They're open all week from 7am-10pm.

Gateway Diner, Albany,NY
Gateway Diner
899 Central Ave, Albany, NY 2.6 mi NW
(518) 482-7557

With ample neon trim, Gateway Diner on Central Avenue looks like a diner should, and it tastes like one should too.

Breakfast dishes at Gateway Diner get rave reviews for good reason: heaping dishes of bacon, eggs, and French toast made with quality ingredients (the most important being, of course, a pinch of love).

The diner also has delectable sandwiches, fresh seafood, steaks, and a portion of the menu completely dedicated to fried food (yummy -- put aside your diet constraints and indulge!). The pastrami Reuben on grilled sourdough with Russian dressing for $6.99 is especially tasty. Gateway Diner just added smoothies (alcoholic and virgin) to their menu as well. Operating hours are 7am-9pm Sunday-Thursday, 7am-11pm Friday and Saturday.

Portside American Diner 
240 Church St., Albany, NY
(518) 449-5008

The perfect diner should meet four criteria: it should be delicious, have cheap food, all-day breakfast and excellent service. The Portside American Diner on Church Street in Albany meets each of these with ease.

You feel at home as soon as you step inside, thanks to wait staff that treats customers like family. The walls are covered with pictures of local firemen and old pictures of pin-up girls.

Servers chat you up as they bring out a wide variety of home-style meals ranging from omelets (try the Meat Lovers), to beef liver, to fettuccini alfredo, to 1 lbs. burgers. There are also daily specials and a lengthy kids menu (blueberry pancakes are a favorite). Portside American Diner is open from 7am-9pm daily.

Colonie Diner
1890 Central Ave, Albany, NY 12205
518- 456 -1550

If you come to the Colonie Diner on a Saturday, you'll get what locals consider to be the all-star lineup of servers. Kathy and Ronda often work that shift, and they'll take great care of you from the moment you enter through the chrome-paneled entrance until you leave.

If it is true that you can judge a restaurant by the quality of their kids' menu, then Colonie must be top notch because even the kids' portions are huge. Unsurprisingly, the portions for adult meals are huge too - even the salads - and extremely varied (where do they store all that food??).

For breakfast, the Colonie Diner has 18 types of omelets (lox and onion is fantastic), bagels, breakfast plates, pancakes, and even milk and cereal. Otherwise, there's a complete survey of traditional diner food (open sandwiches, burgers, wraps, and pasta dishes), but their best offering may be their Greek dishes that the owners are clearly proud of. The Greek moussakka and rice is delicious.

Colonie Diner is open Monday through Friday from 6:30am-9pm, Saturday from 6:30am-10pm, and Sunday from 7am-8pm.

Edible Albany
Diners are a quintessential part of the American experience. Weary travelers know that they need only to find a diner to refuel themselves before continuing their journey. Residents know that day or night, local diners will welcome them with open arms and open kitchens.

While the idea of a diner may seem antiquated to some, those who frequent them know that they're as important now as they ever were, and diners are still going strong. Thank goodness for that! What is your favorite diner in the Albany area?

Jeffrey Ferraro is a travel enthusiast and expert. He is the Director of Marketing of Diamond Tours, the leading provider of charter group bus trips in the US and Canada, including bus tours in New York City. Jeffrey loves uncovering lesser known travel destinations and sharing them with his customers.

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