When I was growing up, pies were seasonal. There were the five kinds that my mother always made for Thanksgiving, and the summer pies began with strawberry and rhubarb, and cycled through peach, blueberry and apple as the fruit became abundant. It’s always pie season at Grandma’s, and you don’t have to wait to get your favorite.
My dear friend and frequent companion Virginia and I went for dinner and some pie, to see what it was like. We enjoyed our meal and would like to tell you about it.
Grandma’s Country Pies & Restaurant
WHERE: 1273 Central Ave., Colonie.
WHEN: 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily
MORE INFO: Phone 459-4585. MasterCard, Visa, American Express and Discover accepted. Call ahead for large groups. Children’s menu. Wheelchair-accessible.
HOW MUCH: $50.22
Grandma’s came under new ownership recently. Opened in 1977 by Joe Danaher, it was operated by him, with advice from his grandma on pies, until last year fall when it was sold. The longtime night and day managers, Dave Houle and Ron Raylinsky, with help from Joe Fagan of Ralph’s Tavern, took over the restaurant. The gift shop is for sale.
Friendly and warm
The sight of the large tour bus parked in the lot next to the restaurant had us a bit worried about getting a table, but there was still plenty of room left and we didn’t have to wait. Our wooden booth opposite the waitress station was a good place to watch the goings-on of the staff. It’s comfortable at Grandma’s, not fancy or pretentious but friendly and warm, like a fancier, privately owned Friendly’s. We admired the many red, white, and blue holiday decorations and read a nice poem on the paper place mat about remembering our flag.
Our server took a few minutes to get to us, but apologized and promised that she’d get our order “Right in and out of the kitchen,” in a way that inspired confidence. They were out of the stuffed mushroom appetizer, she said, and rattled off the day’s specials, which included cream of turkey soup. Our drinks were delivered in a flash.
“Would you like a roll?” we were each asked. Why, were they extra? No, but they don’t want to see them wasted, a policy we highly approved of. We each got a fresh-baked roll with plenty of foil-wrapped packets of butter.
Virginia started with a cup of the day’s soup ($3.25) which was thick and delicious and smelled like Bell’s turkey seasoning, with its sage and thyme. “Look at the big chunks of turkey,” said Virginia. I saw corn, peas and carrots, and got to taste it as well. It was creamy and wonderful, we both agreed.
Dinners include salad and two side dishes, the portions are big and the prices are reasonable. I chose a fresh salad as one of my sides and was pleased with the fresh, cold iceberg lettuce, ripe cherry tomatoes, sliced cucumber and red onion. I tasted black pepper on the homemade croutons and I enjoyed the sweet raspberry vinaigrette, which I almost didn’t get. There was a bit of a mix-up with the dressing, but I eventually got the right one.
We both ordered classic Grandma’s comfort food, meat loaf ($11.95) for Virginia, and roasted half chicken ($12.95) for me, and we highly recommend either selection. The two large slices of meat loaf tasted homemade, if you make good meat loaf at home. It was browned around the edges and had a robust beefy flavor. Virginia liked the generous serving of creamy mashed potatoes on the side. The side of gravy was not very warm, though, and a skin had developed on the top. If you make gravy, you know this happens quickly. So I don’t fault Grandma’s for something I can’t always hold well myself.
Because of another small mix-up, we both got the vegetable of the day, green beans, which were standard-issue, but punched up with some seasoning, and a packet of butter was provided for more flavor.
Grandma’s roasted chicken is excellent and tastes like what you’d get if you bought a small fryer and cooked it in the oven with salt and pepper. The skin was a bit fatty beneath — which kept the white meat moist — and crispy outside. There are few things that taste better than crisp chicken skin, and you can get it done just right at Grandma’s.
The portion of a half chicken served over their apple walnut dressing is easily enough for two meals. There are walnuts and chunks of sweetened, cinnamon-flavored apples in the dressing, which I would have preferred in pie, but I can imagine that lots of people like it just fine. Virginia liked it very much. I had a small plastic cup of whole cranberry sauce and another of applesauce, both standard issue again, but perfectly good. For a reasonable price, I got salad, entree with sides and a nice roll. Grandma’s does comfort food very well.
There’s a separate menu for dessert, and good luck choosing from the long list of more than 40 pies. Whipped cream or ice cream are extra, but prices are reasonable. Virginia had a slice of two-crust bumbleberry pie, made with mixed berries ($2.95), which was very good, but not as good as the Dutch blueberry ($4.25) that I got. I liked the thick layer of crumb topping and the sweet filling. There was a thick sauce with small blueberries that popped when you bit into them. I liked the flavor of the thick pie crust, which Virginia agreed was flaky. My pie didn’t taste homemade, but it was good. Anyone who sells thousands of pies at Thanksgiving doesn’t have to worry about what I think.
Tour buses arrive regularly at Grandma’s, almost every day in the autumn, but don’t worry because they’ll make time for you, too. Our service was not impacted by the bus, and we didn’t wait long for our food.
We liked our server, who was friendly and talkative, but there were some mix-ups in our orders, and Virginia was offered a refill on her coffee three times before she finally got it. But the comfortable, relaxed atmosphere was pleasant, and our dinners were very good. Grandma’s offers good value for the money and you’ll pass a pleasant evening there enjoying simple, satisfying home-cooked food.
The tab for dinner, with tip, a coffee and a soda, came to $50.22.