WHERE: 964 Helderberg Ave., Schenectady. Telephone: 395-9717
WHEN: 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday-Saturday; 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday
OTHER INFO: Handicapped accessible. MasterCard, Visa and Discover accepted. http://pointcafe.info/
When a Gazette reviewer last visited the Point Cafe at Helderberg and Guilderland avenues — almost a decade ago — the Cruz family hadn’t added Mexican cuisine to the dishes they offer.
Today, Mexican food — good Mexican food — dominates the menu, though truly you can find just about anything you might want here. You can order an American breakfast of country-fried steak or dinner of meatloaf and mac and cheese or Chicken Marsala, Eggplant Parmigiana or Chicken Souvlaki on pita bread.
“It’s like the United Nations,” I observed, as we waded into the big menu.
You can also get breakfast, lunch or dinner any time they’re open.
We wanted Mexican, however, and we weren’t disappointed by the offerings at the Point Cafe, nor by Stephanie, our chipper and accommodating server who recommended the Fiesta Mexicana, a sampler platter of ethnic food that’s enough to satisfy two hungry people and then some.
The fiesta ($12.99) contains a large quesadilla stuffed with chicken meat, onions, peppers and cheese, a chimichanga that is similarly stuffed but has a crispy flour tortilla shell rather than the soft flour tortilla encasing the quesadilla; two flautas — which are crispy fried cylinders about the size and consistency of cannoli and stuffed with chicken and cheese with lettuce, tomato and sour cream on top — and three spicy pepper and cheese poppers. They were out of chipotle poppers the day we visited, but the jalapeno version proved to be a great substitute.
From the appetizer menu, we selected Tamales de Rajas — steamed corn husks stuffed with tender masa — finely ground cornmeal — shredded chicken and peppers, a flavorful beginning for $2.99. The Chicken Enchilada Soup ($2.99), which is a fixture on the menu, was creamy with smoke and spice, and I’d order it again without hesitation.
We washed down our bountiful lunch with iced tea, but not all of it. We carted home enough leftovers for another solid lunch. But not before inquiring about the dessert menu. It took us no time at all to make our selection: fried ice cream for $2.99. We shared the dish — a lovely confection of ice cream wrapped in toasted coconut and served in a crispy fried tortilla shell on a plate ribboned with caramel sauce. It was a decadent confection — delicious enough to elicit the occasional moan of approval as we licked our spoons.
Our total tab, with tax and tip, came to just about $29.
Assortment of choices
You can have Mexican food for breakfast, lunch or dinner at the Point. Breakfast burritos with potatoes and salsa are available all day. Or if you’re really hungry, there’s the Chilaquiles breakfast, which is a corn tortilla sautéed in Mexican spices and salsa and topped with cheese. It comes with two eggs cooked however you like and refried beans ($7.79).
Los Originales Huevos Rancheros are available for $7.45 — two eggs over easy on three fried corn tortillas topped with salsa and served with refried beans.
Mexican main dishes include Fajitas Carnitas (shredded pork with Mexican spices and served with sautéed onions, bell peppers, rice, beans, guacamole and corn tortillas for $10.99) or Camarones al Mojo de Ajo (Butterfuly shrimp marinated and fried in a garlic sauce and served with rice, beans, guacamole and corn tortillas for $12.99.)
For fish lovers, there’s Pescado Veracruz — a tilapia fillet sautéed with lemon butter, fried onions, tomatoes, jalapeno peppers and spices for $11.99.
You can also choose from any number of burritos, fajitas and tacos. One of my favorites — Chiles Rellenos con Pollo — is offered under the main dish section for $9.99 — smoky poblano peppers stuffed with shredded chicken, spices and cheese. It comes with rice and refried beans.
The restaurant is decorated in bright and festive colors with the occasional glittery flourish for a fiesta feeling.
A patron sitting near us at the Point Cafe told the server he wasn’t really interested in any of the Mexican dishes. His opinion seemed to be that Mexican food served in Schenectady couldn’t possibly be as good as what he’d eaten in Mexico City. I could understand his feeling. Most Mexican-American food — especially the stuff you get at chain restaurants — isn’t particularly authentic or even very good, but it’s what most Americans think of as Mexican food.
The Point Cafe offers some of this fare, like taco salads and Beef Nachos Grandes, but you’ll forgive them once you bite into one of their crispy flautas or the creamy and savory innards of their tamales. Point Cafe is a place we’ll visit again, and soon.
GAZETTE COVERAGEEnsure access to everything we do, today and every day, check out our subscribe page at DailyGazette.com/Subscribe
More from The Daily Gazette:
Categories: Food, Life and Arts