The Frugal Forager: Diner offers homemade food at a good price

We took the Snow Train to North Creek this winter and over a charming informal lunch, a friend said,

We took the Snow Train to North Creek this winter and over a charming informal lunch, a friend said, “These fries are really good. But the best fries are at the Duanesburg Diner.”

Nothing gets my attention like hearing about the best french fries. So not long after, with husband Eric in tow, I thought I’d see for myself.

I judge restaurants by their food, not their appearance, which takes some pressure off this one. In the parking lot, we dodged puddles of muddy water. The cooking odors hit us in the vestibule, and we brought them with us when we left. The stools front a counter that’s seen better days, patched in some spots with duct tape. A cozy dining room is off to one side, but we grabbed a comfortable booth near the front entrance.

First I noticed the snapshots crowded together high on the wall, dozens and dozens of them. There were folks dressed up, children, couples, families, babies — all looking happy. The floor is linoleum, and it’s probably not the first layer. You can look right into the kitchen, but don’t confuse that with the open-kitchen concept.

Duanesburg Diner & Restaurant

WHERE: 5156 Western Turnpike between routes 7 and 20 in Duanesburg. 895-8843,

WHEN: 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday to Saturday; 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday

HOW MUCH: $25.52

MORE INFO: Credit cards: Visa, MasterCard, American Express, Discover. Children’s menu available. Not fully wheelchair accessible.

Time warp

We’d familiarized ourselves with the menu online, so I spent the first few minutes ogling my surroundings: plate glass windows, candy display and Gazette local section by the register, cafe curtains, Easter decorations. It feels like it’s in a time warp, with prices to match.

The menu is painstakingly specific in the way of diners, with prices ranging from $1.50 for an egg with toast to entrees (most under 10 bucks) that come with soup or salad, choice of potato, vegetable, and dinner roll. You can even get wine ($2.50, but caveat emptor).

Eric looked ridiculously happy when our sweet, friendly server set down the slightly worn stainless steel mixing cup next to his chocolate milk shake ($2.95). Tipping the cup revealed another full serving, and the stirring brought up some lumps of ice cream. I didn’t meet Eric until we were adults, but now I know what he looked like sitting at the Woolworth’s counter in his childhood.

Soup and sandwiches

The shake could have used a bit more chocolate syrup, Eric said, but the beef and barley soup ($1.75 cup) couldn’t be improved upon. The meat never gets tender enough when I make it, so the diner shows sense in using ground beef. There were carrots, onion and celery in a dense, delicious broth with soft barley. Eric let me take a spoonful but made it clear the rest was his. I ate the crackers.

The 5-ounce hamburger platter ($5.20) includes coleslaw, lettuce and tomato, a pickle spear and fries. The burger was past the medium requested, but it was hand-formed and tasty, and the sesame-seed roll was grilled. And those fries! They made a graceful pile, and each golden, slender fry was soft and mushy inside, in a comfort food kind of way, while the outside tasted like chips, sturdy and crunchy. The heavens didn’t part, but Duanesburg Diner’s fries were darn good even after they’d cooled.

Eric was savoring his grilled ham and cheese sandwich on white bread ($3.95), and I could see why. White cheese was oozing out the side, and the half that wasn’t in his hand revealed a generous layer of sliced ham. It was crunchy outside, he said, and tasted like it had been grilled in butter. He ate both of our pickles and said the cole slaw was sweet.

Apple crisp

We ordered homemade apple crisp to go ($2.25, another dollar for a la mode) which was excellent. The sliced, sweetened apples baked almost into sauce were bright and fresh-tasting, and the crumbs were simply that — without chewy oatmeal, thank goodness. It was, like everything we ate for lunch, homemade from real, simple ingredients.

The Duanesburg Diner is a small, locally owned business that serves mostly homemade, tasty food at a good price.

The tab for our meal with one diet Pepsi, tax, and tip came to $25.52.

Categories: Food, Life and Arts

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