“Does Erie Boulevard in Schenectady really need another convenience market?” I wondered aloud, to no one in particular.
Alltown Fresh created a fair amount of discussion at our house before the structure was even standing. Is it “All Town or Alltown?” someone asked.
“Is it a large gas station with a small convenience store?”
“Is it a large convenience store with a small gas station?”
“Will they have fresh fruits and vegetables? Or gourmet products?”
In the end, we were all right — and all wrong — about All Town.
In the area formerly occupied by Grossman’s Lumber, a large parking lot and gas station share the space. More than 70 locations in the Northeast claim this statement: “Our mission is to create a place not just for convenience, but for community.” Add to this “specializing in organic, gluten-free and vegetarian offerings.”
Alltown looks like a trim new grocery store and is neat, clean and organized. There are aisles for products, but not produce. No fresh fruits or veggies — or attractive cuts of meats or imported cheeses. Perhaps that will come later.
The deli/made-to-order food department is in the rear. Ordering is done via a touchscreen. A cashier kiosk is located near the front of the store and the two staff members manning it are located behind a screen of clear plexiglass.
After paying, the customer is called when the food is ready to pick up. When our order was ready, the food prep people became the food servers and delivered the items with the pride of a chef, and showed genuine concern that all of our items were securely bagged.
From a short menu of breakfast-all-day-specials, hot bowls, salads, sandwiches and blended smoothies, Hot Date chose the Chula Vista Hot Bowl with pulled pork ($14) featuring black beans, shaved romaine, avocado, tomato, onions, jalapeno, roasted corn, spicy salsa and cilantro. The addition of pork (or chicken) was $3 and seemed to HD to be more sliced than pulled, but was, nevertheless, quite acceptable.
Arranged in the bowl with artful care, the colorful dish was as good to eat as it was to view.
I chose the Calabrese ($10) with soppressata ($2 upcharge) and provolone ($1 upcharge) from among a list of eight sandwiches with clever names like Hot Cowboy (roast beef) and Spicy Tom (turkey breast, smokehouse bacon and cheddar).
Accompanying the provolone and soppressata were pickled eggplant, roasted tomato, arugula, peppers and caramelized garlic tucked into a ciabatta. Olive oil or balsamic vinegar — or both — anointed my fingers, and the result was as sensuous as the sandwich was flavorful.
Alltown’s minimal assortment of pastries and other sweet things did not excite us, so we substituted one of their five blended smoothies as a drink/dessert. All are priced at $7/12-ounce and $9/16-ounce, and all contain a choice of milk: whole, skimmed, almond, coconut or hemp.
My smoothie, Awake, blended cold-brew coffee, banana, almond butter, cacao, honey and Greek yogurt to the coconut milk I had already specified. Guest’s Escape included pineapple, mango, banana, avocado, ginger, orange and coconut water, and promised Guest it would be refreshing and hydrating with fiber and vitamin C.
After slurping down to rock bottom, he reported that it was both.
HD summarized the experience this way: “Alltown might reasonably be described as a pit stop for travelers who have a strong preference for organic and natural foods.”
“A cut above the rest,” I might add.
Alltown Fresh Convenience Market
WHERE: 1410 Erie Blvd., Schenectady, 12305; (978) 757-2050 (store), (978) 757-2049 (kitchen); www.alltownfresh.com; Facebook
WHEN: Store, Monday-Sunday open 24 hours; kitchen 8 a.m.-4 p.m.
HOW MUCH: $45 without tax or tip
MORE INFO: Adjacent parking lot, handicapped accessible, credit cards, gas, no-contact service, catering, pickup/delivery.