Editor’s Note: Our local restaurant reviews, slowed by the pandemic, are back. Look for them every other Sunday in The Gazette.
T’was a dark and stormy afternoon. It wasn’t really stormy, but there was light snowfall in progress and the temperature was below freezing — a perfect time for takeout.
One of my friends had mentioned a place he had never noticed — Café Coffee on lower State Street in Schenectady. The restaurant advertised pickup and delivery, so we did not have to be concerned about going out and possibly endangering our health.
We over-ordered for two reasons. First and most importantly, I felt obligated to give Gazette readers a fair sampling of the wide variety of dishes offered by the establishment. And secondly, because the prices were so reasonable, I did not feel as if I were going financially overboard.
The one-page, double-sided menu in small print was straightforward: breakfast all day; beverages (at least four- to five-dozen of them, including beer); only a few dinners but lots of appetizers; some Mexican food; burgers; salads; subs and sandwiches; and pizza. Spokesperson Margaret said the pizza dough is imported from Brooklyn. The venue also carries bulk deli meats and groceries.
Although the name of the venue bounces between “Café” and “Diner,” (aka Downtown Schenectady Diner), one might also consider it a small restaurant, deli or coffee shop. But what’s in a name, you ask? Despite its compact size (four booths and five tables), its menu is a whopper in both number and variety. We took advantage of the wide spectrum of offerings.
Ordering a dozen mild Buffalo wings ($10.99), we chose to play it safe with a middle-of-the road appetizer. Enjoying the small paper cup of blue cheese dip, we judged the wings more than adequate. Next time I’d like to try the breaded green beans ($4.99) for a starter.
Guest was surprised and pleased to find a chicken salad sub on the menu ($9.99). Sides of macaroni and potato salads ($1.99 each and made in-house, according to the menu) were ordered to round out the sub — but alas! — they were out of macaroni. Fortunately, the potato salad was just about as good as it gets; the cook is a magician with the mayonnaise jar. The chicken salad was made with enough mayo to hold it all together but not too much to be sloppy. Celery added crunch and the seasoning was balanced. The footlong sub roll was crusty on the outside and soft on the inside.
The café/diner offered hot subs as well as cold. Ditto the attributes of the excellent sub roll. We ordered a large sausage, pepper and onion sub ($9.99). The Italian-style sausage was cut into substantial (no pun intended) diagonal pieces and punctuated with smaller pieces of peppers (red, green and yellow) and onions. A sturdy, but not overspiced, red sauce covered the open sub, with small cups of additional sauce and grated cheese on the side. The sub was as good as any I’ve enjoyed at Italian restaurants.
Craving a meal closer to dinner, I ordered London broil steak tips (Boston-style, 8 ounces for $8.99) with sautéed mushrooms ($1.49) and rice ($1.99). Other reasonably priced sides offered were sautéed peppers and onions, fries or onion rings.
The rice was plain and cooked al dente. The Boston-style steak tips were a disappointment. Although key ingredients in the dish are generally Southern Boston Irish whiskey, maple syrup, Dijon mustard, brown sugar, and soy and Worcestershire sauces, all I tasted was vinegar. Either way, the marinade should have tenderized the meat. It didn’t. Quipped my guest, “There is a way to make London broil tips, but nobody knows what it is.”
Untrue. Google offers a number of good recipes for Boston-style steak tips.
The menu instructed us to call ahead to find out what the diner had baked that day, but I settled for a medium strawberry smoothie ($4.49) made with mango and fruit juice. Slightly sweet and made with coarsely crushed iced, the peach-colored creation was a fine ending to my takeout meal.
(Downtown Schenectady Diner)
WHERE: 237 State St., Schenectady 12305; (518) 653-7506; www.CafeCoffee.us/
WHEN: Sunday 10 a.m.-6 p.m., Monday-Friday 8 a.m.-9 p.m., Saturday 8 a.m.-7 p.m.
HOW MUCH: $46.93 without tax or tip
MORE INFO: Street parking, handicapped accessible, credit cards, catering, pickup/delivery ($2.50, $12 minimum), deli, beer, groceries, ATM.