MALTA — The roundabouts that infest this town make getting around more time consuming and confusing than need be. I say this because getting to the new Ugly Rooster Cafe, in the former Malta Diner on Route 9, involved two traffic circles, and getting back on the road afterward involved a different two.
All this extra time and gasoline was worth it though, as we had a wonderful meal and a good time. Let me tell you about it.
It’s no secret the Ugly Rooster has good food. You can tell that from your car on Route 9, where you see a crowd of people outside waiting for a table. The Rooster doesn’t take reservations.
Husband Eric and I stopped by on a weekend around lunchtime (not the best idea), were given a pager and joined the throng. They’ve gotten good at estimating wait times; it was almost exactly the 20-minute wait we were told to expect.
Inside, it’s all diner. My notes from the 2012 review of the original location of the Ugly Rooster Cafe in Mechanicville mention rooster decor and coincidentally, a 20-minute wait. They haven’t done much to the new place, but the clientele clearly doesn’t mind the diner ambience. The point, I think, is that the new place is roomy, and like goldfish, the number of customers has increased in size proportionally.
So … lots of booths, carpet, counter with stools, stainless steel features in the kitchen area. Some lingering colonial wood touches.
The service was diner-like. We were greeted promptly and given menus and coffee. When the drinks came, our efficient server was ready for our order.
They’re open daily until 2 o’clock, so we’d planned on trying out both breakfast and lunch. They cover both comprehensively, each on one side of the menu.
Prices are friendly: Two eggs with home fries and toast is $5.80. In addition to what you’d expect in the way of omelets, pancakes and French toast, you can get eggs Benedict in various permutations, also huevos rancheros, burritos and chicken-fried steak.
For lunch, try an 8-ounce hamburger on a hard roll with lettuce and tomato, served with deli salad or fries for $10.55, or a deli sandwich. You might have a meal-sized chopped berry or wedge salad, or a grilled cheese. They offer fat burritos, pulled pork, tacos and quesadillas.
I was set on the chicken tacos, and breezily asked the server how they were. She looked me in the eye, and after a beat, said, “Quesadillas are better.”
I started with a cup of the homemade soup ($3.65), loaded red pepper. Think of stuffed peppers and you get the idea: ground beef, rice, onion, mild chili flavor, oh, and a whole clove of garlic.
“Looks delicious,” said Eric, eyeballing it and not quite openly salivating. He tasted: “Hearty, thick and very good.” A cup of this with a glass of milk would be a perfect chilly-day lunch. It was delicious, the beef tender and the chunks of tomato sweet.
Ugly Rooster is advertising energetically for kitchen help, but you wouldn’t know it in the dining room. There was no wait for food and tables got turned over promptly.
The runner who brought my chicken quesadilla ($11.55) said approvingly, “It’s nice and crispy,” as she set it down and I gave silent thanks to the server. The flour tortilla was browned and a bit shiny. Inside was lots of melted cheddar cheese and white meat chicken, and it was so cheesy and crispy and tasty that I said “Mmm” many times.
The strips of grilled chicken were soft and had great flavor. Eric tried a piece of the quesadilla. He loved it, too.
The side of waffle fries was piping hot, seasoned and golden. Some had skin, and they were almost hollow inside, very light; definitely worth the calories.
Eric ordered eggs Benedict ($10.50), his favorite. He gave high marks to the tender, oversized English muffin, the salty ham and the buttery Hollandaise, but the eggs were a bit overcooked, not at all runny. The serving of paprika-seasoned home fries was enormous, over the top.
“The sausage is delicious,” said Eric, who’d ordered a side of two patties ($3.15) that would each fit on a hamburger bun.
By this time, I’d finished a third piece of quesadilla and most of the fries, and was ready to go. We got a box (reusable, thank you) for my leftovers, along with the check.
You bring the check to the counter like, you know, in a diner. With coffee and a soda, the tab came to $33.13 and we left a big tip.
As we left, we passed many pager-bearing people waiting to eat. It’s clearly no secret; the Ugly Rooster is a hit and Malta is pleased.
I love a diner, and I loved the food on my last visit to the Ugly Rooster in Mechanicville. In Malta, it’s the best of both worlds.
Caroline Lee is a freelance writer who lives in Troy. Reach her at [email protected]
The Ugly Rooster Cafe, Malta
WHERE: 2476 Route 9, Malta; (518)899-5099; theuglyrooster.com
WHEN: 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. daily
HOW MUCH: $33.13 plus tip
MORE INFO: Credit cards: Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover. Reservations not accepted. Parking lot. ADA compliant.