“It smells good,” said my friend Sheryl as we crossed the windy parking lot into Lily’s Cafe. Always a good sign. The aroma foretold a good meal and it was correct.
The one-story white building sits across from Stratton Air National Guard base, and during our meal we were treated to the sight of a C-130, that prop-driven graceful hippopotamus, gliding smoothly skyward.
Lily’s is a cute place, and the dining room, freshly made over in a white-and-black theme, is spotless. I can attest to that because I dropped my pen and got a close look at the floor. There’s a counter with stools as you come in and tables with those padded stacking chairs to the left. New tables are on order. All the cooking is done right there behind the counter.
Lily’s opened last October, taking the place of Oliver’s Cafe on Freemans Bridge Road, a mainstay breakfast-and-lunch spot for many years.
It’s updated, but not too different from how Oliver’s was.
“We did some upgrades to the building, but they did it right for 28 years, so we didn’t want to change too much,” said Scott McGlauflin, one of the owners.
They kept a “fair amount” of the Oliver’s menu and expanded it a bit, moving some of the Oliver’s specials onto the permanent menu and putting their own stamp on it by updating dishes and adding some of their own.
It’s breakfast and lunch, and quite reasonably priced. According to the online menu, two eggs with bacon, ham or sausage is $7, and a BLT with hand-cut fries and side salad is $6.50. You’re hard-pressed to find anything over $10 on the menu.
Lily’s makes homemade soup every day, the variety changing according to the day of the week. Friday is clam chowder.
Sheryl loved the coffee, which arrived as soon as we got ourselves comfortable. “It’s really smooth,” she said, sighing. “Part of it is the mug.”
I agreed, sipping my hot chocolate; the thick, white old-school coffee mug is a pleasure to hold in both hands on a winter morning.
Sheryl had breakfast, the corned beef skillet ($9.75) with scrambled eggs. It was a good choice; Lily’s Cafe makes its own corned beef hash, seasoned with a bit of nutmeg.
“It’s really, really, good,” said Sheryl, who’d ordered her eggs scrambled so she could share the leftovers with her husband. She called the eggs, topped with Hollandaise, “very tasty,” and said each forkful of egg came with a lovely string of cheese — Swiss, she thought. The wheat toast was “buttered on the top and crunchy on the bottom.”
In fact, the “whole thing,” was really good, she said.
“I don’t know if I’m going to bring any home,” said Sheryl. Bottom line: She didn’t.
My Chicken Cordon Bleu sandwich ($10) was delicious. It’s a piece of boneless white meat chicken topped with ham and Swiss cheese, but Lily’s makes the most of each element. The chicken is grilled, the ham is grilled, and the roll is buttered and grilled. Then the Swiss cheese is melted on top. The rolls are soft but sturdy and are good-tasting. They certainly presented it well, with the cheese all glossy and melted over the meat.
I needed extra napkins — unlike with many dry chicken sandwiches I have had, this sandwich was juicy and dribbled a bit.
Lily’s hand-cuts its own fries, leaves the skin on and seasons them with a wonderful mixture that includes black pepper. They were cooked just the right amount. I shouldn’t have but I ate them all.
The creamy-looking coleslaw was “really good,” said Sheryl, who usually eats my side salads. “Nice,” she added. Lily’s makes all of its own salads.
We shared a cannolo ($3), freshly piped with a slightly sweet chocolate-chip cheese filling. I tasted cinnamon. “It’s very fresh,” said Sheryl, approvingly.
We’d arrived mid-morning, when there were only a few other diners. As it crept closer to lunchtime the dining room filled. Not bad for a weekday. McGlauflin said they’ve been “really busy.”
That’s good to hear. Lily’s is inexpensive, makes an effort to make the food taste good, and treats you nice. Plus, they have those old-school white coffee mugs.
Sounds like a recipe for success.
Caroline Lee is a freelance writer who lives in Troy. Reach her at [email protected]
WHERE: 181 Freemans Bridge Road, Schenectady; (518) 393-3060
WHEN: 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesday to Sunday; closed Monday and Tuesday
HOW MUCH: $30.05, with tax and before tip
MORE INFO: Credit cards: Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover. Large parking lot. Wheelchair ramp, but bathrooms not accessible. Accommodations made for children’s meals.