NISKAYUNA — Have a sandwich with a side of snark at the Broken Inn, located in a small brick strip mall on Nott Street near the Niskayuna Co-op.
The Broken Inn’s neighbors, past and present, in the shopping plaza are represented by original signage decorating the restaurant: drugstore, barbershop — that kind of thing. That helps the restaurant, which opened this past March, feel like a part of the neighborhood.
Most of the furnishings, which all have an interesting provenance, came from somewhere else: booths, the long bar, the high-top candy tables.
What’s a candy table? It integrates a commercial coin candy machine into the metal hardware under the table. Kind of by your feet. The dispensers all appear to be filled with Reese’s Pieces.
The menu is place-mat-sized and laminated, and could double in a pinch. The whole thing is printed on one side, including commentary from the owner, and he has a lot to say.
You go to the Broken Inn for a sandwich, a salad or a snack. The menu is brief — burger-less, even. There are wings ($15 a dozen) and sliders ($12) and hummus ($12) to share and start, and French onion soup ($8). Plus an original, unclassifiable stuffed bacon app ($12).
Choose from four salads: chef and Buffalo chicken (both $15), Caesar and Greek (both $12). There are five sandwiches including a French dip ($16) and Blatnick’s roast beef ($16), named for Niskayuna’s own Olympic gold medalist.
There’s a garden veggie wrap ($12), and grilled cheese and ham ($16), thinly sliced ham between two grilled cheese sandwiches. Sandwiches include mac salad or coleslaw. Fries are $3 extra.
On weekends, they serve brunch-type foods, such as eggs Benedict, and open at 10 a.m.
The Broken Inn does things its own way. Like, it takes cash only. Don’t panic: There’s an ATM in the place, and it only charges a buck.
Instead of letting the credit card companies skim 3% off each tab, the restaurant sends the same amount to support local worthy causes. Groups change monthly.
You can easily split a giant sandwich, but it’ll cost you. There’s a $20 penalty for a shared plate because, as the menu states, “split plate fees suck,” and the servers end up making half as much. The $20 goes to the month’s Niskayuna cause.
Per another area newspaper’s “Table Hopping” blog, all these quirks come from Tommy Nicchi, whose father opened the Comedy Works, now located in Saratoga Springs, and Deli Works, long closed, on Central Avenue in Albany. There are ties to Gershon’s deli, which explains the focus on sandwiches.
Nicchi is a busy guy, with another Comedy Works in Las Vegas, and he runs the parent company of both. He also books talent for a club in Hawaii.
There was pushback from the neighbors, who didn’t want a bar close by. So the Broken Inn (named for daughters Brooklyn and Kennedy) doesn’t keep late hours and asks that you not park on the neighbors’ lawns.
I arrived before Patrice, got a comfy, padded booth with view of the bar and dining room, and realized I didn’t have any cash. Yikes! Then I remembered the ATM in the dining room near the ice-cream window.
Pink Floyd was playing, not too loud. Husband Eric would approve of the classic rock soundtrack.
You enter from the Clifton Park Road side of the strip mall into the dining room, or via the front, which is the bar. The plate-glass windows offset the dark wood, and the repurposed fittings look original to the building.
We started with a plate of sweet corn nuggets ($10), the special appetizer of the day. The walnut-sized deep-fried snacks are slightly sweet on the outside, with a thick, tasty crust that gives way to a soft, creamy center studded with whole corn kernels.
Alongside was a cup of horseradish-scented creamy dipping sauce. The nuggets were topped with grated cheese, which seemed a random choice.
They are addicting, and we tried not to eat them all. “Pure junk food,” said Patrice approvingly.
Patrice had a chef salad with balsamic on the side. I noted the freshness and high quality of the Romaine. She liked that the meat and cheese were rolled together and sliced. It was arranged perfectly: The egg was quartered exactly, the tomato and sliced cucumber situated precisely.
“I like the two kinds of cheese,” she said.
The Broken Inn fries in peanut oil, which adds extra flavor to any food. Patrice handed over a matchbook-sized crouton. It tasted like it had been rubbed with fresh garlic, then deep fried. Delicious.
The Broken Inn’s turkey club ($16) is made with four slices of bread and towers over the fresh pickle and cup of mac salad. Thinly sliced turkey spilled onto the plate, leaving plenty more behind.
There was an abundance of bacon in two of the layers, and I happily nibbled at the salty, still chewy and not crispy pieces around the edges.
I removed two of the bread slices, which left a wobbly sandwich but gave me to opportunity to rate the tomato (ripe, thinly sliced) and Romaine (perfect small leaf).
The bread is from Perreca’s Bakery in Schenectady, which explains the excellent chewy crust and firm crumb.
As much as possible I tried to hold it together, and it was truly a treat. I enjoyed all the fillings and made my way through the one reduced half.
The side of fries ($3 extra) was a delight, with thick-cut, just-right plain sliced potatoes — old-school fries that don’t need any seasoning except salt.
The server mostly left us alone to talk but was there when we needed something. By this time the place was busy and it was hard for me to hear her.
We shared an order of soft-serve ice cream ($5), foregoing the chocolate lasagna ($8) and other desserts. It was served in a tall glass with rainbow sprinkles over. I outlasted Patrice, and kept working long after she’d put down her spoon. The strong note of vanilla kept me going.
Cones or cups are each $5. There’s chocolate and vanilla. The ice cream window, on the Clifton Park Road side of the building, is open for walk-up business.
The tab for our meal, including one lemonade, came to $56.16. I left a good tip over that.
We liked the place a lot, for its easy atmosphere and seamlessly integrated repurposed furniture, and we liked the food very much.
Also, it’s locally owned with nice local kids working there. And when we forget to bring cash, there’s an ATM.
Caroline Lee is a freelance writer who lives in Troy. Reach her at [email protected].
The Broken Inn
WHERE: 2209 Nott St., Niskayuna; (518) 469-5622; broken-inn.com.
WHEN: 4 to 10 p.m. Tuesday to Thursday; 4 to 11 p.m. Friday; 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday; 10 a.m. to 10 p.m Sunday
HOW MUCH: $56.16 for food, including tax and before tip
MORE INFO: Children’s menu. Parking in front lot and across the street in the large lot. Cash only. ADA compliant. Takeout not available at this time.