All diners are not the same. There are little hole-in-the-wall joints that call themselves diners, some of which serve excellent food, and then there are the shiny diners — metallic and bright and recently reupholstered, some of which serve excellent food. Guilderland’s Capital City Diner is of the shiny variety.
The common denominator of all diners seems to be the capacious menu. You know there will be breakfast, and several pages of it. There may even be a full bar with bottles of top-shelf liquor lined up in front of mirrored walls, and a menu of snappy mixed drinks (Capital City is in this category). There are pages, or cards, inserted into the menu that change with the day’s lunch and dinner specials, and you can get anything from a bowl of cereal to a steak dinner.
A recent survey about choice showed that people were happier with their selection if they chose from fewer options. The range of dining options at a traditional diner always leaves me, as someone who has trouble making decisions, anxious. Should it be a salad? Just a plate of fries? A multi-course meal? Or — and this one always tempts me — breakfast, any time of day?
Capital City Diner
WHERE: 1709 Western Ave., Guiderland. 250-4261
WHEN: 7 a.m. to midnight Sunday to Thursday; 7 a.m. to 1 a.m., Friday and Saturday
HOW MUCH: $35.32, with tax, two drinks, and tip.
MORE INFO: Credit cards: Visa, Master Card, American Express, Discover. Children’s menu. Wheelchair accessible. Big parking lot in rear.
Happily, they were only serving breakfast when we visited Capital City, so the choices were already narrowed down. Besides, with breakfast, it’s easy to get combinations and add items so you can try lots of different things. I covered the egg-and-sides category, and Virginia got something a little different.
Patronage was light, so we scored a roomy booth even without asking. We approved of the marine-blue restrained decor. The place was spotless. There were lots of people working, so the dining room stayed tidy and the servers went about their jobs placidly.
Our breakfasts were out in a snap, as you would expect in a diner. Virginia chose the breakfast burrito ($6.49) which is constructed like a big sushi roll, with sliced sausage surrounded by scrambled eggs, surrounded by orange cheese, with the burrito wrap standing in for the nori. It looked delicious, and Virginia liked the mild sausage and the melted cheese especially.
We were surprised to see the guacamole and salsa in little plastic cups, because you couldn’t unroll anything without causing catastrophic structural damage, so your choices are dunking or smearing. After finding both a little too spicy, Virginia was glad the salsa and the guac were on the side. If you are considering the burrito, you might ask to have them added before it is rolled up.
We liked the applewood smoked bacon ($3 for five slices) a lot. The bacon was crispy along the edges, but not quite crispy in the middle, so it wasn’t dry but it wasn’t greasy. And it tasted good.
Not so much our sides of hash browns. Virginia, who never has a bad thing to say about anything, agreed that they might not have much flavor. I salted aggressively, added ketchup, but nothing seemed to improve these sliced potatoes. They were agreeably browned in places, but not as crispy as you’d think. A tablespoon of butter in the pan, a little oil to keep it from burning, and it would be a whole different story.
I ordered the veggie lover’s omelet ($7.59) and paid another dollar to upgrade the bread to a hard roll. There were lots of veggies to love, in fact, the egg barely held them all together. They were all fresh — the broccoli, chopped tomato, sliced mushrooms and spinach. I might not have cooked the omelet until it was browned, but the veggies kept it moist. I missed the flavor of butter I always use at home when I cook eggs.
Although some butter dripped from the packets onto my jeans, none of it melted on the nicely browned roll. It may have left the kitchen warm, but didn’t have a chance as we were right under an exuberant air conditioning vent. The air blew my napkin onto the floor, and, if we hadn’t caught it, the check as well.
Desserts are homemade, and we think having dessert at breakfast is a good idea, so we went ahead and ordered a slice of carrot cake ($4.25) to share. It was a massive piece, but there were two of us. We easily identified the carrot shreds in the moist cake, and the walnuts and plump raisins, and convinced ourselves that made it healthy. The frosting was vanilla, not the traditional cream cheese, but it was tasty, especially the handsome carrot piped in orange and green on the top. We had no trouble finishing it.
The service was good, and hot decaf refills were offered when needed. The uniforms make the servers look neat and professional, and everything went smoothly during our visit. The tab for breakfast with dessert came to $35.32, a reasonable price for a fair breakfast.