COLONIE -- “I am so glad they reopened,” sighed Virginia, looking around at familiar surroundings. Grandma’s, established in 1976, has had several owners, and the latest to rescue it, Alex Morales, reopened in August -- in plenty of time for holiday pies.
“Because of tradition, I think,” Virginia gave as her reason. “They’ve been here a long time, their pies are popular and people look forward to coming here for the holiday.”
The restaurant is homey and charming, with frilly curtains at sunny windows, comfortable booths and roomy tables, and seasonal decor. On a day just before Thanksgiving, pie boxes were stacked high, as far as the eye could see. Lots of people besides Virginia like tradition as well.
Our server was friendly and attentive and helped us order. Grandma’s menu is enormous -- breakfast all day, plus soups, salads, hot and cold sandwiches and entrees -- so much to choose from. Prices are friendly: One egg with home fries, toast or muffin and coffee is $4.99.
Entrees like chicken and biscuits ($12.99) come with roll and butter and two sides, and top out at $16.99 for a New York strip steak.
Cold weather required soup, and we were in the right place. Grandma’s has two kinds of soup daily, plus their famous cream of turkey ($3.99 cup).
That sounded good to me, and it was. I liked the thick, glossy broth, with pieces of turkey meat and peas and bits of carrot and onion, lightly seasoned and comforting. “This is so good,” I told Virginia.
Virginia’s seasonal special, the Autumn Chicken Sandwich ($9.99) came with soup, and she enjoyed Grandma’s vegetable soup in a tomato broth. She liked the variety: “There’s big pieces of potato, tomato, carrot, celery and onion. You want to see chunks,” with this kind of soup, she said, satisfied.
She loved the sandwich, a thin grilled chicken breast topped with melted cheddar cheese and apple-cranberry compote on a toasted kaiser roll. It looked appetizing, and she assured me it was very good. “The compote tastes sweet, there’s no tartness from cranberries,” she reported, a nice contrast to the salty cheese and black pepper-seasoned chicken.
There were more crunchy rippled chips than she could finish and she took them home along with half the sandwich.
Grandma has some tough competition in my house. The turkey was always juicy, the gravy flavorful, long-cooked, strained and silky. I recognize the bar is high. My family isn’t in the restaurant business, of course, a very different thing.
Grandma’s turkey and gravy didn’t quite measure up to what I’ve had at home. The open turkey sandwich ($11.99) consisted of two pieces of soft white bread, with slices of turkey meat between, gravy poured over.
It wasn’t clear whether the meat was light or dark; it was large-grained and separated into pieces easily. It wasn’t the turkey flavor bomb I craved but it was perfectly good.
Grandma’s potatoes are more fluffy than creamy, with real potato flavor, an appetizing puddle of gravy plonked in the middle. The small cup of cranberry sauce was on point. I thought stuffing might have gone well with this, although it was already more than I could finish.
It improved, though; the plain white bread slices, which didn’t appeal at first, absorbed the gravy in a most agreeable way. They each improved the other much more than I would have expected.
I noticed the sage and thyme seasoning more in the leftovers than at the restaurant, perhaps the flavor developed over time.
Virginia had the pecan pie, and added some brown sugar cinnamon ice cream ($6.94) for good measure. She said, “The pie is good. The filling is nice and gooey, sweet,” the way she liked it. And, “I can taste cinnamon in the ice cream.” Handsome pecan halves, which float to the top during cooking, added to the appeal.
I liked the very light, crumbly and flaky crust of the chocolate cream pie ($4.49), and the pudding-like filling. The whipped topping tasted like it was made with real cream, and if I wasn’t on a diet I would have happily eaten the whole thing.
Our server checked on us several times, and topped off Virginia’s decaf. She presented the tab, for $45.55 including coffee and a soda and tax, and instructed us to bring it to the register, diner-style. However, it was very busy, as folks were picking up their pies, and she was kind enough to let me know when the line was short.
This holiday season, I am grateful for many things, not least a good friend who meets me on short notice, her car packed for a long trip. And all of us can be grateful that Grandma’s is back, just the way we remember.
Grandma’s Pies & Restaurant
WHERE: 1273 Central Ave., Colonie; 518-459-4585; www.grandmaspieshop.com
WHEN: 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday and Monday, 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. Breakfast served all day.
HOW MUCH: $45.55, with two drinks and tax
MORE INFO: Credit cards: MasterCard, Visa, American Express, Discover. Children’s menu. Wheelchair accessible. Reservations for larger parties.