Ah, diners. What’s not to love?
The encyclopedic menu? Check. Breakfast all day? Open all hours? Career servers who call customers “honey?” Check, check and check again. Tops restaurant, at the Five Corners, satisfies completely.
There’s history here and you should know it: Tops is third-generation owned and it’s been a fixture since 1953. It started as an original rail-car diner; subsequent generations upgraded and expanded. Today, Tops is modern, spacious, and handsomely and colorfully fitted. The bottles gleam behind the bar, the blue tile around the fireplace shines. Tables and booths are padded and roomy. There are even palm trees. If they don’t cheer you up in January, take a look at the cakes and pies the likes of which you won’t find in Florida.
Now Tops is a grill, with steaks and full bar and a pretty good selection of wines. It’s also a bakery, with a pastry chef who makes all the desserts and some of the bread. But at its heart, it is still a diner.
We got a great booth and immediate service. In two minutes, we had steaming cups in front of us.
“The coffee is really good, by they way,” Sheryl said. My hot chocolate was, too — very sweet with lots of flavor and just enough whipped cream.
There’s a daily quiche special ($11.99), and though the server wasn’t sure which kind it was, “It’s usually quiche Lorraine,” she said. It was, happily, and it comes with a complete meal. You have a choice of soups, as there are usually two made daily in addition to French onion, and chili in the winter. I chose the chicken orzo, white meat in a clear broth with lots of orzo. “Looks nice,” Sheryl observed. The chunks of white meat were tender and soft, not the kind I’d make soup with, but the texture was lovely and just right for a refined soup. I liked the thin slices of celery and carrot, also elegant. There was perhaps more orzo than necessary, but otherwise, good flavor and a very nice cup.
Sheryl had the morning quesadilla ($10.99), made with a grilled, crispy tortilla that spanned the plate. And it was a big plate. “You get bacon, eggs and cheese,” she said, examining it. “Look at that,” she said, showing off the delicious-looking filling. She hoisted a wedge, and I jealously watched as cheddar-colored strings trailed. It looked wonderful. “Tastes like cheddar,” she said.
It comes with two kinds of crisped, browned potatoes — both shredded and chunks — and small portions of sour cream and salsa. “They’re good,” she said, “I dipped them into the sour cream and mixed some with salsa.”
The slice of quiche Lorraine was gorgeous, hot, with Swiss cheese oozing out the sides and loaded, absolutely loaded with smoky bacon. It’s a generous slice from a deep dish and they should make it every day. The crust, uniformly and beautifully crimped, was tasty and ever so slightly sweet. It’s homemade, of course, but was soft from being reheated.
The side salad satisfied, with enough variation in color and components to make it interesting.
How could we pass up dessert? “There’s a menu on the table,” said our server, pointing. Now you know, when you’re there, you can peruse the photos anytime.
Who hasn’t been disappointed when your food comes out and it falls well short of the photo you saw on the menu?
That won’t happen at Tops.
My chocolate truffle torte ($5.49) looked exactly like the picture, even down to the piped pink and green flower. The layers of dense chocolate cake are iced with truffle-like chocolate frosting, and a dark and rich ganache smoothly covers all. The flavor did not disappoint, either: It tasted as good as it looked.
Sheryl was experiencing some difficulty with the triangle of baklava ($3.79), and I think I know why. “I shouldn’t be sawing at this,” she said. Baklava is made with lots of melted butter between sheets of filo dough, and this was served straight from the fridge. It’s probably best served at room temperature. It’s also the only dessert they don’t make.
The tab for our enjoyable meal came to $46.55 with tax and tip. Sheryl shared her leftovers with her husband, who thought the crust was more pastry than tortilla, but he liked it a lot and said the whole thing tasted great.
You should visit Tops. It’s locally owned and a solid part of the community. Go for breakfast, lunch, dinner, a late-night snack. Get a grilled sirloin and a smart drink, or two eggs and toast. Just go.
Tops American Grill, Bakery & Bar
WHERE: 351 Duanesburg Road, Rotterdam; (518) 355-9864
WHEN: 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday to Thursday, 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday
HOW MUCH: $46.55 with tax and tip
MORE INFO: Parking lot, ADA compliant, Children’s menu, Credit cards Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover.