Monday, November 23, 2015

Doing Dishes: Dining at the Diners - Gateway Diner

Diners can be such tacky affairs, but in a good way. Like me, Mom, FYI.

Shiny, red vinyl, chrome, and neon: diners are iconic NYS family run businesses that operate 24/7, where you can always get a burger and a shake or an egg sandwich for not too much money and probably bump into someone you know and where the servers know you by the third time you dine. Those 10 page plus plastic menus that are bigger than the Post would take you forever to consider seriously so you usually order the same things over and over again, but there's always bad coffee delivered quick and hot and kept topped off if you need time to think about it.
Red and Pony outside the Gateway Diner
Gateway Diner, near the Westgate Mall on Central Avenue, has been a part of Albany's food scene since 1971. Greeks in the kitchen are always a good thing, although the menu here doesn't do that heritage much justice. Spanakopita, a Souvlaki or a Souvlaki Salad (of all things), Gyros with beef, pork or chicken rolled up with pita or served as a dinner are about all they have, although there was "hometown Greek dressing" in an Athenian wrap that had some feta - that sounded tempting. The rest of it was the comforting, reassuring usual: pancakes and eggs for breakfast, liver and onions, fried everything (especially for apps), something like 15 burgers to choose from, lots of sandwiches including that hot turkey mess with the gravy on the white bread, and a selection of large but standard Amerkin salads (the "California" has cottage cheese - why do I think that's funny???).

Pony went for the meatloaf, again: Baked Meatloaf, served with brown gravy (or marinara - really???[$11]), it was served green-free - a pile of gray meat enough to feed your younger brother for a week, sliced and heated on a flattop with a cafeteria scoop of mashed on the side, both heavily coated in a rather bland gravy, and although the meat had a nice texture the presentation (serious lack of color) and balance (pas de legumes) this is a dish I would only recommend to you at 3:00 a.m. if you are drinking and need some salt and protein to sober up.

What can I say that the picture doesn't say for itself???

Red ordered a Tuna Melt ($8.00) on wheat, served with a side of overly sweet coleslaw and big thick pickle slices. It was a hearty deal, lots of tuna (the fishy kind) and greasy in a good way, but she was left wanting a bit more of that drippy Amerkin cheese. Surprisingly, it was not served open face.

Crunchy and buttery, this is a grilled tuna with cheese NOT a "Tuna Melt". 
Foodie Friend has been trying the salads, going for that Souvlakia Salad ($11) this time but with the pork instead of the chicken listed on the menu. Lots of fresh crunchy lettuce, no skimping on the feta, pepperoncini, cuke, green peppers, tomatoes, onion and lettuce with a lovely lemony dressing that was sharp but not too garlicky, and some good olives. The marinated pork was tender with a touch of char with a nice lick of oregano. I took a piece from her plate and, when she wasn't looking, I used my superpowers to take another one without getting caught. It was, in all ways, a very good Greek salad.

Good salad as things get Greekier
Well there's a locally pretty famous blogger who poked fun at me recently (NOT A GOOD IDEA TO POKE GODDESSES AND YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE!!!) for trying the calamari everywhere I went for several months on end (and I still like the stuff), but I'm doing it again by having the Greek Gyro with chicken ($8.00), basic chicken souvlaki, at all these Greek diners, as it kind of levels the playing field AND, hey, it's a Greek diner and Dad told me as a very little Greeklet never to order spaghetti in a steak house, and though I don't generally listen to anyone, in this case, he's right.

This gyro had loads of grilled marinated chicken breast chunks that were pretty good, though not nearly as tasty as the pork, with tomatoes and onion rolled up in a fat, warm, soft white pita and a generous scoop of tangy tzatziki (which I asked for on the side). Good but not well constructed, with all the onions and tomatoes at the bottom and all the meat sitting on top. Still thought it was the best thing on the table, and I ate it all, including the chips and the pickle.

I think if the tzatziki was inside the bread like it should have been if I hadn't of asked for it on the side it wouldn't have fallen apart the way it did and make a big mess all over my plate and the universe at large. 
The staff were all very pleasant, easily answering questions like "Where does soft pita come from?" (A: Restaurant Depot on Warehouse Row), serving up our meal quickly and checking in as we ate, remembering to ask if we wanted dessert or coffee, and dividing up our bill without a blink. The room was clean and bright, and to complain because I do that alot these days, the menus were a tad tacky (sticky tacky). As we paid up and headed back to our day jobs it was also fun to run into an old colleague that retired a few years back. It felt like home.

The staff wished us a good day as we headed out the door. The desserts also wished us a good day. 

Zena, Goddess of Fire

PS: Why is there a $1.00 "to go" charge??? I recommend you go in, sit down, order your food, have it delivered to the table, ask to have it boxed, and leave the dollar for the waitress. Sheesh.

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