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The Best Breakfast Spots in Albany

By Teresa Pavia

If the $3 value breakfast from Fountain Grill is starting to taste a little too much like your highschool cafeteria food, treat yourself to one of these local breakfast spots to suffice your morning cravings.

Capital City Diner, Western Avenue

When in the mood for a no muss, no fuss meal, Capital City Diner is dependable and delicious. Open from 7 a.m. to midnight during the week, and until 1 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, this family-run diner serves the typical breakfast food you might be missing from home, from pancakes, to omelettes, to breakfast club sandwiches.

The restaurant is the legacy of Dennis Pilarinos who, after immigrating to the U.S. from Greece as a young boy, dreamed of one day owning a diner. Capital City Diner opened in late 2010, and is managed by Mr. Pilarinos’ daughter Katerina and her husband Sakis Tyrnas, who continue to “keep it in the family,” serving dishes based on Mama Pilarinos’ recipes for baklava and spinach pie.

Capital City Diner is now open for dine-in service at 50 percent capacity, per New York State COVID-19 guidelines, though it has recently expanded to serving takeout and delivery.

“Being shut down for three months, we went through times where we didn’t know if we’d have to close forever,” stated Tyrnas. “We had to pivot our business model, and rely more on takeout to cover the shortfall of the lost business.”

Whether ordering online for delivery or pick-up on GrubHub or Mealeo, or eating in, Capital City Diner is the perfect choice for reliable and affordable comfort breakfast.

Uncommon Grounds, University Plaza

If you’re looking for a quieter, laid-back environment, and to enjoy a quality meal, Uncommon Grounds is the place to go. While they have locations in Saratoga Springs and Clifton Park, their spot in University Plaza is the most convenient for any on campus students who might need a breakfast fix close to home.

A popular hangout spot among college students, on any given day you’re sure to see furrowed brows behind open laptops, or locals chatting over house-made scones and freshly roasted coffee. Uncommon Grounds places a great emphasis on ensuring the quality of their product, sourcing coffee beans from around the world and roasting them to perfection. If coffee isn’t your thing, they have a long list of teas to choose from, too. The cafe makes a conscious effort to be the fanciful coffee shop of your dreams, with rotating art collections on display from local artists, and a surplus of potted plants sitting on the windowsills. Uncommon Grounds is open from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. every day, and is currently offering indoor dining.

Cider Belly Doughnuts, Pearl Street

For those who might have early morning sugar cravings, Cider Belly Doughnuts has you covered. As the name suggests, Cider Belly specializes in cider doughnuts which feature a fluffier, cake-like texture than found in traditional fried doughnuts. With an affordable menu ranging from $1 to 2.50 per donut, you don’t need to worry about breaking the bank account to satisfy your sweet tooth offers.

While they do serve your typical doughnut fare, they also serve a vast array of different, more creative donuts, like the “What the Fudge” with chocolate frosting and rainbow sprinkles, or the “Sugar Daddy” with cinnamon and sugar.

Cider Belly deviates from the traditional doughnut model, offering unique glazes in flavors ranging from Pear Puree to Cappuccino to Jamaican Rum. If you can’t decide on just one or two, feel free to order a $9 Mystery Box, for a half a dozen randomized doughnut favors.

If you’ve got your heart set on ordering a specific doughnut, it might be a good idea to arrive at the shop as early as possible. Doughnuts sell out quickly, and it’s first come first serve. Cider Belly Doughnuts is open from Thursday through Sunday from 8 a.m. to noon and is currently limited to curbside-only service due to the pandemic.

Iron Gate Cafe, Washington Avenue

Set back from the street behind an overgrown garden, the Iron Gate Café is the perfect spot for Sunday brunch, or when you want to spend a few extra bucks for a standout meal. However, a hot spot among locals, the restaurant gets busy quickly, so try to get there as early as possible, unless you want to be stuck taking a few trips up and down Lark Street before securing yourself a table.

Co-owner Kevin Dively recommends to customers his personal favorite dish on the menu: the John Denver Scramble, which he says is “simple but unique.”

Iron Gate offers your typical brunch staples like bacon, eggs, and french toast, with a rotating menu of specialty dishes, and even features a number of vegan items. Recently, the restaurant incorporated a Hawaiian themed specialty menu which included pina colada pancakes and ahi tuna bowls. For the week of St. Patrick’s Day, it will be serving Irish soda bread from a local bakery.

Most of the inspiration for these funky kitchen creations comes from the locally sourced ingredients, prioritized by Iron Gate.

“I get as much local stuff as I can, and then I call these mom and pop farms, ask them what’s in season and what they’re harvesting, and make dishes out of that,” said Dively. “I’m not buying any mass produced chicken, God only knows what’s in that.”

If breakfast isn’t your thing, you’re in luck. According to Dively, Iron Gate Café plans to step away from their brunch-only model this summer, and dip their toe into the beer garden business during the evenings, with a drink menu featuring locally sourced craft beers.


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