If you love discovering out-of-the-way jewels like I do, then add The Iron Gate Café in Albany, NY to your lunch-out to-do list. This quirky restaurant hits all the buttons for me: interesting dining rooms, pretty little patio, thoughtful menu, and great fresh, simple food.
The Iron Gate Café is on the outskirts of Albany’s Center Square neighborhood, on Washington Avenue between the Public Library and the Albany Institute of History and Art. Walking or driving, you could easily pass by without even noticing it. The building is set back from the street—it’s easy to miss. The storefront is completely hidden and even the sign, tucked flush against the dark metal uprights, is dark and inconspicuous.
INTERESTING DINING ROOMS
But enough about how hard it is to see from the road.
Entering the property is part of the charm. You’ll pass through the iron gate, and follow a brick pathway that meanders to the front door. Deciduous trees overhang a courtyard filled with a dozen sturdy metal tables and rich red umbrellas. When the weather is good the courtyard is filled with diners.
Enter through the front door and you’re inside a small, recently renovated reception area where a hostess will greet you. Straight ahead is the bar where coffee is prepared and drinks are poured. There’s a large cash register and counter seating for up to six people. Further ahead is a small doorway leading to the dining area.
The two dining rooms in this historic building feel cozy and familiar. Some walls are covered in ornate, almost Victorian wallpaper. Light steams in through old windows and the decor is simple and quaint.
The service is brisk and efficient, but it’s the food that brings me back: from perfect omelets, to fresh vegetarian salads and bowls, to hearty sandwiches and excellent French fries. There’s an interesting variety of old favorites and inventive combinations. Whether we go for breakfast or lunch, with so many intriguing options, I have trouble deciding what to get.
The Iron Gate Café is located at 182A Washington Avenue, Albany, NY 12210. Visit their website at irongatecafe.com. Open seven days a week from 8:00am to 3:00pm.