The Capital Region's best diner breakfasts

diner breakfast composite

Over easy.

By Crystal Powell

We've enjoyed reading about Crystal's breakfast tour of local diners over the last year on her blog "Windshield Diaries," so we though it'd be fun to ask her for her top 5 Capital Region diner breakfast spots.

At the beginning of 2010, my S/O Mike and I made it our mission to try as many local diner breakfasts as we could.

For us, what makes a diner stand out is a combination of the following: authentic vintage-ness, good coffee, quality ingredients, and good service.

In the last year we've been to just about every diner we could find in the Capital District. So after our year-long exploration of the local diner breakfast scene, here are our top contenders for the best diner breakfast experience you can get in the Capital District.

Miss Albany
893 Broadway, Albany (map)

Miss Albany Diner.jpg

Miss Albany has everything that we love in a diner: it's an authentic vintage diner that's been around since 1941, menu is above average, and it has sassy diner charm. We love ordering our gourmet brunch and sitting in the vintage booth, reading the little signs about keeping your butt on the bench and your feet on the floor.

Miss Albany interior.jpg

We've never been disappointed the countless times we've been to Miss Albany. The atmosphere is always cheerful, but not boisterous, and the waitresses are always top notch. Each booth has a single red silk rose in a vase, and the sugar, cream, and napkin dispensers all appear to be vintage. Miss Albany also knows how to brew a great pot of coffee -- never burnt, never bitter, never too strong.

We've sampled some of their menu staples like the Rocky Mountain High, the MAD Irish Toast and the Power Breakfast.

Miss Albany breakfast.jpg

Miss Albany french toast.jpg

Now that we've conquered the menu staples, we're looking forward to trying out their rotating breakfast specials like the Pennsylvania Scrapple or the New Orleans Omelet.

Mike has been known to tell people that the Miss Albany is so good, there is no other place to get breakfast, and I can't say I disagree. The one small complaint we have is their cash only policy. It can be kind of an inconvenience but at the same time it adds to their vintage charm.

Jack's
547 Central Ave Albany (map)

Jack's Diner exterior.jpg

We've driven past Jack's countless times and for some reason I was always convinced that it was a closed, abandoned diner. And it was closed for a few months last year. But it's back open with new owners and they recently renovated the exterior. We couldn't wait to get some breakfast.

Jack's Diner.jpg

We love the fact that Jack's is one of two Albany diners on the National Register of Historic Places. It's been around since 1948. The interior is classic: red and white booths, and a long counter with stools. We really like authentic vintage diners more than newer constructed "retro looking" diners.

We were happily surprised by Jack's menu -- it took us a good 10 minutes of drooling over our many options before we finally decided what to order. In addition to the vintage aesthetic and varied menu, we really liked the service. Our coffees and waters were refilled countless times without having to ask. On one recent trip, Mike got a little adventurous and ordered his first Eggs Benedict. He asked some questions about the Hollandaise sauce and the waitress thoughtfully offered to put it on the side for him in case he didn't like it. Of course, he loved it because the food at Jack's is top notch.

Jacks breakfast.jpg

Jacks breakfast 2.jpg

I love their french toast, because unlike some diners in the area who use flimsy slices of white bread, Jack's is made with thick slices of seasoned challah bread, then dusted with cinnamon.

Jack's french toast.jpg

The only problem we have is the maple syrup substitute they serve. Offering some real maple syrup, even at an up charge, would be stellar.

The next time we hit up Jack's I'm looking forward to trying their Huevos Rancheros, and Mike is still thinking about their bacon.


Compton's
457 Broadway, Saratoga Springs (map)

Compton's Diner.jpg

We happened upon Compton's by chance on our way through Saratoga one day. I was searching Yelp for a good, cheap diner and Compton's topped the list so we gave it a go. There's nothing about Compton's that stands out as extraordinary -- until you look at the menu. For a joint located on the fancy main drag in Saratoga, you would expect to pay a pretty penny for your eggs and bacon. But Compton's is surprisingly cheap! In fact, the breakfast we had at Compton's is probably the least expensive diner breakfast we've ever had. Usually when you see such low prices on a menu you assume that the food isn't going be that great or that the portions will be tiny, but at Compton's the food is cheap and good and the portions are decent.

comptons breakfast.jpg

While that alone is enough to put them on our top five, there are a few other things that make Compton's stand out. We usually get our staple two eggs over easy with bacon, home fries, and rye toast. The bacon was perfect: not too crispy and not too floppy, the eggs were not over cooked like some diners tend to do to an order of over easy, and the home fries were slightly crispy on the outside and nice and soft on the inside. The service was good, and unlike some places, they can also make a decent cup of coffee.

We loved the fact that we were able to snag the window booth and people watch Broadway while we ate enjoyed a leisurely breakfast. For those who are hitting the Saratoga night scene, you'll be happy to know that once the bars close their doors for the night, Compton's is waiting with open arms to give you some great grub to help you sober up. But for those who like to sleep in on the weekends, they are only open until 2:45 pm every day.

Halfmoon Diner
231 Grooms Road Clifton Park (map)

Halfmoon Diner.jpg

We don't find ourselves in Halfmoon all that often, but when we are, there is no other spot for breakfast.

We happened upon the Halfmoon Diner the same way we found Compton's (thank you iPhone + Yelp!), and have been back several times. This is the only diner on our list that isn't authentically vintage.

That's how good it is.

The Halfmoon is a very neat, clean diner and they know how to make the perfect cup of coffee. Yes, it sounds like a broken record to keep bringing up good coffee, but we've been to a lot of diners in the past year, and trust us... there is some nasty coffee out there.

Halfmoon diner coffee.jpg

The best breakfast I've had at the Halfmoon so far is their Greek Omelet with spinach, onions, tomato and feta. It was very fresh and moist. We love that their home fries are grilled up with onions, that's very rare around here. Halfmoon also makes their french toast with seasoned challah bread and it comes sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar. Again, like almost all local diners, they serve imitation syrup, which honestly, nobody really loves.

Halfmoon diner breakfast.jpg

All of the times we've eaten at Halfmoon, the atmosphere has been quiet and relaxing, a great way to start the day. The waitstaff has also been consistently great at being attentive without being overbearing. I'm really looking forward to exploring more of their omelet menu the next time we're up in their neck of the woods.


Manory's
99 Congress St., Troy (map)

Manory's Diner.jpg

I used to work in downtown Troy, and that is how we came to find out about Manory's. Any place that has been around for almost 100 years is worth trying, and we were really impressed with Manory's.

When you walk in, it's like stepping back in time. The windows are lined with big wooden booths, and if you're lucky enough to get one it's a great spot for some people watching. In the center of the dining room sits a big vintage counter with cushy stools and off to the sides of the room there is a giant juke box and a vending machine full of lottery scratch offs.

Manory's is a great place to catch up on your local history. Not only is it the oldest restaurant in Troy, but the walls are covered in old photographs of local landmarks.

The waitstaff also has that quirky charm that you would expect from a diner. On our last visit the busboy asked us to keep our voices down because he was nursing a hangover. We think he was joking.

When we go to Manory's I usually order the Vegetable Lover's Breakfast Burrito, but their breakfast menu goes well beyond that.

Manory's breakfast burrito.jpg

Manory's Reeses Pieces Pancakes.jpg

One morning we even got some Reese's Pieces Pancakes, and during our most recent visit, Mike tried out their newest breakfast item: chicken and waffles.

Manory's chicken and waffles.jpg

He loved it for the first few bites, but the imitation maple syrup started to get to him. We can't emphasize enough to every diner out there how gross it is to try and pass of corn syrup as maple syrup. Not the same, not even close!

Despite that one complaint, we are really looking forward to coming back to Manory's because their menu is so huge we don't even know where to start. I'd really like to try their seafood eggs benedict, or maybe the crab meat and cheese omelet. Wait, no! The cookies and cream waffles, or the super sundae waffles with ice cream and chocolate sauce!

Crystal writes about diner breakfasts -- and other beautiful things -- at Windshield Diaries.

Comments

Fifty South (www.fiftysouth.com) in Ballston Spa does a delicious breakfast too -- worth a trip!

So glad to see Halfmoon Diner here. It is one of our favorites for both breakfast AND dinner. For all diners - I never order your pancakes or french toast because I assume I'm getting that crappy corn syrup. If you need to - charge me more but give me the real maple syrup.

ACK! Stop telling people about Jack's! I've been going there for several years (before it was renovated, when it took a serious leap of faith to consume anything in there), and it's one of my favorite hidden Albany food gems.

Just do me a favor and cross out the whole piece about jack's above, OK? They have the best corned beef hash I've ever tasted (and their burgers are INSANE), and I don't want to worry about it being sold out when I go there. Thanks.

Very useful and very cool. Thanks for doing the legwork for this great list! I will certainly put it to good breakfast use!

so, which diners actually do use real maple syrup?

Someone loves their old fashioned photograph iphone app!

I'm also happy Jack's is both open and cleaned up. It looked like a storage box for 10 years or so. Food's good too.

Cafe 217 gets my vote, mainly for their corned beef hash. Wait staff is pleasant, that's all I ask for. As an added bonus...that Suzie...quite a hoot. Love her.

I think most authentic diners have a great breakfast (Gibby's in Quaker Street is my favorite) - I'd be more interested to know which diners DON'T have good food. I wasted $5 once on an "omelette" that was one egg with a slice of american cheese.

not in the capital region, but if you are ever in north bennington VT, check out the blue ben diner.

Oh, I have to disagree with the Halfmoon Diner. It was, if not the worst, one of the worst dining experiences I have had in the Greater CD.

I would like to recommend the Pearl Street Diner, which was good the first time I was there, and has gotten better in subsequent visits.

That being said, yay for other people who love diner food and I wholeheartedly agree with MAD being wonderful.

Great post!

I feel a little odd admitting it...but I actually carry real maple syrup in my purse when going out to breakfast. Carmen's cafe is one of my fav's that does offer real syrup (w/o any extra charge for it)...and their mango pancakes are divine.

I'm might be the only person in Albany to feel this way, but I find the little signs all over Miss Albany infuriating. Not that I've ever been inclined to break their rules.. But it's like they think all their customers are little kids who need to be constantly reminded how to behave themselves. I'll admit the food is good, but not so good that I feel "privileged" enough to not mind being demeaned in that fashion.

Pancakes just ain't pancakes without the real maple syrup.

I couldn't agree more about the choices. I haven't been to Manory's yet; I know what's next on my list.

@Jeff Z., I can't think of too many that use real syrup, but Cafe Madison does come to mind.

Jack's huh? I didn't know it got renovated, I haven't eaten there in a couple of years but last time it was terrible, and I usually like bad diner food.

I am a big fan of Dan's Place II, it may not be gourmet but the atmosphere is not to be matched.

Nice touch with the retro photo app.

Okay, not a diner, per se, but another great place for breakfast in Halfmoon - SNYDERS .. fake syrup, but real everything else and you can even play KENO while sipping your java

No Duncan's Dairy Bar? Really great breakfast spot.

I recommend Bob's in Hudson. Unpretentious atmosphere and delicious food. It might even rival Compton's for the least expensive diner breakfast.

I second the mention of Dan's Place II.

Ginny shh!! definitely don't need people finding out about Duncan's!! ;p

Totally agree about the Blue Benn in Bennington! Also a bit of a trek from the Capital District is Poopies in Glens Falls. And, not a diner, but The Silo off exit 19 of the Northway in Queensbury has a great breakfast and real maple syrup.

Hi!! Thanks so much for the write-up on Manory's Restaurant...My husband and father bought this restaurant about 20ish years ago....I have made phone calls about the "real" maple syrup...Right now we offer the Aunt Jemima...Original Syrup...Which is NOT the REAL syrup...so I hope to make the real Maple Syrup available by Friday of this week. Thanks again....
Jen

Im a little sad that Bobs diner in 'Vliet was not mentioned. Small place, yet open 24/7. Tons of food on the menu, everything good. Breakfast is a must at all hours. The "Hash Hound"...mmm

If you haven't been to Dan's you're missing out on a truly authentic diner experience in Albany.

Cafe 217 and WIne n' Diner are good for slightly upscale diner food -- I compare them to the Madison but without the insane wait and with better service. Western Diner was probably the best secret in Albany, but ownership recently changed hands and based on the story I was given I don't want to patronize.

Recently tried the Pearl St diner. The food is nothing too special, above average though, portions were large, and prices are really reasonable (a stack of pancakes with ham and two eggs was $7 or so). But even better, it was nearly empty on the weekend and the service was really attentive and accommodating. Don't forget, metered parking is free on the weekends. I was happy.

Manorys is one of the very best around! Kudos to the Marchese's.

@leight: "I feel a little odd admitting it...but I actually carry real maple syrup in my purse"

Can you please post a photo of yourself or your purse, and tell me in which neighborhood you live? Just out of curiosity. Thank you.

@Leigh you are my male hero. I really need to start doing that.

We used to goto Epicurean in troy for breakfast on weekends. Ever since they have closed that place and moved to Latham as their main store ( and have stopped breakfast option) I really dont feel like going anywhere else :((((

Really miss that quaint little place! Sob*

Well, all the previous commenters took the words out of my mouth, but I will point out that it's the National Register of Historic Places, not Registry.

My stomach is growling.

Editors: Thanks for catching that. Fixed.

The Chuck Wagon Diner on Rt. 20 in Princetown is pretty boss for breakfast. The sausage gravy on biscuits can keep you filled for an entire day!

Jake Moon's on 443 in Clarksville. The decor is lacking to say the least, but their scrambles are the best breakfast in the area. Real maple syrup, lots of toast options on homemade bread, homemade jam and lots of local ingredients. I might regret the new customers, but they deserve the recognition. You can even do some caving after breakfast if you're not feeling too full.

Schag-a-Val in Schaghticoke (next to the fair grounds) is good and cheap.

Halfmoon Diner in CP was the worst breakfast I've ever had.

This is a great write up, but I am compelled to add my $.02. Taste is a very personal thing, and we all have different barometers for what makes a great diner. So what follows are a few specific hits and misses from my experiences at the diners listed above and others.

MAD: Their corned beef hash didn't sit well with me, but I did enjoy the Georgia eggs. Peanut butter and eggs sounds like a questionable pairing, but they make it work.

Jacks: I am not a fan of their omelet. It's actually an insult to the form. They make theirs by spreading the eggs on a flat griddle, cooking them through, and folding them into an omelet shape. It creates a layer of crust that runs through the "omelet" which is a major fault.

Manory's: It may be great, but the sausage and biscuits aren't. Those are terrible. Maybe beyond terrible. My gravy was gloppy and my biscuit was chewy. Yuck-a-doo.

Dan's Place II: I saw what they do to sausage links on the griddle, and they looked amazing. Didn't get a chance to try one, but I hope to on my next visit. Skip their oatmeal. And just know their corned beef hash comes out of a can.

Dewey's: It's my personal favorite in the area. If you haven't been, you should. But if you order the chili-cheese omelet, you get what's coming to you. Despite a few land mines, I love love love this place, and don't go nearly enough.

Inga's: Don't be confused by its proximity to Dewey's sign. It's open on Sunday, but it's not as good as its neighbor.

I was happy to see Manory's on the list, I'm always torn between biscuits & gravy and banana walnut pancakes.

@ Daniel B.: I'm not accustomed to "good" biscuits & gravy I suppose, but I'd love to know where else you can get this around here.

The Window Box Cafe at the corners of 85 and 85A is AWESOME, one of the only places I've found that makes their own sausage gravy with biscuits AND corned beef hash! I know there are other places that make one or the other, but both?! Always check the specials board- the other day they had SOS! Great coffee and quick service.

Eli's in Schuylerville is excellent and Old Saratoga Books is on the same block as a bonus!

@DanB - We tried MULTIPLE times to go to Dewys ( sat morning, sun morning) and every time we pulled up they were closed! Are you sure they are still open for business?

My favorite is Sam's Home Cooking on Lark Street. Great food, great prices. He has an old style mechanical cash register and probably the best cup of regular coffee I've ever had.

Ms. Helen Waite is his credit manager though, if you want credit you have to go to Helen Waite. ;)


Duncans, the best of the bunch by far. Real butter on _everything_. No real maple syrup though. They stopped doing that about 15 years ago iirc. They bake everything they serve right there too.

And how did the Latham 76 Diner escape notice?

While these are all fine establishments, the true hidden gem of the Capital Region is The Blue Star Cafe in Schenectady. Awesome Cozy place, the owners make it feel like your having breakfast at home. All baked goods made fresh in the morning by the owner & she makes THE BEST homemade Cinnabons around. I sometimes run fake errands on Sunday mornings just to get them, don't tell the wife. I've tried something new everytime and everytime the food has been on point. The daily specials are always great. 5 stars for the Blue Star Cafe.

Great article. I love the photos!

@ Jackers: I'm with you Re: the signs at MAD. There are so many RULES there. I don't care for (capital R)Rules with my breakfast. What if I make a mistake and break a rule? Too much pressure for the first meal of the day. I really prefer Inga's Diner on Fuller for their Trucker Special. It's served with home fries, but no irony.

@Daniel B: I actually love corned beef hash out of a can. One of my favorite things ever.

Dan's Place II (better known as Dirty Dan's) has my favorite diner sign instructing patrons not to curse.

@Summer - FWIW the big man at the grill of Dan's Place II put a magnificent crust on the hash from a can. I am well aware that it has its fans. But given the discussion of house-made hash earlier, I thought the fact should be noted.

i miss jerry's on madison ave, albany. you could get breakfast at any hour. everybody went there. students, gamblers,tennis players. i even met goldie hawn and her former husband, bill hudson. they got out of a white rolls royce. she had dirty blonde hair, big sunglasses, and a white maternity dress on. i think they thought they were going to joe's "famous deli" on the next block. when the owners would not take personal check. i should have offered to pay , and kept their check. she had just won an award for cactus flower! i got their autograph on the people magazine she just appeared on!

when i saw manory's on the list i almost cried. i used to go there with my ex-fiance . he was an rpi student. that name brings back so many delicious memories. good times , great food. oh, the good old days of down town troy! shopping nights on thursday night, shopping at the campus blouse barn, diners at the volcano, or verdiles, visits to my great uncles farm in brunswick, then ending the evening at my other great uncle's tavern the 5'ls on congress street. the 5'ls was on congress street near the troy club. they had a player piano, big maple bar, a scottie dog, served big club sandwiches,, and nestleman pie.my uncle dave looked like the esquire man, his gal jan was tall , had a cignon.they traveled around the world, and brought us back leather bags from morroco, and kimonos from japan. his brother was the cheif steward on the cunard line. sorry to ramble, don't forget peter,a and in troy also!

@mg Nestleman pie? What is this pie of which you speak?

the window box on new scotland, heading towards voorheesville/thacher park is great.

Dan's Place II (better known as Dirty Dan's) has my favorite diner sign instructing patrons not to curse.

Heheh, and that rule is much more than just a sign. A number of years back, I used to lived in that neighborhood. Late at night, they would yell at people who swore.

This is great! IMHO, per capita, this region doesn't have enough good diners and lunch-counter places as opposed to downstate Hudson Valley and Long Island (much farther afield: try the Historic Village Diner in Red Hook and The Big Tomato in Poughkeepsie), and that's a shame - maybe the McDonald's and Chili's of the world killed too many of them off in this region. Thankfully, the Albany area is blessed with plenty of good local small-business "Foodie" Food places (for lack of a better way to categorize them), and we all love them, me included. Thanks for giving the local small-business diners some love, too.

Like Dan B., I like Dewey's, but I can never seem to get there when they're open. A lot of diners in this area seem to close at around 2 p.m., which is crazy to someone like me who doesn't like to eat lunch until that time. Whether it's economics or habit or what, to me, that's a problem with Dewey's, Ms. Albany (agree with Jackers on the signs), Uncle Milty's out on Route 9W in Glenmont and the old Jack's Diner. I love that the newly revamped Jack's Diner is now open late, even for dinner - I think they close at 9 p.m. some nights.

I'm a big fan of Jack's re-boot (though I miss having the griddle out in the open behind the counter, so you can watch a short-order cook in action). Food is good, bathrooms are clean, the place looks great! Wishing them the best. They're in the same neighborhood as Swinburne Park and the Food Co-Op, so there's two ways you can combine a trip to Jack's!

Haven't been to Dan's Place II in a while - though I think I am legally restricted to having their Emmy Burger (or is it the Bull Burger?) with the fried egg on top of a cheeseburger only once a year. But thumbs up for Dan's, too.

AOA, can a Diner Guide map be in the offing? (or is there an existing one and I completely missed it?)

South Troy Diner is pretty good too. Check it out. Nice waitstaff.

I ate at Inga's Diner with a friend a while back, the food was good though not outstanding, the place was clean. The service was friendly- which I can't say about Dewey's.

Uncle Milty's out in Glenmont can be very good though its tends to be crowded on weekends.

I wish that the Miss Albany was as good as it thinks it is. I've got one personal problem with the place that even good food can't address- the (very original and authentic) stools and booths are the hardest and most uncomfortable I've encountered in the district- my 54 old frame just can't enjoy them.

Loved reading your Top Five. I agree with Chris that The Blue Benn in Bennington is fantastic! Other diners we've loved over the years: that little tiny one in Cooperstown, kind of kitty corner from the bakery (at the other end of the street from the Hall of Fame), The Scotia Diner (please don't take it down to build apartments on the site), and Mike's on Erie Blvd. in Schenectady (I think it's called Mike's; it's the one with the old sign advertising their hot dogs). Now I'm hungry.

You guys totally forgot Duncan's in Brunswick!! Hands down best breakfast in the Capital Region!

Agree with the posters commenting on the signs at the MAD. And believe me - DON'T enter the premises with a child. Went there a few years back with my restaurant-acclimated and very well behaved 2 year old and we were treated so disrespectfully we have never been back.

MAD is a nice place to impress your girlfriend's parents, but true diner fans go out several times a week, and MAD is a tad too pricey for that.

JACK'S was awesome when "Jack" (actually John) was still there. The corned beef hash was to die for. Only been back once since Jack left and the food was nothing special. Basically, what you would expect from any of the larger greek diners, which is fine, but not what one typically goes to a place like Jack's for.

DEWEY'S is awesome. A Monday-Friday breakfast & lunch joint only, however, except when motorcycle cruising season is over, at which point they also open on Saturdays.

Speaking of Monday-Friday joints, I don't see a mention here of PETER PAUSE in Schenectady. Worth a breakfast trip just for their fat toasted slices of homemade Italian bread

Planning to check out DANS again very soon. Went once and liked the atmosphere, but was disappointed by the corned beef hash. I will try the sausage next time.

And it sounds like I really need to check out MANORY'S.

Other faves:
UGLY ROOSTER
GLOVERSVILLE PALACE
SOUTH 30 DINER (Amsterdam)
BLUE BENN
JAKE MOON'S

Unfortunately, we are all mourning the loss of the Miss Albany Diner as they closed their doors for good. This is a tremendous loss to say the least.

Had a wonderful breakfast at Jack's diner a while back. Eggs benedict rocks! She left out Quintessence, Inga's, and The Gateway. I am getting hungry.

You left out the Home Front Cafe in Altamont! Friendly service, decent food, and the most amazing World War II themed decor. Altamont is well worth a visit as well, it's a lovely village with beautiful surroundings.

Ok well i went to capitol diner with my son the other day and the food was horrible and way too expensive.......you got very small amounts and had to pay extra for every little thing NEVER AGAIN....

I Believe point cafe in Schenectady is fab good prices great home cooked food very friendly if you are in the belleview area of Schenectady def stop in you wont be sorry !

The illium in troy is an excellent breakfast spot. Killer omelettes n pancakes. And different breakfast specials daily.

Circle Diner in Latham, Dans Too in Albany. Those are the best.

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