Brunching about: Carmen's Café

carmen's cafe troy exterior 2015-June

By Lauren Hittinger

Lauren has set out to survey a handful of brunch spots around the Capital Region for a short series.

Every once in a while there is a popular local business that completely slips under my radar. As a dedicated Trojan, I'm embarrassed to say that Carmen's Café has evaded me. Even though Carmen's has a devoted following, and has been voted "best brunch" in a few local polls, I made my first visit this summer.

Carmen's is a cozy Cuban/Spanish restaurant located on the corner of a quiet residential block just to the southwest of Washington Park in Troy, so it's probably not the sort of spot a lot of people will just happen upon. You have to go looking for it, as I did recently, in search of delicious brunch.

Food

Carmen's has a fairly lengthy brunch menu that covers both breakfast and lunch-type options. For breakfast, the savory choices outnumber the sweet choices, with a wide selection of eggs and omelets. You can order typical diner foods like eggs and hash browns, or crank up the Cuban style with salsa, black beans, and plantains. The sweet options are primarily limited to pancakes and French toast.

If you're one of those people that likes to eat lunch options on weekend mornings, you'll be pleased to find salads, stews, and sandwiches available at Carmen's. The empanadas and Cubano sandwich caught my eye, but I don't believe in straying from breakfast foods when they're available. Most of the brunch options cost right around $10 each.

carmens_cafe_troy_ranch_eggs.jpg

I ordered the Ranch Eggs, which consisted of two eggs, mashed black beans, tomato chili sauce, and lime crème. It also came with toast, and hash, which was available with chorizo, or as veggie hash. I really enjoyed my flavorful eggs, but I loved the beans even more -- they were awesomely well cooked, and the sort of mashed-up black beans that make you feel warm and full. The tomato sauce was spicy and flavorful, and the lime crème was a nice tangy addition to the plate. As a vegetarian, I was excited to have the option of veggie hash, which was made with shredded veggies and something salsa-like mixed in.

My tasting partner ordered the pancakes, which were delightfully light, fluffy, and dinner-plate sized. While they were basic pancakes, I found them to be a wonderful comfort food for a rainy day.

We also ordered yucca fries, which were crispy, slightly sweet, and reminded me of potato wedges.

carmens_cafe_troy_yucca_fries_pancakes.jpg

Booze situation

For alcohol options, Carmen's primarily sells beer and wine, with about 10 types of red and white wines available by the glass or the bottle. There are a handful of craft beer-type options available, including Hoponuis Union by Jack's Abby and Nine Pin Cider. You can order champagne by the bottle, or try the limited number of brunch cocktails made with saki.

We tried the red sangria, which was about six ounces of drink, or as I like to call it, "breakfast sized." It was flavorful and fruity, with orange and grape flavors popping through.

In terms of nonalcoholic beverages, the coffee was hot and plentiful, but not particularly notable. Espresso beverages, juice, tea, and sodas are also on the menu.

Ambiance

carmens_cafe_troy_interior.jpg

The interior of Carmen's is quite small, and was bustling for the entire Sunday morning that we were there. The clientele was a mix between 20- and 30-somethings, young families, and larger groups. Local art graces the walls, which added to the cozy and homey feel. For nice weather there are outside streetside seats in addition to the interior tables.

Unfortunately, I have some bad news about my experience at Carmen's. While we were seated immediately and quickly served beverages, it was over an hour from when we placed our order to when the food arrived. It really soured my experience, even though the service was friendly and the food was delicious. Just keep that in mind if you're in a rush to get out the door.

Ideal for...

Even though I was unhappy about the long wait, I would still recommend stopping at Carmen's Café. This brunch would be ideal for a solo person who wants to sit at one of the bar seats with a book or newspaper during a leisurely weekend morning.

You get bonus points if you're a person of Troy, since you're sure to run into someone that you know.

Lauren Hittinger writes about shopping, crafting, and living well on a small budget at The Thrifty Ginger.

More brunching about: City Beer Hall

Find It

Carmen's Cafe
198 1st Street
Troy, NY 12180

Comments

Flan. French. Toast.

Carmen has also begun serving food at the Troy Farmer's Market.

This is a great reflection on my months of many visits to Carmen's. Super slow service but awesome food. Worth the wait if you can stand it.

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