Brunching about: Iron Gate Cafe

Iron Gate Cafe exterior front

By Lauren Hittinger

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

A tour of brunch locations wouldn't be complete without a visit to Iron Gate Café. This spot is well beloved, and I received many suggestions to stop by on my great breakfast quest.

I'm not surprised that people love this quirky downtown Albany spot, since it has a gorgeous patio and brisk service. If you're looking for a simple, savory, and satisfying breakfast, Iron Gate is the place.

Food

The brunch menu at Iron Gate focuses on hearty and savory choices, and only has a limited selection of sweet breakfast foods, like pancakes and French toast. The other breakfast options feature a handful of benedicts, omelets, and various egg scrambles and wraps. The morning menu also has a serious nod to Iron Gate's lunch service, as there are a wide variety of soups, salads, and sandwiches up for grabs. In addition to the standard printed menu, there was a supplemental specials list that included things like shrimp & grits, and a fresh fruit parfait.

Iron_Gate_Cafe_garden_state_wrap.jpg

I was excited to see a variety of vegetarian and vegan options on the menu, so I selected the Garden State Wrap, which features Morningstar veggie sausage alongside avocado, peppers, onions, tomatoes, pepper jack cheese, and eggs. The wrap was a nice blend of simple, straightforward ingredients. The veggie sausage lent a maple flavor, and the flour tortilla satiated my carb-loving palate. The wrap tasted fresh and bright, and was like diner food turned up a few notches. The side of home fries was warm, crispy, and reminiscent of steak fries. I also received a small side of fruit, which although pretty simple, was fresh and a nice touch.

Iron_Gate_Cafe_french_toast_sandwich.jpg

My brunch date ordered the stuffed French toast with bacon, which was a breakfast sandwich composition of egg, cheese, and meat between two large pieces of battered and grilled Texas toast. He described the creation as a more hearty version of an egg sandwich. Adding a little syrup boosted the flavors and added a pleasant sweetness to the dish.

Our impression of the brunch fare at Iron Gate is that they serve real food with each basic ingredient well represented in the dish. There wasn't anything particularly fancy about either of our choices, and there were no elaborate sauces or exotic components. That said, the food was delicious and each ingredient and flavor spoke for itself. The portions are absolutely perfect to satisfy without stuffing yourself, and most menu items were right around $10.

Booze Situation

If you're looking to relax a little over brunch, Iron Gate has you covered with both classic cocktails like the Mimosa and Bloody Mary, but also with some other creations featuring peach nectar, cranberry juice, and the like. And if you're really looking to stretch out brunch, order a pitcher of cocktails for the table. Beer and wine are available as well.

If you're not interested in day drinking, there's also coffee, espresso beverages, tea, or juice instead. We unfortunately did not imbibe, so I can't speak to the quality of the alcoholic selections. The coffee was not particularly notable one way or another, but it was rapidly refilled throughout our brunch.

Ambiance

Iron_Gate_Cafe_courtyard.jpg

Iron Gate has an unusual mix of different styles. The front patio is so quaint and peaceful for its location on Washington Avenue; it's almost like being in a secret garden. (Unfortunately, the rainy day that I visited meant that everyone had to eat indoors.) The interior setup of the restaurant is a series of small, interconnected rooms, which gives the space a cozy feel. And then there's loads of Elvis memorabilia, which I'm not 100 percent sure how to reconcile with the rest of the space, but it was there on every wall and shelf.

Fortunately for the two of us, we were seated almost immediately after we arrived at Iron Gate, ahead of a number of larger groups waiting for a table. Our service was very fast and kind, with someone checking in on regular intervals. The restaurant did get a little loud, but that may be attributed to the toddlers and college students who brunching nearby.

Ideal for...

Iron_Gate_Cafe_menu_board.jpg

Even with the decibel level, I would think Iron Gate is the perfect spot for a hangover brunch with your friends. The simple food will sit great with your stomach, and lively individuals can keep the booze train going while you review misadventures with your pals.

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

More brunching about:
+ Carmen's Café
+ City Beer Hall

Find It

Iron Gate Cafe
182 Washington Ave
Albany, NY 12210

Comments

I've been there for breakfast and lunch a few times, but not brunch. Sounds worthy of exploring. Does this place have a bathroom? I don't remember there being one (and the inside is also very small). I am disabled and they are handicapped accessible (as far as I remember).

xina-- There is a bathroom, but I'm not sure how accessible it is. It's right across from the kitchen.

If I had to guess, I think part of Iron Gate, but not the whole restaurant, is handicapped accessible. They have the ramp at the entrance, but where I was dining had a step down into the room. I'd call to double check if I were you.

Xina - The inside is not actually that small. (I've never used a bathroom there, but I'm sure they have one) There are a few rooms straight back from the main entrance (the ones decorated with Elvis and other rock & roll memorabilia), but then there's another two (or three?) rooms to the right that are decorated like a grandparent's dining room - bookshelves, long drapes, kicknacks. The eclectic style is part of the charm :D

The vegan options at Iron Gate are awesome. I really like the Buffalo seitan wrap, the black bean burger and the vegan breakfast sandwich. Have never been for brunch, but plan to!

The statement "There wasn't anything particularly fancy about either of our choices, and there were no elaborate sauces or exotic components" is entirely misleading. The Benedict dishes at Iron Gate are master pieces. They have a Florentine Benedict with pesto hollandaise and a black bean benedict with a pepper jack hollandiase that is interesting and delicious. Iron Gate also has a fixed menu of great dishes as well as a brunch special menu which rotates weekly. I recommend this place to everyone and think the critique did not do it justice.

I can confirm that there are restrooms. Three of them in fact with I believe the handicapped accessible restroom being the one near the kitchen. It's fairly large inside with a few dining rooms as well as outdoor seating.

As far as dishes go, they can be exotic, fancy, and delicious. Pepper jack hollandaise is a must try.

too bad the article does not mention the vegan/vegetarian options

This place has the absolute best bloody marys I have ever had.

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