Cook’s Deli – Albany, NY

When I served on a jury down on Broadway in Albany, the sight of a small luncheonette called Cook’s Deli, right next to the ubiquitous Jack’s Oyster House on State Street, was something that chipped away at my willpower over the five day stint.

On weekdays, days that I work out, I usually either do a protein shake or a cup of oatmeal with extra protein. On the last morning of my service, I figured I’d stop in to try a quick sandwich and to see what it was all about. Whatever. It was my birthday, and I trained really hard that week.

It was a little awkward because, as I grabbed the handle to open the door, I spotted the prosecuting attorney on the case I was assigned to, and we’re not supposed to associate in any way. So I very obviously held a newspaper up in front of my face in the most awkward way possible as I walked past her. Luckily, there are two dining areas that are separated by the kitchen, where you order your breakfast or lunch. I sat in the area where she wasn’t.

I took a moment to look over the menu, and I decided on a sausage, egg, and cheese sandwich, but I wanted it to hold me over for a while. I doubled the sausage and then talked to the nice man at the grill about their bread options. They had the usual white, wheat, rye and English muffin and also offer a hard roll as an option for an additional charge. Once the guy showed me the hard roll, choosing that was a no-brainer. For my double sausage, egg, and cheese on hard roll and a bottle of diet Nestea Iced Tea, I spent about $7.

While I was waiting for the sandwich, I overheard a number of conversations. The clientele ranged from people wearing suits to people wearing construction helmets. The dudes with construction helmets were all about breaking chops, but in some of those silly conversations, I found out Cook’s has been there for 23 years. That’s a pretty good record.

I don’t want to unwrap this any more than I should, but it was a really good breakfast. The bread was toasted nicely, the sausage was grilled with a nice crust but was tender inside, the egg was barely cooked over hard (my request), and the cheese oozed nicely throughout the whole thing. What more can I say?

What I thought was special about the place was the effort that was going into the stuff they were putting together for the day. One guy was making mac and cheese, and his explanation of it to a curious customer sounded awesome. Another guy was working on gravy and other hot sauces that were going to be served with their lunches, one of which is meatloaf, which a different guy was working on. It’s clear that they’re not just mixing sauces from a can or flopping frozen stuff onto a griddle and serving it. They also cater, which I noticed by flipping through their paper menu, and the catering isn’t expensive at all. I guess that would work out great if your office is nearby.

It would be nice if mine was…


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