Potato pancakes with sour cream and apple sauce, kielbasa, noodles, galumbki and pierogi are among the Polish specialties available at the State Street Station in Schenectady on Wednesdays. (photo: BEVERLY M. ELANDER/FOR THE SUNDAY GAZETTE)
SCHENECTADY You just might be entertained with live accordion music while you’re eating at the State Street Station in Schenectady, but more certain is that you’ll see and hear a train.
It’s that kind of lively, friendly place where you’ll find yourself smiling even before the food arrives.
Take the ambience. It’s a former train car on State Street just west of Route 7 that was converted to a restaurant in the 1930s and, prior to the Station, was known as Garbo’s. Besides the pictures of trains on the walls, there is a little train on an elevated track that circles the perimeter of the restaurant’s interior.
The train makes an occasional run around the track while one of the staff blows on a train whistle.
State Street Station
WHERE: 1579 State St., Schenectady. 382-8383
WHEN: 6 a.m.-2 p.m. Sunday; 6 a.m.-3 p.m. Tuesday, Friday and Saturday; 6 a.m.-7 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday
OTHER INFO: All major credit cards except Discover; not handicapped-accessible; kids’ menu available
You might find this a distraction from your dining experience anywhere else, but at the Station it just seems right.
The State Street Station was opened by Doug Cath and his family in March and already has built a regular corps of loyal customers with its tempting comfort food, well-prepared, generous meals that are reasonably priced.
The Station is open most days for breakfast and lunch only, but on Wednesdays and Thursdays you can have dinner there too. On Wednesdays, the menu features Polish cuisine, and on Thursdays it’s German Night.
On other days, it’s pure American comfort food, with dishes like turkey with gravy and biscuits and all the trimmings, or a pork loin dinner with stuffing and mashed potatoes ($10.95).
Burgers are on the menu and are made with only Black Angus beef, Cath told us in a conversation after we made a couple of visits there.
They also serve homemade lasagna and manicotti, and all the pasta is made on the premises, he said. (Cath works in the kitchen with chef Ryan Justin, a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America. Cath’s daughter Jennifer manages the front end of the operation.)
On the Thursday German nights, you can get wienerschnitzel, smoked chops or grilled ribs with sauerkraut and apples, among other specialties.
We had dinner at the Station on a recent Wednesday when Polish cuisine was the focus.
Ordinarily, Beverly and I order different dishes when we visit a restaurant, but on Polish night that made no sense.
Our dinner plates arrived steaming hot and heaped with big glossy pierogi stuffed with an onion-flavored potato puree, a large galumbki (stuffed cabbage roll) filled with rice, ground beef and sauce, buttery noodles and a smoky kielbasa. The portions are generous, far more than we would ever eat, but we were happy to carry home the leftovers for a future snack or lunch. The entire Polish night dinner is priced at $10.95.
We wanted to sample some of the other Polish night offerings and ordered a bowl of the borscht ($2.99) and a side order of potato pancakes ($5.99). The soup of beets, carrots and onions was served hot and was delightful in its savory flavor and chunky texture. The potato pancakes were nicely crisped and came with sour cream and/or applesauce. These were real potato pancakes — made from grated potatoes, not something out of a box — and we enjoyed their sweet-and-savory flavor immensely.
While the kielbasa was delicious, especially after being slathered with mustard, and the galumbki was pleasingly plump and flavorful, my personal favorites were the Station’s pierogi.
Glossy pillows of dough are stuffed generously with onion-flavored potato, and I topped mine with a small dollop of sour cream for extra flavor and contrast. Talk about gilding the lily.
We’ll return to the State Street Station sometime, perhaps for German night, but first we’ve got to work off those hefty plates of Polish food.
Much of the traditional food of Poland is heavy fare by our standards — specialties like the galumbki and pierogi served at the State Street Station. But if you think you’re being overserved at the restaurant, consider custom in Poland when company calls. Dinner guests in a Polish home can find it stretching over several hours, with three or more entrées during the course of the evening.