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The Frugal Forager: Open 24 hours, Bob’s Diner is great place to eat and talk

Sunday, June 9, 2013
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— “What do people come to Bob’s Diner for?” I asked Tracey, who has lived here all her life. I was hoping to learn about a local favorite or special food item, instead she replied, “Conversation.”

You can get breakfast, lunch, or dinner at Bob’s, and it’s open 24 hours, seven days a week, with a few exceptions for major holidays. The menu is extensive and the price is right — three eggs with toast is $3.35, a deluxe burger platter with french fries and a deli salad is $6.45, and chicken Parm with spaghetti and small salad is $10.95.

Breakfast takes up two of the eight pages of the menu. Tracey and her friends go there after bowling; they like the free coffee refills, and she likes a late-night egg-on-a-roll.

Bob’s Diner

WHERE: 929 19th St., Watervliet. 274-2393, bobsdinerny.com

WHEN: Open 24 hours, seven days a week except for Thanksgiving, Chrismas Eve, and Christmas

HOW MUCH: $23.39 before tip

MORE INFO: Children’s menu. Wheelchair accessible. Credit cards: MasterCard, Visa, American Express, Discover

I got the answer I was looking for a few minutes later. “The sausage is good,” she said, “and the corned beef hash.” It was 9 a.m., and Bob’s was sleepy at this hour. The dining room was about half full, although all eight stools at the counter were occupied. Servers moved noiselessly and efficiently, stopping by to top off Tracey’s coffee each time it fell an inch.

Fixture in the city

I got there first and took a booth by the front window. As I nursed my hot tea, I took a look around. Bob’s is in its 33rd year. The small rectangular wooden building on 19th Street is just a few yards east of the rail line that runs between Albany and Montreal. The decor is knotty pine, Formica, acoustical tile ceiling and industrial floor, but it looks clean and it isn’t cluttered. Small cereal boxes are stacked neatly over the bakery case behind the counter, and black and white photos of Watervliet line the walls. Everyone is pleasant.

Hot tea in restaurants is usually a disappointment. Though this wasn’t much better, I was pleased by their attention to detail: Around the time the tea bag had finished its job, a small plastic cup for its disposal appeared. Though there was a pile of chilled creamers on the table, they remembered I had asked for milk, and later, offered to top it off with hot water. Bob’s understands the importance of caffeinated drinks.

Eggs times three

At Bob’s, eggs come in threes, so I got three scrambled with home fries and toast ($5.05). Instead of toast, I asked for a hard roll, and it came split and grilled, browned and a bit greasy, but in a good way. This is breakfast, after all. The eggs were frozen in place in a swirl of pale yellow.

The hash browns, made from cubed white potato were light, almost fluffy, a bit crumbly, with crisped browned bits that were delicious. I finished the hard roll, which was soft, but addictive.

Tracey got the big breakfast ($7.95), a mammoth meal with two pancakes, three eggs, bacon, sausage and rye toast. Butter melted easily on the hot pancakes, as large as their plate. You should choose the rye bread for your toast; it’s hearty, a bit sour, with a chewy, substantial crust, authentic. Bob’s gets points for actually toasting bread until it’s browned. I have serious objections to undercooked toast.

Tracey passed me a bit of sausage link, which was snappy and well-seasoned. The bacon is crispy but it’s not as good as the sausage. Her over-easy eggs were perfect, with runny yellow yolks she used to dunk her toast. All in all, a hearty, delicious, and comforting meal.

Bob’s doesn’t make desserts, but the server talked up the pies. “The chocolate cream is delicious if you like chocolate, there’s lemon meringue, banana cream with slices of banana, and apple crumb,” she said, clearly reminiscing about slices she has enjoyed.

Tracey and I shared a slice of apple crumb pie with crispy fresh apple slices and a thick topping of cinnamon-flavored fat crumbs just like my family makes. She was right, they have excellent pies.

We settled up the tab ($23.39 with coffee and tea before tip) and got on with our day, well-fueled and off to a good start from Bob’s.

 
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