World War II breakfast at the Home Front Cafe
I’m always complaining about the dearth of good breakfast options in Albany. There’s the Miss Albany Diner, Ramona’s on Lark Street, Cafe Madison and maybe a few other places. To be honest, I still miss the Bagel Bite, which made a great pesto/sun-dried tomato omelet and was always crowded, but inexplicably closed up shop a few years ago.
Last weekend I ate breakfast at a great little restaurant in downtown Altamont that’s definitely worth a trip, and not just because it’s a pretty drive with a nice view of the Helderberg Escarpment and surrounding hills. Called the Home Front Cafe, the restaurant has good, cheap breakfast food, but also looks and feels a bit like a mom-and-pop military museum.
The place is decorated with World War II memorabilia — the walls and tables are covered with World War II-themed newspaper clippings, postcards, photographs and drawings. There are vintage toys and cash registers, classic movie posters (“Casablanca”), classic album covers (Bing Crosby) and old military uniforms. I noticed war ration cards, a Rosie the Riveter pot holder and posters urging people to buy war bonds. Out front, a table is covered with fliers and brochures for military museums, programs and groups, such as the Leatherstocking Honor Flight, an all-volunteer organization that provides World War II veterans with free trips to Washington, D.C. There’s even an old-fashioned ice cream parlor, although a hand-written sign informs visitors that “Just like the black bears, our soft serve ice cream has gone into hibernation for the winter.”
Two weeks ago I interviewed several World War II veterans who served in Japan, and asked them about their experiences and how they felt about the ongoing tsunami/earthquake/nuclear power plant crisis. They were all very eloquent and thoughtful; two of them had visited Hiroshima, and had seen the devastation caused by the atomic bomb firsthand. “If you saw pictures of the tsunami, that’s what [Hiroshima] was like,” Saratoga Springs resident Sid Gordon told me. “The bomb was quicker. The bomb took seconds.” After the article ran, an 88-year-old War World II veteran from Amsterdam emailed to tell me that he had been stationed in both Hiroshima and Fukushima, where the troubled nuclear power plant is located. “Now I watch TV and see Japan in shambles ... men and women crying ... children seeking homes and parents looking for their children,” the man wrote. “When I left my job [to] return home, the Japanese police chief organized a large farewell party for me ... and I was presented with gifts to take home for my family. Now I watch the progeny of these people who became my friends and work hard to hold back the tears.”
Speaking to these veterans got me thinking about World War II. The trip to The Home Front Cafe got me thinking about it even more. It’s a restaurant that’s set in the past, with the goal of honoring those who served in World War II, and giving people too young to remember the war a deeper appreciation for military sacrifice. On Yelp, a person aptly summed up The Home Front Cafe by writing, “Everyone has a quiet elderly uncle or grandfather who had fought in WWII but would never really evince a willingness to share his experiences. The Home Front Cafe is where you might take that guy.” My friend Philip described The Home Front Cafe as a “hidden treasure,” and I have to agree. I have an affection for old diners and cheap breakfast spots to begin with, and this place was a real discovery. I ordered the cheese and bacon omelet, a glass of orange juice and a corn muffin with butter, toasted on the grill. And it was all very good.
I ran a Gazette library search for the Home Front Cafe, and found a restaurant review from 2001. I learn that owner Cindy Pollard opened the restaurant in the late 1990s, with “memories of her own childhood in mind. Her father and uncles served in the war and she recalls listening to the radio in the 1940s to hear of news from the front. She created the look of a restaurant of that era with floral tablecloths from her thrift shop next door and paper memorabilia she had collected as superintendent of a museum at the Altamont Fair.”
In any case, I suspect that a return trip to The Home Front Cafe is in order ... perhaps once the soft serve ice cream machine is running again.
Got a comment? Email me at email@example.com.