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Cafe 217 sits at 12.5 Delaware Avenue in Albany. It's one block from Madison Avenue. There's a sign hanging above the building, but it's at an angle that can't always be seen. When we went to visit, we weren't even sure if 217 was open at first. There was little to no lighting inside. Alas, we tried the door, and it opened. We were greeted, and ushered to a booth.
The decor is very "Secret Garden." The drapes have a Euro feel, and there are wrought iron gates affixed to the walls. Cafe 217 presents a laid back atmosphere (the sparse lighting), mixed with mild sophistication (cloth napkins with napkin rings).
Our visit was interesting, in many ways. We were intrigued by the homemade corned beef hash, and chipotle sweet potato hash on their online menu. Brian, who's not a fan of onions, asked if the hash had onions. Our server didn't know so he went back to check. It was a plus that he went to check. We felt it was a minus that he did not know the menu. The server came back to report that the hash did have onions and peppers.
With this in mind, Brian ordered their Strawberry Cream Stuffed French Toast. I ordered the Corned Beef Hash & Eggs, with a side of Chipotle Sweet Potato Hash. I enjoy the flavor enhancement of onions, so I was excited to try both their hash offerings. For my eggs, I asked for them to be scrambled soft.
Brian's French Toast was not stuffed. They were two slices of thick french toast, with a strawberry cream sauce ladeled over the top. That said, the french toast was by far the most amazing french toast he's ever had (too bad it was on special, and not the regular menu). The sauce was immensely flavorful, without being too sweet. The batter went throughout the bread, and it was rich and flavorful. The dish came with a side of homefries. Honestly, they added nothing to the dish. Though cooked well, the potatoes had zero flavor.
My dish was a disappointment. The eggs were not scrambled soft. They were scrambled through, which presents a firm, almost tough, texture which was not what I wanted. The hash was also disappointing. While the Corned Beef Hash had flavor, what I enjoy most about a homemade Corned Beef Hash is the briney, fatty taste of the corned beef. Unfortunately, the sheer volume of peppers and onions completely overpowered any other flavor. I knew I was chewing on protein, but I would have been hard pressed to identify it as corned beef.
Equally disappointing was the Chipotle Hash. It had a nice kick, but my expectation was to taste the corned beef, and the sweetness of the sweet potatoes. Most of what I tasted was spice, with a touch of the sweet potato sweetness. Then, there was the abundance of peppers and onions. For me, it was a sad state of affairs for Corned Beef & Sweet Potato Hash. Brian was able to taste the corned beef, from the spoonful he took, but that was only because he picked everything else out first. Quite honestly, the best part about my dish was the wheat toast. It was buttered, and grilled to perfection on the flat top.
A couple of odd tid bits (apart from anything that's factored into this review) include a notice on their menu that state they "reserve the right to add 18% gratuity to any bill." That raises an eyebrow (or two) for me. There seems to be a "nickle and dime" theme with this restaurant. Sodas are not ree refills, but they don't tell you that up front (you have to ask). When asking for condiments (other than salt and pepper) you receive tobasco for free, but Frank's Red Hot Sauce is a $0.50 up charge. Last, the coffee is the most expensive breakfast coffee I think I've ever seen. It's $2.25. I don't normally mention coffee at a breakfast shop, but this just astounded me enough to. I wonder if coffee refills were also not free. I'd have asked, but I only drink 1 cup with breakfast.
All in all, this visit was intriguing, but we're not sure if it was intrguing enough to return.
|Corned Beef Hash & Eggs||Strawberry Cream Stuffed French Toast|