Good Food at Toll Gate…When they Have itAugust 16, 2010
Diner food isn’t fancy; it isn’t gourmet or neuveau. Sure, there are diners around that try and incorporate exotic elements and unexpected twists on classic diner cuisine, and that’s fine. But most people go to a diner for comfort food, and the mark of truly good diner is one that cooks those familiar dishes with a high level of skill and care. Any greasy-spoon cook can throw a slice of cheese on toast and call it grilled cheese, but it takes a real diner chef to make that grilled cheese a treat. The Toll Gate in Slingerlands is a diner that serves quality comfort food with no kooky surprises, and you will surely be satisfied with what you order…assuming they have it.
Toll Gate is mainly an ice cream parlor – they crank out scoops, sundaes, shakes and splits regularly during the summer. But the small dining area is great for families, especially ones with small children. The menu runs the gamut of classic diner food, from steaks, liver and bacon, fried chicken and meatloaf to burgers, sandwiches, fish fry’s and salads. It’s all reasonably priced – just about everything is under $10. The problem our two-family group ran into last night had nothing to do with quality – just availability. I asked about the scallops and was told that all shellfish was unavailable due to the situation in the Gulf of Mexico. Ok, that’s understandable. One member of our group ordered the fried chicken – that too was not available, but our server wasn’t sure why. Another person ordered the veggie burger – again, it was not in stock. One of the kids ordered the “bunny burger,” which was supposed to come with a little toy bunny on the top – but, and at this point not surprisingly, they were out of the toy bunnies. The server was embarrassed from having to constantly tell us they were out of everything – but eventually we all got something to eat.
The grilled cheese was done very well – the bread was crisp on the outside and moist on the inside, and the cheese was melted perfectly. My Reuben sandwich was outstanding; a small mound of very moist and well-seasoned corned beef was topped with – and I’m not sure how they did this – al dente sauerkraut! It was not the usual wet and mushy cabbage – it was tender but slightly crunchy, and had just a little brine. The Swiss cheese was melted to perfection, making the whole sandwich delicious. It didn’t even need the side of Russian dressing that it came with. Another in our group ordered the Philly Steak Sandwich, which was met with apprehension from the foodies in our group; but it turned out very well. The thinly sliced steak was mixed with onions, peppers and cheese, and the flavors blended well. The turkey club sandwich (which replaced the previously-desired fried chicken request) was fairly standard; the turkey seemed to be processed, packaged deli meat, which was a little disappointing. The kids had grilled cheese, chicken tenders and a bunny-less bunny burger, all of which were good enough for a kids’ menu.
It would not be a trip to Toll Gate without ice cream, and various flavors were consumed with great enthusiasm. Overall, once we settled on items that they actually had available, it was a good, family-friendly meal at a great price.
The MHK gives Toll Gate 3 out of 5 stars!