Ferris Bueller said, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” The same can be said for Central Ave in Albany. It moves pretty fast, and if you’re not paying attention, you’ll drive right by Jack’s Diner.
Jack’s is surrounded by numerous other businesses in a busy section of Central Ave. It’s frequented by college kids and locals looking for a good breakfast or lunch on the cheap. Though the parking lot is tiny and could fit only 7 or 8 cars, there is ample parking across the street, so don’t let that deter you.
When you walk into Jack’s, one of the first things you notice is the old-timey diner car ambiance. There is chrome as far as the eye can see, and counter seating for about 15+ people. Jack’s desserts and cans of soda are in a display case behind the counter with sliding glass doors. Booths are decently comfortable, though not the best we’ve seen–you can tell they’ve been broken in, but that’s not a bad thing. They were playing some soft rock/pop station in the background…I find that music is one of those things that you miss when it’s absent, but don’t notice as much when it’s on.
We each ordered a water and a coffee as we perused the menu. Prices are pretty average as far as diners go, and the selection was better than basic. Their breakfast and lunch menu items sounded great, and much of it was homemade. I went for the French onion soup and a Philly cheese steak wrap, because I was feeling worldly, and Matt ordered a grilled homemade corn muffin and a Belgian waffle with a side of corned beef hash. The waitress asked if he wanted homemade or canned hash, and he made the only logical choice. (Always go with homemade.)
While waiting for our food, which wasn’t long, we tasted the water and coffee. We rated the water a 3, as it’s totally drinkable but not overwhelmingly pure-tasting. The coffee was a low 3, as it tasted a bit watered down and burned. It needed creamers and sugar to be tolerable.
The food itself was fantastic; Matt’s grilled corn muffin was delicious, toasted perfectly and made even better with the AA grade whipped butter that was available. My French onion soup was great, it could have stayed in the oven a bit longer to crisp the top of the cheese, but was by far the best soup I’ve had at a diner in a long time. I could actually see the bits of garlic that went into it, and I had a bay leaf in it, which I’ve heard is lucky (and I’m totally choosing to believe that). The cheese steak wrap was fabulous, with thick slices of grilled green peppers and onions, and a side of fries that were cooked perfectly. Matt’s Belgian waffle with sliced banana, butter and whipped cream was delicious, and the homemade corned beef hash was better than 90% of the hash we’ve had at diners before.
The waitstaff at Jack’s Diner is friendly and helpful, and service is a 5. Jack’s is getting a 5 on dinerness as well, since the place essentially looks like it was an old dining car at some point. We got a handwritten bill at the end, which you really don’t see at many places anymore, and the formica-topped counter and tables all matched. There are numerous framed black and white photos of Albany in the old days; the one I found most interesting was of The Egg being built.
Jack’s Diner is a great place to stop any day of the week, and has a particularly chill crowd on the weekend. Our experience was positive and we would definitely go back soon, if it weren’t for our goal to visit a new spot every week.