Lanie’s Café – October 2008
6.69 - 7.5, 7, 7, 7, 6.75, 6.5, 6, 5.75
(torn down - late 2012)

We all scuttled into the Monteverds’ entry, dodging a driving rain storm, and were warmly greeted. A wide assortment of appetizers awaited – a wooden-pineapple bowl of candy corn, cashews, and chocolate-covered nuts; shrimp cocktail; chicken tenders; fried mozzarella sticks; taco chips and salsa; and more. A couple wine varieties, a beer, and some soda comprised the liquid refreshments as we caught up on the news. Judy was back from DC grandmothering the twins while Tim held down the fort; Cairo-Durham news about contract and an unmentionable; the recently cool or wet weather; Kriss’ foray into the crock-collecting world; .... You would have thunk we had not seen each other for a couple months!
               Having spent an hour at the Monteverds, we left at 5:45 (a very early meeting, for us) in the windswept rain, taking the “through the countryside” route to 32, winding our way across LaGrange, the roundabouts, an extra roundabout with a dead-end, north on a busy and traffic-sprayed zip on the Northway, before turning on Albany-Shaker Road and turning into Kimberly Plaza of Loudonville, into Lanie’s Café, which, according to their menu, has been situated there since 2001. (It appears a quick succession of places had sat there before Lanie’s relatively long-term occupation.)
               Lanie’s takes no reservations, and Ken was told we would wait a half-hour for a seat, thus our early start. After the hour-long ride, we sprinted through the drops into the front door, announced ourselves, and bellied up to the far side of the bar, often in the way of the waiters servicing that area’s tables. After about 20 minutes, we realized there were two free tables, and Tim talked the waitstaff to slide the tables together – a cozy fit with Tim and Chay on the ends, and Kriss and Don sitting on the table junction cracks. An early round of drinks kept half of DP8 refreshed. Glossy and bare table tops, paper napkins with a fork and knife, metallic chair frames with a hard seat seemed in keeping with Lanie’s ambience.
               Lanie’s seemed similar to a TGIF or a busy Casey’s. The place is packed, with a semi-separate bar area just as crowded, with several televisions showing mostly sports, with a blend of 1970s-1980s music blaring, with a steady clatter of bar talk. Our seating in the glass-wall area, just feet away from the bar, but with two walls bordering us, gave us one of the quieter spots in the restaurant.
               And the décor. No six-inch-by-six-inch spot of wall was left unadorned. Grapey bric-a-brac, wrought iron pieces, baskets, posters, bottles and other baubles made for a very busy wall space but also pleasantly familiar. The outside deck could have looked inviting on a warmer, dryer evening.
               Our waiter Dave distributed menus, and what a menu it is. I lost count but about fifty entrees, twenty-five appetizers, ten salads, twenty sandwiches, and more hit you in the face. A salad bar came with the entrées so the appetizer list faded from our immediate concerns, especially after our casual repast at the Monteverds.
               A compact, pragmatic salad bar wedged into one of the corners. Iceberg lettuce formed the base, with sides of cherry tomatoes, peppers, red onion, garbanzo beans, olives, croutons, carrot shreds, to be topped with a half-dozen dressings, along with loaves of bread and a block of cheese for slicing. One of us seemed to be confused about the house dressing; it was announced as a tasty balsamic-vinaigrette type, with strong garlic, and quite enjoyable. And there are one or two who don’t favor a salad bar and rather be waited on, but, for the most part, most of us don’t mind making the salad just as we like it.
               The initial bar order changed the usual drink orders. Chay and Tim split a bottle of 2005 Banfi Chianti Classico, which seemed favorable to both. Tanqueray and Tonic, a Stella Artois, Smithwick’s, diet soda, and a pinot grigio filled out the evening’s drink order. The drink service was a mix of good and slow, with the first tray of drinks coming out promptly but the second tray of soda and water taking another ten minutes.
                In the meantime, we watched the driving rain as it flowed off the front awning, with spotted sheets of surface water reflecting the strength of the rain and wind. At one point, the mirror in back of Kriss dripped from a temporarily leaking ceiling joint.
               Also in the meantime, the women, upon return from the ladies room, exclaimed about the idiosyncratic bathroom. “Italianate, ornamental, eclectic, neurotic” seemed to be the consensus. Interesting but not something that anyone in our group will replicate.
               To food. Catching our eye this evening were the signature entrées, specials, and regular selections. Two orders of the swordfish marinara (Judy: ok but worthwhile to try, but never quite liked the marinara; however the tomato sauce was excellent; Don: fish overpowered by the marinara but a reasonable try); the filet mignon (Tim: excellent, but spooked by the bed of onion curls as the bed, at first); a strip steak (Kriss, ordered well-done and came well-done; very good); veal parmesan (Ken: very good, with a topping of mozzarella and marinara); the stuffed steak (Deb K, who found it interesting and delicious, with a large shrimp, mozzarella, red peppers, spinach and garlic); scallops Provencal (yup, her, jumbo sea scallops in a steaming deep dish, diced tomatoes and spinach in a scampi sauce ); and baby back ribs (Chay, a plate-wide and then some length of ribs; excellent with a Texas style BBQ sauce). The food is standard American fare, with a definite slant to Italian, something the community obviously enjoys.
               All of these came with a side of pasta (three types) or a bowl of red potatoes and a bowl of steamed vegetables. The plates were humungous, the sides were humungous, and most of us knew we were taking some home. Only two of us finished the entrées. The fish came out on foot-long, fish-shaped glass platters. All was good and plenty.
               The dessert list, by comparison, was somewhat short but enough to entice most of us (Ken, surprisingly, did not order the apple crisp a la mode). The Debs tried the corn-flaked encrusted fried ice cream, which filled a small dinner plate, with enough to feed two or three each. Strawberries and/or chocolate topped that dessert. Don had the Chocolate Lovin’ Spoonfuls, a seven layer cake, an almost-too-rich gobs of chocolate preparation. Kriss savored the Luscious Carrot Cake, comparing it very favorably to past cakes. Judy ordered the apple crisp, offering to share with Ken only after finishing it. And, Tim and Chay ordered the usual Frangelica and Sambuca.
              
Service was, as noted before, a mix of good and ok. Dave was young, new-ish, and desirous to please. His voice was certainly heard clearly, he played along with what passes as our sense-of-humor, checked several times to our needs, and seemed a good fit for an establishment like Lanie’s. The minor quibble was the occasional lull between courses, or even mid-course but the natural din of the Café and our own bantering filled much of that time. And, a quibble from Ken who thought his coffee supply needed to be a bit brisker, especially with a small cup. Thanks, Dave, for doing a good job for us. (see “tab” below)
               Our chatter followed the usual patterns, with continuations of the pre-session at the Monteverds. We heard more about grandkids, Deb K’s mom and sister, as well as the lack of salads while Judy was in DC, stolen political banners, Ken’s late work hours, the new house, Buddy’s thirstiness, etc. ..., …. .
               The tab with tax and tip and alcohol, after the bar round, came to $90 per couple, low average for us, but maybe a little high for what one might expect from the first perception. A few entrées neared the $30 range, so Lanie’s was not cheap and yet, one can dine inexpensively if one so chooses. For this evening, Lanie’s seemed to fit our style well.
               Off we drove through the slackening rain, and not as busy roads, with the back seat passengers having traded cars, as is our custom.
               And so ended our sixth year together as DP8, with 71 dates now on the list, with the Karneses picking the first choice of Year Seven next month. Which evolved into a clarification of a non-rule, as posed by Chay. Can we, as an individual pick, choose a repeat? So far, we have only repeated as a group pick. After some discussion, we agreed, that since there is no rule about it, that any individual choice can repeat. So, who will be the first? Or will the tradition hold sway for many more months?