Café Valparaiso is one of the newer eating spots in Albany. At 1403 Solano Avenue, it’s on the same block and side of the street as Gordo’s Taqueria. There were a few other diners there when Dave and I came in at 12:30, and it was pretty quiet. In fact I was a bit surprised that there was no music playing. (More on that later.)
We got water right away, so it was a good beginning. I asked our young waitress to recommend what she thought was best, which threw her at first. She claimed that it was all good, but she did offer a few recommendations, which we took. The menu features Chilean dishes and has several different kinds of empanadas, and you can choose fried or baked, which was nice, I thought, for people who worried about too much oil in their diets. (Of course I went for fried.) The two of us shared a plain cheese one—it was good and hot.
My iced tea was $3 and was very watery without much taste. She made a point of telling me that refills were free, but she never offered to refill my glass once it was empty, which is just as well, since it was pretty boring. But she didn’t refill my water either. Even though nobody was at the table next to us and there were plenty of others open (were someone to walk in), she spent quite a while clearing it while both my iced tea glass and water glass remained empty. I tried to get her attention before she returned to the kitchen, but she didn’t see me. Eventually a man who was probably the manager made the rounds and brought me water.
Both of us ordered sandwiches that came on what she called “authentic home bread.” The menu mentioned that with the sandwich we got our choice of salad or “fried potatoes.” But she forgot to ask which we wanted. We flagged her down to let her know we wanted one of each, and she seemed vaguely surprised that we cared. It took about 20 minutes to get our sandwiches, which were a bit on the dry side. Mine had green beans on it, which was kind of interesting but they didn’t add a lot of flavor. The bread was fine but made up too much of the sandwich. The “fried potatoes” that I had thought might be some Chilean specialty turned out to be French fries, which were OK .(Better than the salad.)
At some point during our meal, the sound system kicked in, and I heard a pan flute piece, followed by other sorts of world music. I guess they’d just forgotten to turn it on before?
The manager made a point of checking in on us and brought us some hot sauce to try. (Maybe he knew our sandwiches were kind of dry and boring.) He was very nice.
It ended up being rather expensive and, except for the empanada, the food wasn’t that great. And the service was just passable. I doubt that I’ll go back. But, hey, if you try it and have a better experience, let me know!