by DUNCAN CRARY
TROY — One of the city’s most popular brunch spots reopened last weekend with new specials and old favorites after a two-week hiatus.
Carmen’s Bistro, featuring Cuban-Spanish-American cuisine, is located at 198 1st St., in a quiet neighborhood setting three blocks south of Downtown and the Russell Sage College campus.
“September 15 to October 15 is National Hispanic Heritage Month and traditionally our busiest time of year,” said Chef Carmen Gonzalez of Carmen’s Bistro. “We’re glad to be reopening in time to celebrate.”
In addition to favorites like Huevos Flamenco, Empanadas and Cubano sandwiches, Carmen’s Bistro will be introducing the following new specials:
• Corn Omelet, a mildly spiced three-egg omelet, cooked with fresh sweet corn from Reeves Farm in Baldwinsville, Vidalia onions, fresh tomatoes plus herbs and spices;
• “Can’t Be Beet,” a housemade soda, two thirds fruit juice, like all Carmen’s sodas, naturally sweet with no added sugar Contains Beet, Cherry, and Black Currant juices among others.
• Sangria Smoothie, using a variety of fresh fruit, including: watermelon, strawberry, banana and yogurt along with wine.
Carmen’s is open Saturdays and Sundays, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Dining is available outdoors, weather permitting, and always indoors in the convivial bistro-style interior designed by Lewis, a master carpenter, featuring a counter carved from a huge Ailanthus tree.
Although fully vaccinated and exercising an abundance of caution, Gonzalez tested positive for COVID-19 after caring for a child who also tested positive.
Though CDC guidelines recommend waiting 10 days after symptoms clear, Gonzalez and her partner Jim Lewis decided to keep the restaurant closed to give the space a deep cleaning and touch up the paint.
“This is also a great time for new diners to come down and discover our charming little spot,” Lewis said. “Check out the farmers market and then come down to see us.”
Both Gonzalez and Lewis note that the pandemic has put their restaurant under stress for the past two years, with the same issues that other area restaurants are dealing with, but they’re committed to staying in business and being a part of the Troy community.
Flan to Return Following Weekend (Oct. 9 & 10)
One of the most popular items for those with a sweet tooth is the flan, a traditional Cuban custard, based on a recipe of Gonzalez’s Aunt Matilda. At Carmens, the traditional treat is served as a dessert and is also incorporated into a special french toast mixture.
“Our Hispanic customers rave about our flan and Cubano sandwiches, which they often say are the best they’ve had since leaving home,” Lewis said. “We will have the flan back in two weeks.”
Carmen Gonzalez is Cuban/Puerto Rican. She cooks the food she grew up with, what she tasted while visiting relatives and friends in Spain and on the Islands. It’s a mix of Cuban, Spanish, American and more. At Carmen’s Cafe, all the dishes are cooked fresh with healthy ingredients. Vegetarian options are always available.
Carmen’s Bistro also offers non-dairy and gluten-free foods.