Overview: Gracie’s takes the cake — or in its case doughnut— for best rest stop alternative. You’ll find it just off the Thruway at exit 21 in the old Koch’s drive-in building — a long-standing German diner catering to the Borscht Belt community. The owners, Allyson Merritt and Andrew Spielberg, both CIA grads, recently parlayed the doughnut and cheeseburger craze they created with their food truck — of the same name — into this new brick and mortar location. They gave it a fresh paint job, a stylishly minimal interior, and a utilitarian tidiness that provides a blank canvas for the food.
The Menu: A soul-soothing array of excess in the form of oversized donuts covered in sweet and savory goodies, delectable fried chicken with fluffy biscuits, spiked milkshakes served at the counter, double-stacked bacon and beef burgers, homemade pickles and creamy sauce, and the list goes on and on.
A decent, but still hopelessly inadequate strategy to consume as much of this as possible, is to start with the Gracie Burger — made with bacon — substituting the fries for a plate of poutine (a dish of fries slathered in gravy and cheese curds, made famous in Montreal). For dessert, order a bourbon milkshake with a side donut. Since you also have to try the fried chicken, make sure someone orders it, eat as much as you still have room for, and bring the rest home to eat cold.
Standout Specials: Gracie’s pays tribute to its former Borscht Belt heritage by putting a classic pork schnitzel on the menu, and Sauerbraten during Oktoberfest.
Regulars Recommend: The maple bacon donut, according to an anonymous server
Notable Feature: Their renovations have included a large expansion of the cooking space to include a full on-site bakery where all of their breads, buns, and donuts are made.