Debbie's Kitchen, a landmark cafe-style deli in Center Square Albany, is closing its doors on Saturday ending a run of great food and even better people that started in the mid-80's.  It breaks my heart to see this proud place go down- another local business casualty of Covid-19.  If you know anything about Albany food, you know about Debbie's Kitchen.  If you've never heard of it before, I'd like to tell you a little bit about an encounter I had with Debbie herself a few years ago.

It was mid December, 2018.  I had just gotten finished visiting my friend Poker Joe's gravesite on the 4th anniversary of his sudden passing.  Somewhat emotional, I was missing my man and wasn't ready to go straight home, plus I was hungry.

Before heading home, I stopped into Debbie's Kitchen - about 4 blocks from my house to sit alone and get a little comfort food.  I don't remember what I ordered, but after I did, Debbie herself told me to have a seat, the food would be up shortly.

I knew who Debbie was, but we never officially met and she didn't know me from a hole in the wall.  Everyone in Albany knows Debbie;  she's impossible to ignore.

Her cafe-style deli is known for delicious sandwiches, desserts, soups and just about comfort-style food you can imagine isn't very big.  And you know from the moment you walk in that Debbie runs the show.  She takes the orders, shouts instructions to the kitchen, serves the food, rings you up and sends you on your way.  No nonsense...no fuss.

I was sitting there waiting for my food thinking about how much I miss the shit out of Joe, and out of nowhere Debbie leans over the counter and straightforwardly asked,  "What brings you in?"

I hesitated, because it was an odd question.  I was obviously in there to eat, but she had like a 6th sense that I wasn't in there just for food.  She wanted to know why I was really in there.  It threw me off but without hesitation, I felt like I had to tell her the truth.

"Today's kind of a tough day" I said.  "It's the anniversary of my best friend's death and I just visited him.  I wasn't ready to go home...and it's so comfortable in here."

Debbie Klauber took off her boss hat and became a friend to me, as a complete stranger.  Something she probably did a thousand times over.  We talked for an hour while I ate.  We talked about me, we talked about her.  We chatted about life and even a little about death.

Debbie's Kitchen in Albany is serving up its last bit of home-cooking on Saturday and when I read about in the Times Union, my heart sunk.   I plan on stopping in one last time before Debbie closes up the kitchen for good.  Most likely, she'll be too busy for smalltalk, too consumed by the day to even notice me.   As sad as I am that she's saying goodbye, I know adventure and success awaits for this proud and talented businesswoman.

A part of me hopes that while I wait for my delicious food, listening to her bark orders at her staff, she'll turn to me and ask, ''So, what brings ya in?"

Just so I could tell her.

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