More than thirty years ago, when I was an undergraduate working my way through college, I landed a job at Yono’s Restaurant in Albany’s Robinson Square. The cuisine and level of service was beyond my prior experience, but my coworkers and the the Purnomos helped me to expand and elevate my skills. I learned at least as much at 289 Hamilton Street as I did at UAlbany and the friends I made there continue to be part of my life all these years later.
While there was a certain inconsistency in the family meal we were served during our shift (Pre-service? Post-service? Mid-Service?), no one there ever went hungry. A frequent accompaniment to our dinner was an Indonesian house specialty, Bakmi Goreng. This distant relative to lo-mein was a revelation to me. I had never tasted anything like it…noodles coated in a slightly sweetish soy, with house spice, cabbage and a garnish of scallions and fried shallots, ramped up with fiery sambal…it was a life changer.
I recall being told by more veteran Yono’s employees that I would grow tired of Bakmi. Eventually, they said, the sight of it would cure my appetite without a single noodle crossing my lips. I worked at that location for the better part of ten years and I swear that never happened.
As the Purnomos grew their business, relocating twice, I continued to lend a hand when they needed one. Often, I took a foil container of Bakmi home with me at the end of my shift. I wasn’t tired of it. When my babies were born, the meal I wanted delivered to the hospital was Bakmi. I was never disappointed – Donna and my favorite Indonesian treat always delivered.
Yesterday, there was a pop-up Bakmi takeout service at Yono’s. My neighbors and I had both independently pre-ordered servings for a 5:00 pickup and decided to just send one person to collect our treat. Boy, was I glad Ken went instead of me. You see, it seems that Bakmi continues to be a beloved dish not just for me, but for many, many others. The line of cars Ken encountered extended from the parking behind Yono’s all the way to the Palace Theater on Clinton Avenue!
These are incredibly tough times for small business owners. Despite the extended wait to receive our meals, there was nothing but appreciation for the outstanding efforts of the staff at Yono’s. My Bakmi was delicious and it managed to both fill my belly and my heart. I’m not tired of Bakmi.