Boston Restaurant Blog -- August, 2008
Friday, August 15, 2008
A couple of weekends ago, a few of us went on yet another summertime trip to Upstate New York and the Adirondacks. The weather was so-so, but the dining was very fine, and I got to try a few new places along the way as well as a couple of old favorites.
I made a beeline out to Albany early on Friday as I had to get to the Rensselaer train station by early afternoon. I made it with plenty of time to spare, so I ended up exploring the rather funky and offbeat Lark Street section of Albany, enjoying the open spaces and interesting architecture west of the main drag before heading back to Lark Street itself for lunch at a greasy spoon called Hot Dog Heaven. I was intrigues by the cave-like entrance to the place and the arrow-shaped sign saying "This way to heaven." It turned out to be a real throwback, with counter seating only and workers snapping at each other while dishing out food to the handful of patrons there. The hot dog I ordered was pretty good (albeit rather basic), with a lightly buttered and grilled bun soaking up some of the grease of the dog. But the burger was another story; it had the unpleasant taste of the patties you might buy in mass quantity for a big barbecue. I was barely able to finish it, and was kicking myself for not going with a second hot dog instead.
After lunch I went to the train station, then we continued west to Utica, where we got off the Thruway and headed up to Old Forge, which would be our base for the next couple of days. After an hour or two of settling in, we all went over to the rustic village of Eagle Bay for dinner at the Hardtimes Cafe. This is maybe the fourth time I've been to the Hardtimes, and it was as good as ever, iceberg-lettuce salad buffet notwithstanding. The walnut-crusted trout was tremendous, with the strong, rich flavor of the trout being nicely complemented by the nutty, crusty coating. The other dishes, including a broiled haddock dish and a steak and scallop plate, were also excellent. Our server was a bit cranky at times, but she was fine for the most part, and the prices were as reasonable as ever.
After a rather uninspiring breakfast at the hotel we were staying at, we made some stops in Old Forge and Inlet before heading up to the tiny hamlet of Big Moose, which is a few miles north of Eagle Bay on a remote, winding road. We took some time to relax at the beautiful Big Moose Lake before heading into the Big Moose Inn (a grand old Adirondack lodge) for lunch. We had to wait some time for a table, so the host brought us some delicious battered mushrooms to keep our appetite in check while we were waiting. Finally, we got a table by a window that gave us an unforgettable view of the lake. Unfortunately, our experience at the Big Moose Inn was marred by the fact that they were out of many items, including a soup I wanted to try as well as rolls. So we made do by getting salads and cream of mushroom soup, as well as a BLT and fish sandwich. The BLT was quite good, with lots of thick, crisp bacon mixed with cheese and tomatoes and buttered and grilled toast. And the fish sandwich was substantial and delicious, with a big hunk of white meat battered perfectly. The staff apologized repeatedly for being out of so many items, and the food that we did have was satisfying, so I would say that the bad was probably outweighed by the good at the Big Moose Inn.
We didn't finish lunch until well after 2:00, so we had little time to do much between lunch and dinner (plus, it started to rain). So I went off on my own to hit a few shops in Old Forge, then we all met up and drove down Route 28 for yet another trip to the Buffalo Head in Forestport Station (just outside of Adirondack State Park). I almost always order a steak when I go to the Buffalo Head, as they are outstanding here, but this time I opted for the roast turkey dinner. Others also opted for non-steak meals (including chicken pesto and seafood newburg), and in fact only one steak was ordered at our table. But it was all very good, and the atmosphere, as well as the overall goofiness of our rather loud and boisterous but friendly waitress, made for another great experience at this classic dining spot. By the way, I did have a little bit of red meat at the Buffalo Head in the form of a wonderful prime rib barley soup that was on special that night. It almost made me want to change my order to a prime rib dinner, though I opted to stick with the turkey.
Sunday morning came too soon, and it was time to head back to Boston. But two of us took the long way home, taking Route 28 and some other roads back to Route 87 and the Rensselaer train station. We made a quick stop at the White Pine Bakery in Inlet for a few mouthwatering pastries (including a maple doughnut and a chocolate chip muffin) before heading through the classic Adirondack towns of Blue Mountain Lake and Long Lake on our way back. We decided to make a quick lunch stop before getting to the train station, so we stopped at the Silo Restaurant and Country Store for some food. Crafted from two old barns and a silo that was moved to this spot, the Silo had loads of character, complete with a country store both upstairs and downstairs and a dining area in the middle of the lower floor. I ordered a beef barley soup that was hearty and quite tasty, and a huge open face roast beef sandwich that was sinfully good, but just about did me in for the rest of the day.
It was another whirlwind trip, and I would have liked to have had at least another day in the area, but it really was a lot of fun being back in the Adirondacks. I'd like to get back there this fall--if I do, I'll surely add another entry within this blog, hopefully with more restaurants to talk about.
Eric H. said:
I concur on the Buffalo Head's greatness. Trendy steakhouses with high prices might be the norm today, but the rustic Buffalo Head in Forestport Station, N.Y., really delivers the "meat and potatoes" when it comes to this type of restaurant. Even without the wonderful Adirondack atmosphere and hospitality, the steaks at the Buffalo Head would still taste great. I had a rib-eye special here a few years back with the tender taste virtually still resonating in my taste buds. Someday, I'd like to try - with some help - the 48 oz. sirloin steak for two!
Eric at VisitingNewEngland.com
Posted on 4/17/08
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