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Giddy Up
By B. A. Nilsson
Photo by B. A. Nilsson

Jake’s Round-Up
23 Main St., South Glens Falls, 761-0015. Serving Mon-Wed 4-9, Thu noon-9, Fri-Sat noon-10, Sun 2:30-9; Sun brunch 10-2. AE, D, MC, V.
Food: * * * *
Service: Cheerful
Ambience: Ditto

Try to make a visit to Jake’s Round-Up at night. That’s when the place erupts into a riot of colored lights festooning the windows and pillars. That’s also when the large stuffed bear in the front window may scare you at first.

This stretch of Main Street in South Glens Falls has a bunch of fine restaurants as well as the blight of a McDonald’s, but I can’t imagine opting for a bad burger when you’ve got the joyous Jake’s menu right across the street.

Southwestern is the theme, reflected in the splendid decor. Dine by the busy bar; in the room with the moose head on the wall and the Guernsey-patterned chairs; in the lodge, so-named because it appears to be a separate structure within the Jake’s emporium; or in the former barber shop next door, now connected and looking like a French bistro. If you’ve ever motored cross-country, you encountered Wall Drug in South Dakota. Jake’s, with its many interior by-ways and distractions, put me in mind of that place.

The 10-year-old restaurant is named for Jake Lehman, an artist who co-owns the place with Elliott Heyman. “Jake is an artist,” manager Dayle Beshara told me, “and she was responsible for much of the design of the place. Now Elliott is also doing more of it. It’s always changing.”

Heyman is also chiefly responsible for the eclectic menu, the cover of which sports the kind of drawing you’d find in a Zane Grey thriller. Inside, you know you’re on somewhat different ground because the first item listed is “Elliott’s Electric Garlic-Roasted Eggplant” ($7 or $9, depending on size). We pounced on that for a starter and enjoyed a generous platter (small size!) of crisp eggplant edges, breaded and fried, delightfully redolent of garlic, with salsa and balsamic vinegar to complement the dish.

This meant that we passed up the Cubano crab cakes ($9), chili rellenos ($7), sautéed spinach with garlic and parmesan cheese ($4) and much more, including the usual suspects (wings, rings, chips, dips and the ubiquitous jalapeño poppers).

Listed below are salads: Round-Up salad has grilled chicken and Caesar dressing over baby greens ($8), rancher’s steak salad gets you a half-pound of grilled sirloin with your greens ($9). And there’s melenzana insalata, with grilled eggplant, artichoke hearts, calamata olives, blue cheese and more ($6). You can see how this isn’t exactly hugging the curves of Southwest Fare Street.

We dined in the lodge, a roofed room with six booths upholstered in vintage-diner red. Each table has its own lamp—ours was a lava lamp—and a coffee-table-type book to peruse, most having something to do with the Southwest.

But back to the menu: Two large pages display the entrées, ranging from ribs and pot roast through all manner of steaks and burgers to fish and fajitas and a column of classic Tex-Mex fare—all priced in the $7 to $15 range. There’s even a separate page for the buckaroos menu, and my daughter decided she qualified for that sobriquet and ordered the half-portion of ribs ($7). Good ribs, too, tender and mouth-puckery thanks to an excellent sauce.

Susan and I were drawn to the specials list on the menu’s backside, beginning with a cup of black bean soup ($2.50) that tasted as I expected, thick and flavorful, with evidence of good stock in the brew.

Susan’s entrée, hard to resist, was Creole meatloaf ($12). Naturally, she worried that it might be too spicy, forgetting, as usual, that even when a menu proclaims something to be spicy, it’s likely to be far tamer than her taste buds can accommodate. In fact, there’s not much heat here—it’s meatloaf, after all, the ultimate in comfort food—but it does set your mouth dancing a bit with the Creole cream sauce that tops the meat. Homemade mashed potatoes were a boon, but what drove Susan wild was the side of collard greens. My wife gets into a frenzy over unusual vegetables, and has a recipe for kale that I find nearly unpalatable. But both of us agreed that these collard greens, sporting bits of red pepper, were just right.

The Pancho Villa quesadilla deserves plaudits for its name alone. As an entrée ($13), it’s a huge portion of pork tenderloin marinated with smoked jalapeños and served ’twixt crisped tortillas with dilled Havarti and asparagus! Quite a combo, not something I’d think of in a Texas century, but it worked and went well with the rice and refried beans that accompanied it.

It won’t surprise you that most of the entrée portions traveled home with us. We finished with cups of tea and shared a slice of gooey chocolate cake.

Jake’s started as a yogurt shop and expanded over the years. And it will continue to expand, Beshara told us. Summer dining is also a treat, we’re told, when the patio is open and you can dine near its fountain. We’ll be back to try that out, because they’ve certainly corralled us as customers.

Dinner for three, with tax and tip, dessert and sodas, was $62.


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