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Country Pleasures
By B.A. Nilsson

Abeel’s Restaurant 910 Rock City Rd., Milton, 602-0220. Serving lunch Tue-Sun 11-3, dinner Tue-Thu 3-9, Fri-Sat 3-10, Sun 3-8. MC, V.

Cuisine: continental

Entrée price range: $14.29 (sliced grilled beef) to $17 (N.Y. strip, duck breast or others)

Ambiance: country dining

 

Tony Abeel had his eye on this location for quite some time. Even as he and his wife, Julie, were running a restaurant in St. Johnsville, way over in Montgomery County, they were wishing they could get back to the Saratoga area.

The place in Milton had been a restaurant many years before, but for the past decade or so it was a shop selling food-service equipment. It became available a couple of years ago, and the Abeels quickly worked to acquire it and get it back into shape for the kind of eatery they had in mind. A year and a half ago, they opened.

Think Saratoga area and naturally you think about taking advantage of the August madness. Some places seem to be in business only for that reason; others cash in on the season with higher prices.

The Abeels have no such plan. Julie wasn’t at all bashful about telling us their philosophy when we stopped by for dinner one night not long ago. “We really want to take care of our neighbors,” she said. “That’s why we don’t try to cater to the racetrack crowd.”

Sure, they got some last year, and I would suspect that those who ventured forth to find the place were surprised and rewarded—surprised at the good food; rewarded by the more-than-reasonable prices. Not to mention the triumph of finding a place that’s pretty well tucked away.

It’s near what serves as my back way to Saratoga: I take Middle Line Road, which ambles north from Route 67 in Ballston Spa to Route 29 just outside of Saratoga. But take it only to the second four-way stop. To your right, the cross street is Geyser Road; on your left (and that’s where to turn) it’s Rock City Road. Follow it. You’ll soon see Abeel’s on the right.

As a hungry traveler, you’ll find immediate reward at the small salad bar. “People are usually hungry when they get here,” says Tony. “I want to give them a little something right away.”

It really is just that: a salad bar. Not one of those so-many-items-it-hurts assemblies. Start with some leaves for a green salad. When we visited, it was iceberg lettuce only, but Tony assures me there’s usually Romaine and spinach there, too. Then decorate the salad with any of the common accompaniments. “We often get customers who don’t want onions or don’t want tomatoes on their salad. This way, everyone gets what they want.”

You could argue that there’s room enough in this restaurant for a much larger salad bar and more, but the generous size of the place gives each table a more intimate feel. If you want to be closer to others, spend some time at the bar (cocktails, not salads), which you’ll pass through as you enter, but which is maintained as a separate room.

The something-for-everyone menu spreads its selections over four pages, one of which lists lighter fare. I might argue with the designation of chicken parmigiana as such—breaded, fried anything topped with cheese sits a little heavily with me—but the $10 entrée gives a more-than-generous portion over a mound of pasta, which gave us enough for a follow-up meal. And it’s the real thing: breaded in the kitchen, as opposed to the chain restaurant style of using cryovac-sealed, pre-breaded stuff.

Also on that list are a hamburger with fries ($5.29), baked or fried haddock ($11), a popular hot turkey dinner ($10), and more.

If you’re looking for something lighter still, the list of appetizers presents a number of standards—clams, shrimp, chicken wings—along with a good, classic crock of French onion soup ($4.79) that’s a reminder of the rich, complex flavor you only get when the brew is homemade.

Oriental pot stickers ($6.59) boast a pork filling, a pungent dipping sauce, and a small side of perfumed rice. Stuffed mushrooms ($5.79) are more complicated than is typical: They have a sausage-and-pepper stuffing and a snowcaps of melted Swiss.

Two pages of entrées cover a range that runs from a $15 vegetable Napoleon (grilled veggies topped with pesto) to a $17 grilled New York strip. Duck breast ($17) is served with a sherry-enhanced duxelle; pork medallions ($17) are joined by portobellos, vinegar-soaked tomatoes and feta cheese.

Given any menu to contemplate, my wife immediately checks out the chicken dishes and exults over the most boring-sounding preparations. Fortunately, neither of Abeel’s listings sounded dull: Chicken Mediterranean ($15) adds artichoke hearts, tomatoes and olives, with a garlic-enhanced white wine sauce; the chicken and sausage pasta ($14.79), which Susan enjoyed, mixed chunks of excellent sweet sausage with the chicken bits and some colorful peppers in a bed of fettuccine, finished with a rich garlic cream sauce.

The menu has been evolving, and the current one features lighter sauces and some changes in preparations of duck, salmon and trout. The rainbow trout is baked, split open and served with a buttery sauce flavored with thyme and Mandarin orange slices, which mixes well with the easygoing flavor of the meat. And it’s served with head and tail intact unless you request otherwise; if you request otherwise, why are you bothering even to eat fish?

Every community needs an Abeel’s to fight the rising tide of chain restaurants and general mediocrity, so this little corner of the county is fortunate. Service couldn’t have been friendlier, and I have a feeling that you’ll soon be part of the family when you make this a regular stop.

Click here for a list of recently reviewed restaurants.


TABLE SCRAPS

The Cappiello Festa Italiana takes place this weekend (Friday-Sunday, June 24-26) in Schenectady’s Central Park. It’s an annual celebration of Italian culture with food, children’s activities, bocce, cooking and wine demonstrations, casino games, children’s rides, strolling mandolinist and vocal musicians, several bands and dance groups. Featured entertainment is by the Tuscan Duo at 8 PM Saturday and tenor Michael Amante at 7 PM Sunday. Admission is free. For more info, check out www.festa-italiana.com, or call 372-5656. . . . The Van Dyck Restaurant (237 Union Street, Schenectady) begins brewing beer again this week. The facility was part of the Van Dyck’s extensive refurbishment eight years ago and welcomes back brewmaster Jason Furman, who was part of the original crew. He’s promising to start off with an amber ale, an India Pale Ale, a traditional German wheat beer and a raspberry wheat beer; the second week of brewing will produce the Van Dyck’s “Coal Porter,” a classic pilsner, the popular “Edison Electric Light” and a traditional English bitter. Furman will be brewing in the evenings, when customers can watch him at work. For more information, call the restaurant at 381-1111. . . . Remember to pass your scraps to Metroland (e-mail food@banils son.com).


We want your feedback

Have you eaten at any recently reviewed restaurants? Agree or disagree with B.A.? Let us know what you think...

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* E-mail address not required to submit your feedback, but required to be placed in running for a Van Dyck Gift Certificate.

What you're saying...

I very much enjoyed eating dinner at Daniel's at Ogdens. You review described my dining experience perfectly. This wasn't the case with Pancho's. I much prefer Garcia's or Lake View Tavern for Mexican fare. I agree that a restaurant can have an off night so I'll give the second unit on Central Avenue a try.

Mary Kurtz
Castleton

First, yes I miss the star ratings, bring it back. Second, I haven't had a chance to visit Poncho's yet, but I especially like reading the reviews.

Pat Russo
East Greenbush

I would travel to Amsterdam to this restaurant - it's not that far away. People traveled from all over to eat at Ferrandi's in Amsterdam. From his background, I'm sure the chef's sauce is excellent and that is the most important aspect of an Italian restaurant. Sometimes your reviewer wastes words on the negative aspects of a restaurant. I'm looking forward to trying this restaurant - I look forward to Metroland every Thursday especially for the restaurant review. And by the way Ferrandi's closed its Amsterdam location and is opening a new bistro on Saratoga Lake - Should be up and running in May. It will be called Saratoga Lake Bistro. It should be great!

Peggy Van Deloo
Schenectady

So happy to see you finally made out!! Our experiences have always been wonderful, the staff is extremely professional, the food subperb, and the atmosphere very warm and comfortable. Let us not forget to mention "Maria" the pianist on Friday and Saturday nights.

Charlie and Marie
Michaels Restaurant

I have been to Michael's several times and each time I have enjoyed it very much. The food is delicious and the staff is great. Also, Maria Riccio Bryce plays piano there every Friday and Saturday evening, a nice touch to add to the already wonderful atmosphere. It is also easy to find, exit 27 off the thruway to 30 north for about 5 miles.

N. Moore
Albany

Wonderful!

Elaine Snowdon
Albany

We loved it and will definitely go back.

Rosemarie Rafferty

Absolutely excellent. The quality and the flavor far surpasses that of other Indian restaurants in the area. I was a die-hard Shalimar fan and Tandoor Palace won my heart. It blows Ghandi out of the water. FInally a decent place in Albany where you can get a good dinner for less than $10 and not have tacos. The outdoor seating is also festive.

Brady G'sell

Indian is my favorite cuisine available in the area--I loved Tandoor Palace. We all agreed that the tandoori chicken was superior to other local restaraunts, and we also tried the ka-chori based on that intriguing description-delicious.

Kizzi Casale
Albany

Your comments about the Indian / Pakistani restaurants being as "standardized as McDonald's" shows either that you have eaten at only a few Indian / Pakistani restaurants or that you have some prejudices to work out. That the physical appearances are not what you would consider fancy dancy has no bearing on the food. And after all, that is what the main focus of the reviews should be. Not the physical appearances, which is what most of your reviews concentrate on.
A restaurant like The Shalimar, down on Central Avenue, may not look the greatest, but the food is excellent there. And the menu has lots of variety - beef, lamb, vegetarian, chicken, and more..

Barry Uznitsky
Guilderland



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