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PHOTO: Shannon DeCelle

Lost and Found

By B.A. Nilsson

 

DEACON BLUES

806 25th St., Watervliet, 273-9888. Serving lunch and dinner Tue-Thu 11-11, Fri-Sat 11-11:30. AE, MC, V.

Cuisine: fancy pub food

Entrée price range: $9.40 (chicken drummers) to $25.40 (surf and turf)—but the average is $12

Ambiance: Casual Pub

 

‘I’ve had pizza everywhere in the area,” said Shelly, a server at Deacon Blues, “and this is still my favorite. I like the thin crust and I like the sauce. And they put the right amount of sauce on their pizzas. I don’t like pizzas dry.”

We’d just sampled two of those pizzas, which is what happens when you’ve got an opinionated kid with you whose opinions contrast with those of your own opinionated self. Three pizza sizes are offered; we choose small ones, which falls between the “personal” and large sizes. A red pizza is $5.75 (the other sizes are $4 and $8.75). At my daughter’s insistence, we had to have pineapple chunks, which I can endure only if they’re offset by ham. That added another two bucks.

Because the white pizza was enthusiastically praised by another server, during an earlier visit, our other pie was white with grilled chicken pesto ($9.75). You can choose your toppings, of course, but be aware that they also offer a white pizza with seafood, which can be a compellingly delicious treat.

Crusts are thin. You’ll want to eat your way into that first half of the slice with fork and knife, after which you should be able to navigate pizza to mouth with the V-fold approach. It’s a rewarding journey. On the red pizza, the sauce mutes the fruit’s sweetness; the white pizza is dominated by the garlicky pesto.

And there’s a big menu of lunch and dinner items as well. So why haven’t you heard of Deacon Blues? You fans of the place are shaking your heads at my own seeming ignorance, but the informal poll I’ve been conducting places the restaurant either in the “love it” or “never heard of it” category, with far fewer votes for the former.

That’s because Watervliet remains the Capital Region’s true and only City that Time Forgot. Which means many others also aren’t paying attention. Even Mechanicville seems to be better known.

Deacon Blues has been around since 1979—just a couple of years after the birth of the Steely Dan song of that name—when owner Ron Wilkins took over an establishment that already had been running as a successful eatery. It’s on 25th Street, a few blocks away from the river, well past that other Watervliet essential, Gus’s Hot Dogs.

At first, you think you’re entering the kind of small-city tavern where everybody knows everyone else and nobody knows you; beyond the bar the place suddenly opens into a cheerful dining room with booths, big tables and plenty of space. It’s a dictionary definition of neighborhood joint, with servers who boast of decades of service, a menu of easygoing items, and a room where—well, everybody knows everyone else.

My first visit was with a party of five, a group with a wide range of gustatory wishes. My friend Maureen sang encomia to clams, recalled great clam dinners, promised to share her clams with nobody—and then ordered shrimp scampi ($14.50). “Suddenly I had to have shrimp,” she explained. They swim in garlic butter, the seven critters, and you can get a side of pasta, or choose potato and veg.

We examined a number of starters, including garlic bread ($3.75, $4.25 with cheese), which I ordered without cheese and which arrived with, to which I said not a word, figuring that “with” was the far more common option. The scampi was more garlicky, so I helped myself to some of that butter to enhance my bread.

Chicken wings don’t require much to distinguish themselves. The $6 order comes in varying degrees of hotness; hot proved to be mouth-tinglingly hot, and the skins were good and crunchy.

Potato skins ($5.20) are a new delight to my offspring, who no doubt will outgrow this. Otherwise, lots of fried stuff as well as an array of soups, including, when we visited on a Friday, both of the popular clam-chowder styles. French-onion soup ($3.50) uses rye croutons, which I liked but which disturbed traditionalist Maureen.

A small antipasto ($5.20) is still enough to share, a very simple rendition of this dish, nothing at all exotic in the combo of meat and greens and veggies, while a Caesar salad ($3.75 for a small one) is what you’d expect in a non-gourmet version.

You’ll have your work cut out for you with the hot meatball sandwich ($6.20), which towers over its plate, cheese and tomato sauce falling over it like lava. A great kid’s item, which is exactly where it went. There’s a list of “kiddy dinners,” priced from $4.50 to $7, and the $4.75 spaghetti with sausage was a success and generated no leftovers.

Burgers start at $3.75; cold sandwiches are about $5, while clubs go for $6.75. Pasta dishes include the parmigiana siblings of eggplant ($9.45), chicken ($12.20) and veal ($13.20). A short entrée list gives you steaks and chops, and a terrific order of four pieces of Southern fried chicken for $10, which my wife polished off with only one grudging sample for me.

From the daily specials, I enjoyed the stuffed salmon: two good-sized salmon steaks with a seafood-enhanced bread stuffing over rice pilaf. Much better than I’d expect from a place like this, and all the more enjoyable for that.

As I sank into that sense of post-prandial well-being, I was jolted back to earth by learning that the restaurant gave up serving desserts a while ago. “They just weren’t moving,” out server explained. And then I remembered I was in Watervliet, the almost-forgotten city with its own unique way of life. I grabbed a Klondike bar from a Stewart’s on the way home.

Click here for a list of recently reviewed restaurants.


TABLE SCRAPS

--->no scraps this week


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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