CREDIT: B.A. Nilsson
& River Café
S. Ferry St., Schenectady, 382-1938. Serving daily 9 AM-11
PM. Cash only.
price range: $5 (vegan veggie wrap) to $8 (many items,
e.g. soy chicken molé)
groovy (in a true ’60s sense)
after we arrived, a spirited discussion broke out at the counter
about personal philosophy, reminding me that it’s been a dog’s
age since I’ve heard any self-definition beyond “I’m a Mets
a fan” or “Yeah, I’m a Democrat. Wanna make something of it?”
This discussion soon veered toward food, a natural segue both
because of the good food served at Moon & River and because
there’s something ’60s-enough about the vibe here that it
should inspire one to recall that “you are what you eat.”
Moon & River Café opened three years ago at what was long
ago a shabby deli on Front Street in Schenectady’s charming
Stockade area. It’s been refurbished to a fare-thee-well and
appointed with living-room-like furnishings that should remind
some customers of a place called Mother Earth’s Café that
once thrived in Albany.
That’s because they’re the same furnishings. “I put them in
storage when I closed Mother Earth’s,” says Richard Genest,
“and now they’ve found a new home.” This means that you can
sit at tables, at a counter, in an armchair; you can play
board games, read the paper. You can observe, as we did, the
darkening skies of a summer thunderstorm while nursing a good
beverage—my own cup of tea was appropriately soothing, but
my daughter’s cup of creamy, aromatic chocolatl ($2,
styled as “Aztec hot cocoa with sweet spices”) seemed more
appropriate to the changing weather.
Genest’s restaurants have been distinguished not only by their
sociable natures, recalling the coffeehouses of the days of
Addison and Steele (long before Starbucks plasticized the
concept), but also by the vegetarian fare he offers. “I ran
the Half Moon Café in the ’80s,” he recalls, “and Mother Earth
in the ’90s. I’ve been doing this for over 30 years, and I’m
still doing it because this is my life.”
It’s a long room that seems narrow thanks to that length.
Several tables fill the front, near the windows that look
out on Front Street. Keep heading back and you pass a counter
with a few stools and a deli case filled with fresh fruit
and veggies, cheeses and desserts, behind which the cooking
A few shelves sport packaged food items for sale, including
good-for-you snacks and a line of Indian items. The walls
are littered with an array of flyers and posters that give
the place a clubhouse feel.
CREDIT: B.A. Nilsson
think in traditional restaurant terms when you get here. You
can fashion an appetizer-entrée meal with what’s offered,
but it’s more tapas-like in its cornucopia of smaller plates,
none of which costs more than $8. And Genest has even sneaked
in a few real-meat dishes this time, although I saw no reason
to bother with them what with all the less-available fare
Beverages include good coffee, smoothies, shakes, a java flip
with ice cream, coffee beverages, soy-milk drinks, juices,
ades, Italian sodas. The pot of tea I enjoyed ($3.50) was
enough for four cups.
While awaiting my storm-delayed wife, I munched on a plate
of veggies—fresh zucchini, carrots and broccoli—with hummus
($3.50). I noticed that bagels are offered with a tapenade
spread, and, being a great fan of the chopped-olive compote,
I asked for a plate of tapenade and chips. No problem!
Sandwiches hot ($7) and cold ($6) dominate one page of the
menu, with tofu, hummus, tempeh and cheese the dominant components.
You can get a Reuben with tempeh, smoked tofu or real turkey.
You can get a soy-beef burger on a bagel or bun.
Bagels also provide the foundation for pizza bagel melts ($7.50),
which can be dolled up with pesto or salsa or much, much more.
At the heart of the meatless entrées are patties of wheat
and soy fashioned, in many cases, to resemble meatstuffs.
So you find a version of chicken tenders ($6.50), which may
be the best thing ever to happen to the whole revolting chicken-tenders
Vegan spare-ribs and vegetables ($6.50) was an instant choice
for my daughter, who already is familiar with these pseudo-meats
and loves the idea of replicating ribs with them. Although
the alien look of them puts me in mind of the entrées cooked
up by Randy Quaid in the movie Parents, you can’t deny
Ersatz chicken served with real pierogies ($8) was Susan’s
dinner, and arrived on two plates, giving the pierogies their
own little platter to keep the accompanying horseradish sauce
confined. As she later described it, it was a satisfying dish
that didn’t leave her with that logy, I’ve-just-eaten-too-much
Genest recently added many Mexican items to the menu, a good
fit for vegetarian cooking. Although tempted by the Big Enchilada
($8), which gives you beans, potatoes, cheese, enchilada sauce
and more, I’m a sucker for molé, the not-sweet Mexican chocolate
sauce. Tacos molé ($7) puts it with a bean-and-cheese bed.
But Genest had stepped out for a moment when my order hit
the kitchen, and his assistant, Kateri, confessed that the
menu was so new she’d yet to cook this item. We discussed
the molé concept and she decided simply to have a go at it—an
approach absolutely appropriate to this place, and which fazed
me not at all. Although Genest was back by the time she finished
the dish, I enjoyed the idea of this fresh surge of creativity.
By the time we left, Genest was introducing a movie he was
about to screen, a documentary about Cuba’s solution to its
food crisis (a solution we’d do well to emulate). This is
the kind of place where social change occurs, and it certainly
doesn’t hurt to accompany such planning with a tasty, healthful
here for a list of recently reviewed restaurants.
scraps: Bastille Day approaches, and there’s nowhere
better to celebrate than at Nicole’s Bistro (Quackenbush
House, Clinton Avenue and Broadway, Albany). Chef
Daniel E. Smith and owner Nicole Plisson present
a menu of French classics on Sat., July 14, with
choices including vichyssoise, escargot a l’ancienne,
grenouilles Provençale, gigot d’agneau and
mousse au chocolat—and much more, along
with an evening of jazz and international cabaret
songs with Sonny & Perley. Dinner is $50,
not including tax and tip, and you can reserve
seats by calling the restaurant at 465-1111. .
. . Tomorrow (Friday) night is Hell Night at New
World Home Cooking Co. (Route 212, Saugerties),
with a wine pairing to set off the hottest of
spicy fare. Actually, most of the food is only
moderately spiced, but you’re given the tools
to wreak havoc upon your palate—and the wine to
cool it down. Start with a Cambodian chili duck
salad and an Australian shiraz, then try the Mexican
five-chile streaked fondue with shrimp and mushrooms
alongside the St. Chapelle Sparkling Riesling
from Idaho. There’s much more, including a triple-chile
sundae for dessert. Six courses for $60; the event
starts at 7 PM. Call (845) 246-0900 for info and
reservations. . . . Remember to pass your scraps
to Metroland (e-mail food at banilsson.com).
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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.
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
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!
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..