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PHOTO: B.A. Nilsson

Destination Tavern

The Corner Well Pub

698 N. Pearl St., Menands, 427-9355. Serving Mon 11:30-3, Tue-Wed 11:30-9, Thu-Sat 11:30-10. AE, D, MC, V.

Cuisine: pub fare and pizza

Entrée price range: $6 (BLT) to $16 (12-cut pizza special)

Ambiance: Homey

By B.A. Nilsson

 

We sat in the car in the parking lot, staring numbly at the place. It looked neglected and sad. A group of chilled smokers huddled, puffing, by the front door. “I don’t want to go in there,” my wife said. “Is there someplace else?”

The plan had been to find burgers and wings and the like at a friendly tavern, where I’d be able to enjoy a beer. We could see from the car that the venue we now contemplated had a small throng at the bar and nobody at the tables.

I found a listing in my Metroland Dining Guide that promised a better alternative, and so we headed to an unlikely corner of Menands, to the Corner Well Pub, across the street from the studios of WNYT (Channel 13).

And this is a place that looks like a classic pub, with the warmth of dark wood paneling, a long mahogany bar (salvaged from a saloon in Amsterdam), an array of tables and booths, and a stage at one end of the house where musicians were setting up as we settled in. There’s also a banquet room and a takeout area, so the options are well covered.

It’s been a tavern of some kind for over half a century, answering to a variety of monikers over the years. Byung Chae acquired the place last September, keeping its most recent name but improving the menu. Although he graduated from the Fashion Institute of Technology, he veered into the restaurant business, operating places in Manhattan and the Bronx. His route to Menands was impelled by a divorce, among other things, but he’s pleased to be helming a family-friendly place in a nice neighborhood. It doesn’t seem to be much of a pub neighborhood, so, apart from Channel 13-based clientele, the Corner Well is a destination.

I’d say it’s worth the trip.

Let’s look at the unsurprising menu: soups, chili, wings, shrimp, skins and lots of fried things, from $3 to $7 or so; an array of salads ($4, rising to about $7.50 with added meat); deli sandwiches ($6 to $6.50), hot sandwiches (here you’ll find the Reuben, Philly cheese steak, meatball torpedo and the like, averaging $7.50); burgers (half-pound patties with a choice of toppings, starting at $7), and a number of after-4 PM entrées, including chicken parmigiana ($11), fried chicken ($8.25), roast turkey ($10) and a 12-ounce sirloin ($14).

And if that’s not enough, the separate pizza menu offers an eight-cut starting at $9, 12-cut at $11, personal pan pizza beginning at $5, and two sizes ($5 and $7) of calzone. If you’re looking for something other than the traditional toppings and combinations, consider one of the 15 specials (eight-cut, $14; 12-cut, $16). Clams, shrimp, chicken and broccoli, pineapple and ham, and chicken pesto are among the dominant varieties.

As I started into a most welcome pint of Guinness, we put together as representative an order as a threesome can summon, starting with the garlic-parmesan chicken wings (12 for $7), a very tasty variation on a familiar theme.

Although the Corner Well styles itself as an Irish pub, the entrées are decidedly American, especially the meatloaf ($9), a generous serving of a roast that’s lightened with breading and topped with a rich, thick gravy that extends over the homemade mashed potatoes. No culinary greatness is explored here, but it’s very good of its kind.

So my burger emerged far closer to medium than rare. Not worth a quarrel, I figured, and anyway I order them rare because I reckon that I’ll at least avoid the chain-restaurant mandated medium-well-ification of burgers these days. The house salad served alongside was a tribute to what’s now offered by Sysco and the like: fresh mixtures of colorful greens.

And I suspect it was good to order a pizza when we did. If menu pricing is brought in line with material pricing, those pies will cost as a much as filet mignon before long. Even as gasoline prices have been climbing, there’s been an incredible spike in the cost of flour and cheese, turning pizza into a luxury item. “I printed up menus and flyers in October,” says Chae, “so I have to honor the prices listed there. But it’s starting to hurt.”

In any event, the Buffalo chicken pizza sported a lot of blue cheese in its topping mix, and arrived hot and runny. This proved helpful to my wife, whose meatloaf plate was accompanied by cauliflower florets—these she dipped in that topping.

As we enjoyed the fare, we listened to the music of Idette and the Sunrunners, making their Corner Well debut. Live music seems to be in shorter supply, so it’s a pleasure to spend an evening with original songs, a good glass of stout, good food, friendly service, and (at this point, at least) affordable prices.

Click here for a list of recently reviewed restaurants.


TABLE SCRAPS

Several salubrious and timely events are scheduled this week at the Honest Weight Food Co-Op’s Community Room (484 Central Ave., Albany). “Living Gluten Free” is the subject of a workshop with Amy Pagano from 1 to 3 PM Saturday (March 8); the store’s plant buyer, Gayle Anderson, discusses “Starting Seeds” from noon to 2 PM Sunday (March 9); and “Eat Good Fats” will be the topic from 6 to 7 PM Wednesday (March 12). For more info, call the Co-Op at 482-2667. . . . Enjoy a Southern Italian dinner and wine tasting at Saratoga Rose Inn and Restaurant (4136 Rockwell St., Hadley) at 7 PM Saturday, March 15, an event featuring five courses paired with five wines and commentary by Janine Stowell of Opici Wine Co. Chef-owner Richard Ferrugio will be preparing leek and pancetta frittata, Sicilian pesto with mint and almonds, braised rabbit agrodolce and much more. Dinner is $70 per person, plus tax and tip, and seating is limited. Call 696-2861 for reservations. . . . Remember to pass your scraps to Metroland (food at banilsson.com).



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