you trust graying memory or Google maps? I opted for the latter
and discovered that the listed location for the Bear’s Steakhouse
is incorrect. “We get calls about that all the time,” says
John Payne, who runs the restaurant floor. “We’re always turning
people around in Rotterdam to get them back here.”
So it was where I remembered it from a few years back: To
the west of the intersection of Routes 7 and 20 in Duanesburg,
to which I headed after turning around in Rotterdam.
has been awarding this place its Best Steakhouse prize for
several years running, so it’s important to check in from
time to time to see if the honor remains merited. It does.
You might think that after 43 years the Bear’s has settled
into a predictable routine, and perhaps it has. But the routine
is so exemplary, the food so carefully prepared and presented,
that we should all be cursed with ritual lives this fine.
John has a lot to do with keeping the standards high. He understands
the importance of keeping customers happy, and does so with
an infectious, ebullient personality. For example: My friend
Harry was wavering on ordering the appetizer of pickled herring
($4.25). “This was one of my father’s favorites,” he said,
“and he was very choosy about it.” An attitude passed to his
son, the statement implied.
herring,” said John, “is the best. We have a customer from
Brooklyn who says it’s better than anything she finds down
there—which says something!” In other words, he’s not bashful
about promoting the Bear’s fare. And the final inducement
was to offer the herring with both available sauces: wine
and sour cream. It’s served on an attractive plate with roasted
red peppers, and more than lives up to the sales pitch. The
freshness is obvious, especially if you’ve gotten used to
the canned version. The seasoning is more complex. This is
also true of the fresh mozzarella with tomatoes ($10), which
includes more of the house-made roasted red peppers, fresh
basil and a nice presence of oregano.
House salads feature a mix of crackling-fresh greens and accompaniments,
with a good choice of dressings.
The restaurant’s longstanding specials, which require you
to call in advance, are Chateaubriand, a particular cut of
the tenderloin that serves two and is priced at $40 per person,
and prime rib for a minimum of four, priced at $33 per person.
We saw an example of each at near- by tables, and they’re
impressive platters that gave way to a large amount of take-out
Other appetizers include a daily soup for $4, shrimp cocktail
with homemade cocktail sauce ($11) and smoked salmon ($10).
The entrée list is similarly brief. Filet mignon for one is
served in two sizes: Papa Bear ($40) and Mama Bear ($30).
Don’t laugh: These are the nicknames of restaurant founders
Bob and Pat Payne, whose establishment was known as Duane
Manor during its first five years but soon went into the nickname
camp as well. (Note the proliferation of stuffed bears on
a shelf near the door. I’m told that they’re only a fraction
of what’s been given to the restaurant.)
Grilled pork is a comparative bargain at $19, especially when
you keep in mind that dinner comes with soup or salad and
the entrée itself, with vegetables and starch. Lamb chops
are $29 for what’s supposed to be an order of three but, if
the chops aren’t deemed thick enough, could become four.
We met the same generosity with the English mixed grill ($32),
an assemblage showcasing the abovementioned lamb, pork and
filet mignon—“But I threw in a piece of chicken, too,” John
told us as he served the plate.
This has to be as good as it gets for a meat lover. You’ve
got most of the barnyard represented, and all of it grilled
exactly as needed to optimize flavor. There is that range
of audience participation wherein you get to choose a doneness
level for beef, and the menu notes that the house takes no
responsibility for the result if it’s ordered well-done. Harry
opted for medium; John made sure there would be pink expected
in the equation. I, on the other hand, asked for a grilled
Delmonico steak. Rare.
It’s $27 when you order it alone, but John saw how my face
quivered at his description of the sautéed scallops ($22)
as being particularly fresh and tasty and offered a Delmonico-scallops
combo. For $42, I got a full serving of the steak and a three-quarter
helping of scallops (with a sinful accompaniment of butter
and some sensible herbs). I enjoyed the rare meat with its
layer of char from the grilling. But I knew I’d never finish
it, and could later reheat it to a still-pleasing medium rare,
which I did.
Bob Jr. helms the kitchen, and Pat, his mother, still makes
the bread, soup and desserts each day they’re needed. We sampled
what John insisted was the world’s best carrot cake—it is—and
a slice of chocolate peanut butter cake, and sampled is the
word. Most of the dessert followed us home, too.
The Bear’s has a dining room with only about a dozen tables.
It’s open only four nights a week. The phone number isn’t
listed in the directory. The restaurant has never advertised.
And for 43 years, it has attracted a faithful clientele from
well beyond Duanesburg and the Capital Region.
Visit not just for the superb steak, but also to see how a
restaurant should be run.
here for a list of recently reviewed restaurants.
Day Nursery’s 11th
annual fundraising event, “A Little Bit of Jazz
& More,” will take place from 5:30 to 8 today
(Thursday, April 29) in the Fenimore Gallery at
Proctors Theatre (432 State St., Schenectady).
The “more” part of the proceedings includes a
cornucopia of food, including a carving station
with turkey breast and roast beef, a pasta station,
an hors d’oeuvres display and, if you don’t want
to fetch your food, circulating trays with even
more hors d’oeuvres, including sesame chicken,
a Mediterranean artichoke tart, shrimp Wellington,
spanakopita and more. There will be complimentary
beer and wine and Chocolates by Lindt. The jazz
part is a performance by Colleen Pratt and Friends.
The event includes a benefit drawing with a choice
of a $500 gift card at either Town TV or Empress
Travel, and gift baskets sponsored by the Schenectady
Day Nursery Board of Directors. Reservations are
$50 per person or $100 for honorary committee
status, and may be made by calling Jim Kalohn
at 894-6305. . . . Remember to pass your scraps