Moon Restaurant and Café
Delaware Turnpike, Clarksville, 768-2570. Serving 7 AM-3 PM
Tue-Thu, 7 AM-9 PM Fri-Sat, 8 AM-3 PM Sun. D, MC, V.
price range: $3 (one egg with home fries and toast)
to $17 (pan-roasted tuna)
‘Ask any nine out of 10 chefs
which meal they most enjoy cooking,” says chef Daniel E. Smith,
“and they’ll tell you breakfast. Probably because it’s such
Smith has put in many years of fine-dining cookery, most recently
as executive chef at Nicole’s Bistro at Albany’s Quackenbush
House, but for the past year and a quarter he’s been putting
out the omelets, pancakes and much, much more at Jake Moon,
an out-of-the-way eatery that will become your neighborhood
diner as soon as you enjoy your first meal there.
Although the place was vacant when Smith acquired the building,
it had won renown in earlier years as a diner called “June’s
Place.” A nondescript edifice that could as easily be a repair
or retail shop, it transforms once you’re inside and you’ve
settled at the counter or in one of the booths. The menu changes
weekly, with blackboard specials added daily. Breakfast and
lunch are the staple meals, but the Friday and Saturday dinners
have been selling out with recent items like pan-roasted yellowfin
tuna with garlic and capers ($17), rigatoni Marsala with chicken
breast ($15), chicken pot pie strudel ($9.50) and Mom’s meatloaf
with country gravy ($9.50).
My family visited a couple of Sundays ago. It was graduation
weekend at the University at Albany, and my wife was awarded
her master’s—but we figured the local restaurants would be
clogged and wanted to celebrate in a more relaxed manner.
There certainly was room enough for us when we arrived at
Jake Moon. A few other tables were in varying meal stages;
by the time we finished, however, the place was filling fast.
As well it should. A basket of homemade bread hits the table
to get you started. Beverages are on the soft side (wine and
beer are in the works) but the iced tea is freshly made and
attentively refilled. One to three eggs with home fries and
toast runs from $3 to $4.50. Add a side of bacon, ham or homemade
sausage for $1.75. Or go for the Clarksville Scramble, which
gets you three eggs with sausage, onion, potatoes and cheddar
($6.50). Hungrier than that? There’s a ploughman’s breakfast
of two apiece of sausage, bacon and eggs with biscuits and
home fries for $8.
Local purveyors are stars of the show here. The buttermilk
pancakes ($5.75), for instance, feature Champlain Valley flour
and Meadowbrook buttermilk; very French toast ($5.75) is made
with Smith’s own cinnamon raisin bread.
Lunch items include the aforementioned meatloaf, but in a
$7.50 portion, along with a quiche of the day served with
salad ($6.50; it was broccoli-and-bacon when we visited),
Caesar salad ($3.75, with grilled chicken for an extra $2.75),
black bean chili with jalapeño cornbread ($6.50) along with
sandwiches like grilled chicken breast and cheddar ($6), a
Paesano sandwich of grilled sausage, peppers, onions and melted
mozzarella ($6.50), grilled hamburger and coleslaw ($4.50,
add cheese for 75 cents) and a BLT made with applewood-smoked
bacon, and in-season tomatoes and lettuce ($5.50).
We mixed it up a bit. I started with a cup of New England
fish chowder ($2.50/$4), which gave me the confidence to know
the direction of the rest of the meal. You’ve no doubt encountered
a wide range of viscosity in the variations on this soup,
many of them so unnaturally thick that the rest of the ingredients
seemed like an afterthought. Here the brew was balanced in
all aspects: flavor, seasonings, consistency and especially
I continued in this lunchier direction with one of the day’s
specials, a Cuban pulled pork sandwich with fries ($7). Served
on a crusty roll with cheese melting on top of the meat, it
had a pleasant spiciness-smokiness component, with excellent
hand-cut fries alongside—but the best surprise was a side
of white bean salad boasting curry flavors.
Other specials that day were sautéed trout with cottage fries
($8.50) and crab cakes with side salad ($8.50).
I talked my daughter into ordering red flannel hash ($7.50),
a signature dish when Smith was chef at the Beekman Arms in
Rhinebeck. It’s made from hand-cut sirloin, and chopped alongside
roasted beets, with corn, onions and potatoes in the mix as
well. If you’re nervous of beets, it’s a great starter. The
accompanying eggs and toast were almost an afterthought.
My wife indulged herself with the breakfast of breakfasts:
eggs Benedict ($8.50), profoundly flavorful in a straightforward
way—if the Hollandaise sauce doesn’t dismay you. She chose
to ignore any aspect but the taste. The sunshiny sauce floated
over two poached eggs, themselves perched on thick country
ham slices and English muffin halves. A side of home fries,
and there you are.
A dessert slice of coffee toffee pie proved why it’s become
immensely popular, although the strawberry rhubarb crisp had
plenty going for it, too. We could only groan in appreciation
as we made room for the next party.
Why did Smith make so dramatic a culinary transition? “It’s
hard to say,” he says. “I don’t know if I’m even sure myself.”
He suggests that it may have begun when he moved to Clarksville’s
rural environs. “I saw that there was a need here for this
kind of restaurant, but it’s also been evolving ever since
we opened. I’m happy here.”
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