House Is Now a Home
B. A. Nilsson
Photo by Teri Currie
Second Ave., Troy, 238-0499. Serving Tue-Sat 4-10, Sun 4-9.
AE, MC, D, V.
you seen any of those Internet sites that present restaurant
listings? Often there’s a facility to let readers contribute
reviews, and reading a succession of them is far more interesting
than looking at only one. Intelligent criticism nestles with
angry rants; unexpected aspects of a place are revealed. In
a perfect world, Metroland would have a limitless budget
allowing me a staff that could assist in making multiple visits
before writing about a restaurant; we’re stuck with this single-visit
policy, though, and so it’s up to you to read between the
lines, if you like, to decide if you’re interested in the
place I’m reviewing.
Sometimes I don’t choose to go out—I have to, with
a weekly deadline looming. So it was one evening last week
when we piled into the car on a drizzly night for a trek to
Troy. Which is to explain why I was feeling grumpy upon entering
the Olde 499 House, the refurbished former Old Daley Inn.
This well-established steakhouse was run for more than a quarter-century
by the same owners before they closed it last year, and it’s
a steakhouse still, housed in an 18th-century Dutch building
on Second Avenue near 112th Street. As an inn, it was a stagecoach
stop for Saratoga-bound travelers; through the next two centuries,
it shuttled between private residence and public accommodations.
It’s now run by Don Wade, who has made a success with the
Cider House restaurant at Altamont’s Orchard Creek Golf Course.
Now, I remember past visits to the Old Daley as pleasant,
but I was bowled over by the reception we got this time. We
were greeted nicely, seated promptly, and never neglected.
Every server who stopped by was pleasant and knowledgeable,
and (under my casual questioning) suggested that the staff–which
includes some Old Daley veterans—enjoys being here.
We sat in one of the many small rooms that comprise the large
dining area, and put together our orders. My daughter is a
great fan of clam chowder, so she started with a cup of seafood
chowder ($2.50, but included in a kid’s meal). It’s essentially
New England clam chowder, but with more varied aquatic representation:
creamy, not overthickened, with a good balance between potatoes
Meanwhile, I worked though a bowl of French onion soup ($4),
or at least the popular American variety that floats a thick
raft of cheese-covered crouton atop a beefy onion brew. This
was a straight-ahead preparation of same, delivering exactly
what you expect, therefore very satisfying. For this meal,
I put into practice a stricter form of portion control than
I’ve allowed in the past, and it physically pained me to leave
half the soup behind.
Susan ordered a mushroom appetizer. She intended to get breaded
and fried mushroom caps, served with a homemade sauce ($6),
but she asked for stuffed mushrooms, not knowing there was
a separate, so-named item on the menu. And that’s what she
received: large lobster-stuffed caps, the stuffing mixed with
cream cheese and topped with something melted (Monterey Jack,
I suspect), broiled in a white wine sauce ($8). Our server
was distressed to learn of the mistake, but Susan acknowledged
it to be her own, noting “had I seen this on the menu I would
have ordered it anyway.”
House salads featured very fresh mesclun garnished with carrots,
cukes and croutons and a few grape tomatoes. Don’t miss the
Vidalia onion dressing.
The kids’ menu isn’t printed, so it was recited. This can
be a problem, because those magic, terrifying words “chicken
fingers” are thus articulated. And the child cries, “I want
chicken fingers!” And her father admonishes, “They’re made
of mashed chicken meat and glue. Mostly glue. They have no
flavor.” “But I want them!” Like the Invasion of the Bodysnatchers,
the McDonaldization of children takes place when the more
vigilant parents aren’t looking. Thus our daughter learned
of these fat-rich, nutrition-free morsels.
Again I implore all restaurants: Encourage your younger diners
to sample the regular fare. It’s not your fault if the kids
“won’t eat anything but hot dogs and spaghetti.” Parents caused
that to happen; let the parents work it out.
Maybe I’m not doing the kid any favors, but I steered her
toward baby back ribs ($8). What a bargain! It was a half-rack,
tender, meaty, topped with an apple-flavored sauce. Included
were sides of the inevitable fries and a great little helping
of cole slaw.
Susan ordered a special: a seafood platter ($16) that boasted
sea scallops and scrod, with a few stuffed shrimp that were
far better than the norm, a more pronounced flavor in the
stuffing giving it extra appeal. My entrée was the Classic
New York Strip ($19), a good-sized slice of sirloin that was
as good as this gets. A side of mushrooms ($2) turned out
to be a big portion of them: small, full-sized, garlicky.
Both entrées had sides of broccolini (also known as asparation,
a cross between broccoli and kale) and club (aka twice-baked)
Twenty-one-year-old chef Brian Hinckley has been in the business
since well before you’re supposed to go to work, a self-taught
dynamo who is a veteran of several area steakhouses, and about
whom I predict we’ll hear much more in the coming years.
Dinner for three, with tax and tip and a couple of glasses
of wine, was $85.