Photo by: Ellen Descisciolo
to the Club
One North Church St., Schenectady, 346-3400.
Serving lunch Mon-Fri 11:30-2; dinner Wed-Sat 5-9, Sun 3-8.
AE, DC, MC, V.
Cuisine: American fancy
Entrée price range: $16 (chicken with pappardelle)
to $27 (blue-cheese-crusted beef tenderloin)
Ambience: Old World fancy
Back in the day, in the old days when Schenectady throbbed
with GE-inspired eminence, back when it was the city that
lighted the world, your Mohawk Club membership signaled that
you had arrived. You belonged. And you gathered—men only,
of course—in the large stone building at the corner
of Church and Union streets in the city’s Stockade area. It
was built as a bank in 1818, became Union College’s Classical
Institute in 1872, and was bought by the Mohawk Club in 1904.
Lunch and dinner were available to members, who eventually
were allowed to bring spouses to dinner; upstairs rooms were
available for social functions and overnight accommodations.
It rode on the fortunes of the city, which meant an eventual,
slow decline. And so last year it was sold to Jack and Jeff
McDonald, who started and run the successful casual eatery
Pinhead Susan’s not far away on North Broadway. With the Stockade
Inn, they’re aiming at the fine-dining populace, and they’ve
got two-thirds of the equation splendidly correct.
Ambiance is one of those thirds. The building always has been
imposing, as befits a vintage bank. It has been extensively
refurbished to bring out its elegance, and, once the upstairs
rooms are restored, will be functioning as a full-fledged
inn. The Mohawk Club—or what’s left of it—still has a portion
of the building available for private assembly.
And there’s so much room that you’re unlikely even to glimpse
them. The foyer is flanked by a banquet room and an overlarge
waiting area, with a host’s station nearby. Beyond that is
the bar, and beyond that the main dining room.
Such sweeping spaces also call for vigilance in service, which
is the third in which the Stockade Inn weakens. And it’s not
unique to this restaurant—mediocre service is a Capital Region
epidemic, perpetuated by owners, food writers and even customers
who don’t understand how to spot and respond to the problem.
The most basic problem is that you can’t entrust a table’s
fortunes to a single server. Other issues—know your menu ingredients,
don’t clear a course until all parties are finished—pale in
comparison to the problem of keeping the food traffic flowing.
Like a diner, the Stockade Inn divides its dining room into
stations, each attended by a single server. A busperson delivers
bread and refills water glasses throughout the room. The host
station is far enough away to maroon that fellow in the hallway,
although he made an effort to cover some of the dining room
needs toward the end of both of my visits.
The staff is young and eager and easily could be redirected
to work cooperatively, following the classic captain-waiter
system that ensures that courses flow quickly and no table
Chef Danny Petrosino is a Culinary Institute of America grad
whose cooking has clean lines of flavor and whose presentation
is unfussy and effective. A 13-item menu geared toward cold-weather
fare is supplemented by nightly specials. It’s meat-rich cooking,
in which the chef turns a homely pork shank into a mouth-watering
roast ($20) with flavors of apple and vinegar in the sauce
and an old-world side dish of spaetzle to pick up and prolong
Another winning dish was a lamb loin special ($25) served
with a white bean ragout and a portobello napoleon, another
example of side dishes chosen to enhance the flavor of the
I’m a big fan of the stealth salad such as is served here.
It arrives with no warning and no fanfare—and without a lot
of painful dressing deliberation—and it’s a fresh, crisp mixture
of greens and other salad veggies, with crumbled blue cheese
and an agreeable vinaigrette.
Consider this when making an appetizer choice, but try to
resist those appetizers. I was blindsided my first visit by
a foie gras special—which, at $14, was priced way out
of proportion with the other apps. Nevertheless, it was a
low-intervention preparation and presentation, the liver lightly
seared and amazingly tender.
Crispy calamari ($7) lives up to its promise with a crunchy,
clean coating and the added bonus of a garlicky beurre
blanc as accompaniment; the $4 daily soup was a superior
Manhattan clam chowder one recent Friday, maintaining a very
old restaurant tradition. “Hog wings” have been a recent special,
a $10 preparation of pork morsels coated in a delightfully
spicy chipotle sauce.
I give especially high marks to the chilled beef tenderloin
($10), an entrée-sized portion served with a tomato confit
and an amazing parmigiana gelato.
Beef, veal, swordfish and salmon head line the entrées. Chicken
appears both as a butterflied breast seasoned with rosemary
and lemon ($16) and served with mashed potatoes, and alongside
wide pappardelle noodles in a cream sauce with prosciutto
and tomatoes ($16). Both are excellently finished, and we
were pleased that the kitchen had no problem with an annoying
substitution we requested with one of the entrées just to
see if we could get away with it.
In short: the food should provide no disappointment. Desserts,
most of which are made on the premises, arrive as obscenely
large portions. Although the cheesecake and the coconut cream
pie ($6 each) were both fine examples of pastry art, to serve
such Brobdingnagian portions is decidedly déclassé.
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