So here's the deal.
After doing the overeating thing over the holidays, I just couldn't face doing a full-fledged dinner review this week.
But there's a little place on Public Square in downtown Watertown where I stopped for lunch the other day. It's called Sandy's Luncheonette, an unassuming little place at the top of the square just outside the Paddock Arcade — slightly shabby and well-worn, unquestionably old-fashioned.
Little? Well, maybe. It might be 10 feet across at the front, at best. But it's gotta be 100 feet deep from front to back.
And the coolest thing about it is the lunch counter — it has to be the longest counter in the world. I mean it. It runs nearly the entire length of the place, with a good two dozen of those old-time stools that are bolted to the floor.
Beyond the endless counter, we took up residence at one of several small tables toward the back. Well-worn menus were squeezed in between the salt and pepper shakers and the napkin holder against the wall.
All the good diner stuff was there. Egg salad sandwiches. Tuna salad sandwiches. Ham sandwiches. Grilled cheese sandwiches. Club sandwiches. BLTs. Burgers. Cheeseburgers.
And like the old-time atmosphere, the prices are old-time.
I love a good chicken salad sandwich, and Sandy's didn't disappoint. Made just the way I like it — fresh chicken and diced celery held together with mayo — the salad was placed between two pieces of wheat bread with crisp lettuce and a nice slice of tomato.
You can add a cup of soup for $1.25. Homemade chicken gumbo was very nice, loaded with sweet green pepper, celery and onion with bits of chicken in a savory broth.
Steak and cheese torpedo, a hot steak sub under a different name, demonstrated Sandy's ability to please their customer. We asked if they could add some sautéed onions and peppers. Not a problem, and they were done perfectly. The Steak-umm-like shaved beef was tender and tasty and not overly greasy. Fries were just right, too — nice and hot, crispy outside and soft inside.
We really loved the fresh torpedo roll. It was soft and a little chewy and molded itself around the warm meat/cheese/onions/peppers filling.
Turkey wrap was great, too — the right proportion of turkey, lettuce, tomato and mayo to wrap. Fresh tasting. It came with great homemade coleslaw that was creamy with a touch of zing.
We were surprised that there were no homemade desserts available.
Lunch for three came to $17.41 before tip.
We understand on good authority that Sandy's mac and cheese on Fridays is what comfort food should be — a generous portion of pasta shells with just the right amount of golden cheese sauce, a little browned on top. Tuna salad on a toasted bagel is always excellent, too. And there are those tasty and filling lunch specials like meatloaf and goulash — real “just like mom used to make” kind of meals.
Lunch at Sandy's was everything you'd want a weekday lunch on Public Square to be: fast, friendly, tasty and traditional.
Sandy's Luncheonette is open from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday.
One of the staff members at Fireside at Partridge Berry Inn has informed us that chef Shawn Vendetti is no longer working there.
Just before Christmas, I had the occasion to do an overnight getaway with some friends at the Sherwood Inn in Skanaeteles, just west of Syracuse.
While the dining at the Sherwood is always excellent, we ventured to a restaurant south of the village called The c.1820 House. It's a chef-owned restaurant in an old restored home with lots of exposed beams and plank floors. The tavern has lots of warmth and charm with its cherrywood bar and décor.
The menu offers fine cuisine like veal and lobster piccata, pork schnitzel, ginger and soy salmon, Thai chicken and shrimp and veal roulade.
During the winter, the tavern opens at 4:30 p.m.; dining begins at 5:30. The restaurant is open Wednesday through Sunday.
For more information, check out their website:
Over the holidays my travels took me to New Smyrna Beach, Fla., 15 minutes south of Daytona.
Many folks will be traveling to Daytona in the coming months for vacation or the Daytona 500 or bike week. If you want to avoid the crowds, make the short trip to New Smyrna Beach where you'll find a great array of restaurants.
Here are a few of my favorites:
Spanish River Grill, www.thespanishrivergrill.com, on 3rd Avenue in the Publix shopping plaza, beachside, offers wonderful Latin-inspired dishes like fresh dorado ceviche, lemon artichoke risotto, tostones and avocado salsa, yucca-crusted fish and orzo paella.
The Garlic, www.thegarlic.net, across the street, offers upscale Italian dishes like prosciutto and pea tortellini, ravioli bolognaise, Tuscan chicken and Chilean sea bass Franchese. You'll love the outdoor courtyard and the unique interior décor.
Historic Flagler Avenue has lots of great restaurants and shops. A new favorite is Atlantis Bistro and Wine Bar. We enjoyed al fresco dining with specialties like mussels lemonade, pizza bruschetta and chicken and broccoli flatbread.
Around the corner on South Pine Street you'll find That's Amore, www.nsbthatsamore.-com/. Great casual Italian dining. Their mussels marinara is always a good bet with a cold beer on tap. All their pasta dishes are good. A nice selection of wine, too.
The Grille at Riverview, www.thegrilleatriverview.com, is where Flagler meets the Intracoastal Waterway. For lunch or dinner, whatever you order will be well-prepared-rainbow trout almandine, mussels cappelini, blackened mahi-mahi, macadamia crusted grouper and much more.
And if you can't or don't want to leave Daytona, head for Caribbean Jack's on the Intracoastal, www.caribbeanjacks.-com. It's good, casual fare — seared ahi tuna, build-your-own burgers, Caribbean chicken salad and crispy Maple Leaf duck breast — with live music on the weekends. Watertown's own Bob Kissell performs there most every Friday afternoon.
You can contact restaurant reviewer Walter Siebel via e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.