CHAUMONT It has been just a little over five years since Cari Greene opened the Blue Heron in Chaumont.
Her vision was a homestyle eatery that welcomed local residents as well as out-of-towners, serving large meals at affordable prices. From what we witnessed last week, she has achieved her goal and then some.
On a hot summer night and a weekday, no less the bar was packed, the dining room was filled, and if it hadnt been for on and off rain throughout the day, the beautiful outdoor patio with its stunning gardens would have been jammed, too.
The Blue Heron has two entrances, both taking you directly into the bar. We grabbed the last available bar table for a drink. I checked with the hostess who said that although the dining room was three-quarters full, we could head in at any time.
The bar is obviously an attraction to both summerers and year-rounders. Its long and narrow and feeds into the dining room. A little noisy, but thats part of the ambiance.
Every seat at the bar was occupied, but a sharp bartender made immediate eye contact when I approached to order a round for our foursome. House wine for the ladies, Yuengling on draft for the guys.
There were other perhaps more prestigious beer choices, but we went with an old standard that brought back fond memories of our Stone Age college days. It was cheap back then and relatively cheap now. And on a warm summer night, even a cheap beer is a friend.
In the time it took us to drink our drinks, we watched a parade of patrons file past us and in to the dining room. As suspected, we now had a 15-minute wait. The price of poor planning? Another round!
When we got the call that our table was ready, we walked into a quieter space. The dining room is pleasant and fairly small. A Lotto Quick Draw screen provided entertainment for a couple who preferred it to dining conversation. A large, round table was home to a large family. A table tucked away in a corner, but unfortunately right next to us, was occupied by three boisterous 60-ish gentlemen obviously very deep in their cups.
There are quite a few standard deep-fried things for appetizers. We avoided the fried sampler platter (it doesnt get any better than that for some) and honed in on two that sounded more interesting: lobster melts ($8.59) and Blue Heron fries ($6.29).
The lobster melts were tasty little treats, four cocktail rye squares supporting a concoction of shredded lobster meat, minced scallions and shredded Swiss, all held together with a little mayo and quickly browned under the broiler.
The Blue Heron fries were similar to something offered at Colemans Corner in Watertown (Cari used to be the proprietor there) potatoes sliced the thickness of coins, lightly deep-fried and served with blue cheese and brown gravy.
We expected it to arrive like poutine, already assembled, but it was a make-your-own deal. Too bad the blue cheese was gummy blue cheese dressing and the gravy had that fako canned taste.
Salads come with the meals, hand-torn iceberg lettuce, two cucumber slices, two grape tomatoes and some red onion. Dressings were of the commercial variety, except for their Italian that was sorta homemadeGood Seasons, according to our honest, veteran waitress.
The main dishes were reasonably priced and generously sized. But there was a bit of a challenge putting them on the table since the salad and appetizer plates hadnt been cleared.
You dont often see grouper on north country menus. The Herons broiled grouper ($14.99) was an 8-ounce portion of fish topped with lobster stuffing (the same mixture used with the lobster melts). Crispy sweet potato fries came with a 20-cent surcharge. Whats up with that?
It came with a veggie medley of yellow beans, green beans and those tubular carrots referred to as baby carrots. They had a certain watery characteristic that surely labeled them previously frozen. A shame, at the height of the fresh vegetable season.
Chicken Marsala ($14.29) arrived as a nice serving of garlic mashed potatoes, mushrooms, and a thick, tan-colored Marsala sauce without the chicken! We had just realized the lack of meat when our server swooped in, reaching for the plate while simultaneously asking if she could take it back for a minute.
We all had a laugh over it, and quite quickly it was back at the table complete with a breast of chicken and an extra dose of the Marsala gravy. The chicken was cooked properly, the mushrooms had flavor and the sauce tasted Marsala-y.
Perhaps the kitchen could have added some color a small veggie serving or garnish as the plate was simply all tan and brown.
Was that really the f-word coming from the table behind us? More than once?
No problem with the Mediterranean chicken pasta ($13.99), bowtie pasta tossed with olive oil, garlic chopped green olives and a bit of feta cheese. More pasta than stuff, but lots of flavor, regardless.
Shrimp and scallop Florentine ($15.49) was an Alfredo-like dish with relatively small shrimp and scallops, four of each, tossed in a creamy sauce with pasta and spinach. Wait a minute someone forgot the spinach.
Again, our apologetic waitress felt bad, but there was no way to add the spinach at this point. It needed to have been added as the dish was sautéed.
Now the f-bombs were really flying from the table behind us. I was just short of saying something to them, but in their advanced state, I figured it wouldnt do any good.
Desserts, said to be homemade, were decent, priced between $4 and $5.
Pecan pie was as it should be, sweetness and richness cut by nuttiness. Luscious lemon cheesecake lived up to its name, for sure. A firm white cake (almost like a pound cake) with raspberry filling was nicely done.
Peanut butter bar, a flat thing with a cream cheese frosting laced with peanut butter flavor and enough sugar to make your teeth buzz. It wasnt our favorite, but it might be yours.
Two appetizers, four entrees and desserts came to $97.48 before tip.
Overall, even forgiving the lapses in the kitchen, the Blue Heron struck us as a friendly, neighborly place with generally good food, a welcoming bar and no real pretentions.
But theyve got to put muzzles on those f***ing foulmouthed regulars or find them a permanent seat out back next to the dumpster.
We had an enjoyable experience on a recent social visit to Nona Fina in Saranac Lake.
The food was very good (vegetable lasagna, chicken piccata, a lovely marinara) and our waitress was super-accommodating with a friend of ours who had a bazillion dietary restrictions.
After taking what seemed like 10 minutes quizzing her about food ingredients, he said, You know, where Im from, instead of asking Was everything OK?, wait people ask me Was anything OK?
As she was clearing our table, our cheerful and very patient waitress interjected, Was anything OK? She had written it on her order pad earlier so shed be sure to ask at the end of the meal.
You can contact restaurant reviewer Walter Siebel via email: email@example.com.
The Blue Heron
12050 State Route 12E
Casual dining in a friendly atmosphere.
Monday through Saturday
Lunch 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Dinner 4 to 10 p.m.
Lunch/dinner/bar noon to 8 p.m.
The bar is open weeknights until midnight, weekends until 2 a.m.
For a good appetizer, try the lobster melts. Mediterranean chicken pasta and broiled grouper were enjoyable. If you order chicken Marsala make sure you get chicken with yours. Luscious lemon cheesecake was our favorite dessert.