HANNAWA FALLS Canoe Place Inn has opened in Hannawa Falls, not too far from downtown Potsdam.
Its a prime location on the main highway, overlooking Hannawa Pond on the Raquette River. Over the years the restaurant has been known as the Shorelounge, the Shoreline, Chris Fays and, those whove been around these parts for some time will recall, Greens.
After being closed for a year, the restaurant opened for business under new owners early this summer. Nothing much has changed inside. Same beautiful brick bar (one of the previous owners was a mason). Same cumbersome barstools. Two dining rooms, both with views of the river.
One change that many will welcome: the bathrooms have been completely renovated. The last time we were here, you could actually see into the cellar through holes in the floor.
We stopped by on Halloween night. There was a good bar crowd, friendly locals, it appeared. Friendly enough so they even shifted down a few seats in each direction to make room for the four of us.
Mixed drinks were an honest pour. One of my guests had been to the restaurant shortly after it opened and remembered enjoying a quality Chardonnay by the glass, Clos du Bois, he thought. The only choice now was bargain barrel Vendange, poured from big 1.5-liter bottle that you can buy in a liquor store for $8.99.
We made our way to the smaller dining room. The larger one appeared to be closed the night we were there. White kraft paper from a roll was draped over the tables. Crayons were provided for doodling. An upright roll of paper towels on a peg was the centerpiece.
Our server was a very nice 20-something gal who has a day job and waits tables at the restaurant twice a week. She was friendly and personable and happy to chat. Told us shes worked at the restaurant for about a month.
Except for a few standouts, the menu is the same stuff you can get most anywhere. Wings. Nachos. Quesadillas. Pizza. Burgers. Lasagna. Chicken Parm. Chicken Marsala. Haddock. Rib-eye.
But look carefully and there are some more interesting choices. Homemade salsa and chips. California burger (turkey burger, avocado, smoked Gouda). Lemon pesto chicken. Sausage marinara. Maple Delmonico (rib-eye with homemade maple sauce). Seafood Alfredo.
We started out with the campfire nachos ($8.99), standard corn chips topped with beans, onions, tomatoes, jalapenos and cheese. We went for the ground beef add-on for an additional $2.
This was a very large portion, and certainly loaded lots of cheese and plenty of ground beef. It was served with sour cream and homemade salsa, which we really liked. It was pale red (just the way out of season tomatoes are sometimes), but it had just the right amount of heat. It was good.
We also had the Canoe platter that allows you to choose one, two or three deep-fried appetizers. We picked two ($6.99), chicken tenders and vegetable wontons.
The chicken tenders were freshly breaded strips of chicken. Very flavorful, especially when dipped in the ranch dressing provided. What a treat to have house-made tenders rather than those overly breaded, sodium-laden restaurant supply variety.
We got the wontons because our bartender was talking them up and they sounded pretty special. She said theyre made there and gave us a full list of veggies. But they werent, really. Just unidentifiable pulverized veggies and a lot of cream cheese in a deep-fried wonton wrapper. Dipping sauces offer a bit of redemption barbecue, ranch and Franks hot sauce.
Fried Buffalo shrimp ($7.99) were quite good. Five large shrimp (16-20s, if youre into shrimp sizing) were battered and deep-fried, then tossed in medium hot wing sauce. Nice. Tasty. Weve had better, but weve had a lot worse, too.
French onion soup ($5.95) had lots of onions and ample melted provolone cheese on top. The broth was good, except for an off-putting herb. I thought it was thyme, which I generally like, but my guests thought it tasted like the sage.
Our server brought some nice bread to the table. It was a small, crusty baguette, warmed, sliced and presented in a basket. It reminded me of a very good product you sometimes see in supermarkets Ile de France is the brand.
Salads that come with the entrees were pretty standard, a decent mix of greens and veggies with the addition of pepperoncinis. Dressings came in little plastic containers so you could determine how much to put on your salad.
Lemon pesto chicken ($10.95) consisted of two thinly pounded chicken breasts covered with what appeared to be homemade pesto. There was no taste of lemon.
It was served with linguini topped with more pesto and a side of baby carrots cooked just right and finished with a tasty sweet glaze (maple syrup, we suspected).
Seafood Alfredo ($15.99) was a winner. It had plenty of seafood (shrimp, scallops, haddock) in a made-to-order creamy, cheesy Alfredo sauce mixed with linguini and served in a white canoe-shaped dish.
We ordered the rib-eye steak ($19.95) cooked to medium, and it came out exactly that way. We were looking forward to trying the blue cheese butter advertised in the menu, but it came without.
When we pointed it out to our server, she apologized but didnt offer to get some for us. It also came without a steak knife, which she did get for us. It came with twice-baked potatoes that left something to be desired. More like potato skins with mashed potatoes in them.
We were intrigued by Patsys lasagna ($13.95). We asked our server who Patsy was. No idea. Well, we got it anyway because in addition to being described as triple layers of meat, cheese and sauce it said You will not be sorry you tried it.
And we werent sorry we tried it. It was a tall, good-sized portion, served hot and bubbly. A little greasy, maybe, but it was probably that grease and a handful of herbs in a robust sauce that made it so good.
Desserts were commercially made. We tried carrot cake and pecan pie ($4.95 each). The carrot cake was quite good. The pecan pie was served warm, which we appreciated, but the pie itself was a disaster some pecans on sweet, brown glop with a mushy crust. There were some do-dads of airy whipped topping sprayed on the side of each of the slices that we scraped to the side of the plate.
Dinner cost $136.01 before tip and drinks.
Credit goes to Dennis Rutkauskas who does the cooking. He did a decent job. Dennis honed his cooking skills at Angelos Fresh Seafood in Potsdam, which explains why the seafood Alfredo was outstanding.
But the staff needs help. Our poor server didnt have any idea what pesto was.
And when we asked her what red wines were available by the glass, she had to go to the bar to find out and told us We have CaberSavigBlanc I think thats how you pronounce it.
Lucky we didnt ask the difference between the rib-eye and the Delmonico on the menu.
They also need to have some kind of uniform, or at least wear presentable clothes.
Logo shirts would be fine. Except for our waitress who was dressed up as a cowgirl for Halloween, it was an every man for himself dress code. Some of the kitchen crew walked through the dining room in grubby shorts and tattered T-shirts.
Were those people cooking our food? Gross.
Then theres the tableside iPad to process your credit card. I hate those things. You need a tutorial from your server to work the thing while she stands over you and shows you how to punch in her tip.
Trade the high-tech gadget for some real napkins and tablecloths.
And on top of it all, it was getting mighty chilly in that dining room facing the river before the night was over.
Id say the Canoe Place Inn is a work in progress, except theyve been open for nearly half a year. Theres certainly room for improvement here. We wish them all the best.
You can contact restaurant reviewer Walter Siebel via email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Canoe Place Inn
5726 Route 56
Hannawa Falls, NY
A new grill and pub at the former Shorelounge location on Hannawa Pond
HOURS: 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. seven days a week
Dinner served nightly until 10.
APPETIZER PICKS: Nachos with ground beef, Buffalo shrimp
ENTRÉE PICKS: seafood Alfredo, Patsys lasaga