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Amid bustle at Breakers, great meals rise to surface

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CAPE VINCENT — Breakers Restaurant in this quaint river village was a complete surprise.

We hadn’t heard much about this little eatery that opened about a year ago. There’s no website. Their Facebook page has sketchy information and hasn’t been updated in months. Seems like it closed for part of the winter.

We stopped by on a damp and chilly pre-summer weekday evening. It’s a cute little place with an inviting façade. The parking lot was filled and cars lined the street in front of the restaurant.

Patrons were streaming in and out of the attractive building, so we joined the party. We walked through the front dining room set with six or seven tables, all occupied. The dining room/lounge to the rear of the building was a bit larger and even busier.

There were no open tables, so we grabbed four seats at the bar. The room has a nice feel to it; large windows all around that overlook the well-groomed neighborhood. An outdoor covered deck looked like a great place to be on one of those lazy, hazy days of summer ahead.

The bartender appeared to be waiting on tables, so that gave us a few minutes to peruse the good selection of beers geared toward summer in the glass-front cooler. Sam Adams Summer Ale. Jimmy Buffet’s Land Shark Ale.

And a new favorite: Summer Shandy from Leinenkugel’s brewery in Wisconsin, a light and refreshing wheat beer with subtle lemon overtones.

Finally the novice bartender/waiter arrived. Chuck Porto was quite personable, but clearly out of his element, unsure of where liquors were located behind the bar. New to the job? Thrown into the job at the last minute? (The place was getting slammed ...)

As it turns out, he owns the place, along with his wife, Carol, and Eric Derouin who runs the kitchen. Chuck was a little stressed at times, taking care of us as well as half the tables in the room, but we were in no hurry to eat, enjoying the festive feel of the place.

Carol was non-stop, dividing her time between waiting tables in the front dining room and assisting in the kitchen.

Chuck told us that they were having trouble finding good help. We asked a young waitress who didn’t seem too interested in working there to secure a table for us. But other customers waiting for a table quickly jumped ahead of us as tables opened up — a kind of free-for-all seating, and she didn’t do a thing to help us out.

So we asked Chuck (who we assumed had more clout) if we could grab the next available table. He was totally frazzled at this point, so we just got into the every-man-for-himself mode and slid into four warm seats as the next guests exited the building.

The two-page dinner menu is simple — a page of summer salads, nice offerings like grilled chicken/cranberry, Greek salad, mandarin salad and chicken Caesar, all with interesting ingredients like Craisins, Feta cheese, honey glazed walnuts, sundried tomatoes and more, and a hand-written page of enticing house-made entrees with an Italian flair.

We had been watching some beautiful entrees emerge from the kitchen throughout the night, so we bypassed the salads and went right to the main course.

Entrees come with a house salad or soup-of-the-day.

The salad was a fresh mix of crisp romaine, ripe red Roma tomato wedges and long carrot peels and a lovely homemade poppy seed dressing that tasted like it was made with a yogurt base.

The salad was very good, but the soup was exceptional — potato, bacon and broccoli — thick and creamy and delicious. The soup was served in classy square glass bowls; the salad was served on square glass plates.

The entrees we chose were excellent: Chicken Sicilian ($12.99), pesto haddock ($12.99), eggplant Milan ($12.99) and prime rib ($13.99).

The chicken dish is a modified version of chicken Parmesan, tender chicken breasts draped with slices of salami, covered with marinara, mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses, baked and served over pasta.

Eggplant Milan consisted of four slices of eggplant covered with a light tomato sauce, ricotta cheese, beefsteak tomatoes, sautéed onions, sliced homemade meatballs, melted mozzarella and parm. This tasty dish was a real winner.

The haddock was baked in a white wine sauce. A light coating of pesto and melted Provolone on top of the fish was just enough to add flavor without overpowering.

Prime rib was juicy and full of flavor and an exceptional value for the price. What we estimated to be a 12-ounce cut of slow-roasted beef was topped with a small puddle of rich au jus. Crisp potato wedges were a perfect compliment. A fresh vegetable medley was expertly sautéed and seasoned.

Portions were perfect, served on attractive square glass dishes. And the price was certainly right.

We enjoyed a bottle of oaky, buttery Chardonnay from Washington state’s Chateau St. Michelle vineyard to complement our meal, a favorite of ours, bargain-priced at $19.

Serving our table, Chuck did the best he could. At one point, we asked him a question about the food, to which he replied, “I have no idea, I just own the place.”

However, we learned that he’s in the construction business and responsible for the beautiful remodeling job at the restaurant. The plank floors he installed are spectacular as is the tile work in the bathrooms.

We assumed the pile of DeWalt power tools at the end of the bar were his, perhaps as a reminder that bartending and waiting on tables is not his primary job.

Chuck presented the bill before asking if we were interested in dessert. When asked what was available he said we’d have to go to the front dining room and view the pastry display case.

Carol does the baking. We decided on apple pie, carrot cake, lemon bundt cake and chocolate bundt cake. They were all excellent, priced at $3.99 each.

The apples in the apple pie were crisp; the cinnamon just right. Carrot cake was moist and flavorful with lots of sweet cream cheese frosting on top. Both bundt cakes were fresh and moist and bursting with flavor.

Dinner for four, excluding our beer and wine, came to $74.43 before tip. You definitely get your money’s worth here.

They also serve lunch daily with enticing offerings like prime rib Philly, corned beef sandwich, mile high BLT, tuna melt and their creative salads.

The overall atmosphere was a bustling café with happy and satisfied customers. Even though the service was very unorganized, we liked the place a lot and plan to return.

Things are just going to get busier as the summer progresses. We hope they’re able to get some help out front that will measure up to the excellent food coming from the kitchen.

TIDBITS

The historic Thousand Islands Club on Wellesley Island is open for the season. There are some new faces on staff ready and eager to please.

Owners Mike and Julie Chavoustie continue to upgrade the facility. What was a tired old building just a few years ago has a new lease on life, thanks to the vision and dedication of this local couple.

Chef Michael Madsen has returned for a second year, turning out some fantastic food. His chilled avocado soup was a winner. Try the calamari steak for an appetizer.

His polenta-encrusted sea bass is back on the menu, a popular entrée that he introduced last year. Maple-glazed duck breast is back as well, served with a wonderful mushroom hash and Anna potatoes.

For those of you paying attention to your gluten intake, there are a good number of gluten free items on the menu, clearly marked “GF.’

You can contact restaurant reviewer Walter Siebel via email: wsiebel@wdt.net.

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Breakers Restaurant

194 East Broadway

Cape Vincent, N.Y.

501-5050

A bustling little café serving excellent food.

HOURS: Lunch: 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily

Dinner: 5 to 9 p.m. daily

OUR PICKS: Eggplant Milan, chicken Sicilian, prime rib, any of Carol’s desserts

RATING: 3½ forks

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