OWLS HEADTheres a little out-of-the-way place here thats clearly geared up for the snowmobile crowd this time of year.
Trailside Bar & Restaurant is 20 minutes south of Malone on County Route 27 (Duane Street in Malone) if youre coming by car and somewhere east of state Route 30 on corridor 7 if youre coming by snowmobile.
We arrived by car on a very cold Thursday just before noon to a snow-covered parking lot. The restaurant looked a bit rustic with a large elk rack above the front door. It looked a little lonely, too. The only other vehicle besides ours was the restaurants snowplow truck.
We knew theyd be open; wed called the day before to make sure. The person who answered the phone said, You bet were tough up here. We knew we were going to like the place.
Inside, the bar was to the right, tables to the left sprinkled around a pool table, a foosball table and a jukebox. The varnished plywood ceiling was decorated with old skis and skates. A whitetail deer head mounted on the wall kept a constant eye on the place.
An older gentleman behind the bar greeted us with a friendly hello. Since we were the only customers in the place we decided to keep him company and have lunch at his warm, inviting bar.
The bar itself is pretty interesting, with old postcards and photographs laminated to its surface. Ron was our bartender and, we soon found out, owner of the place since 1997. He told us that back then, he wanted to open a bar and his wife wanted to open a day care center. They compromised on a bar, because its like running a day care center for grownups, he said with a smile.
He was laid back and positive, despite the fact that the snowmobile trails were less than ideal. Ordinarily, the place would be pretty packed with snowmobilers this time of year, he told us.
Theres a good selection of bottled beer but none on draft. A Sierra Nevada Pale Ale got us started, along with a glass of white wine that was mysteriously poured from a refrigerator below the bar and a mixed drink from the standard selection of liquor behind the bar.
Ron presented the plasticized lunch menu. It contained all the good stuff youd expect at an outpost like this: fried food favorites, chicken wings, burgers, nachos and quesadillas. A nice selection of sandwiches, too: pulled pork, Philly cheesesteak, grilled chicken, grilled cheese any of which can be made as a wrap.
We started with three appetizers to share.
Homemade potato skins ($6.49) were the real deal, three large baked potato skin halves that had been partially scooped out to create a thick base for bacon and melted cheese. Pieces of bacon were poking up through the heavy layer of mozzarella. A substantial stick-to-the-ribs starter.
There are three dips on the menu: spinach and artichoke, hot chicken wing and the one we got, hot sausage and cheese ($7.99).
The dip was reminiscent of chili con queso, a Mexican hot cheese dip sometimes prepared with Velveeta cheese or nacho cheese and Rotel tomatoes. It was served in a short glass bowl, surrounded by colorful tortilla chips. The sausage was a little hard to detect; we guessed it was Jimmy Dean breakfast sausage.
Our favorite appetizer was chelada clams ($9.39). It wasnt until I got home that I found out that chelada is not a type of clam, its a preparation. (We tried to Google it on our phones at the restaurant, but cell service is sketchy there).
The clams themselves were those tiny littlenecks that come from foreign waters, but there were a least two dozen of them. They were steamed/sautéed in clam juice, tomato juice and BEER aka chelada!
While some Internet posts compared chelada to some kind of nasty frat house dare, we were all over it. It was red and brothy, souplike, fortified with diced onions, supplied with several slices of garlic white bread to soak it all up.
Although we were pretty full after the substantial appetizer course, we forged on in the name of accurate newspaper reporting.
Burgers come in two sizes, 6-ounce and 8-ounce. They come standard with chips; pickles on request. Fries or onion rings are a $2.39 add-on.
We got the Trailside burger, the 8-ounce model ($8.29) with onion rings ($10.68 total). Its a classic cheeseburger with lettuce, tomato and onion on a fresh Kaiser roll. We ordered the burger medium-rare and got just that, a nice, juicy pinkish-red center.
Onion rings sat aside the large burger, a bready, crispy and tasty commercial product. All in all, a pretty darn good burger.
The grilled ham and cheese ($7.09) was nicely done, real ham along with oozing American cheese between two pieces of grilled sourdough bread. The bread was buttery and crisp; the inside salty and cheesy.
Some good ol satisfying comfort food for a cold winter day. We all agreed this would have been even better with a cup of tomato soup on the side.
We ordered fries to go with it, crisp seasoned fries from one of their suppliers.
OK, what the heck is a Zuni roll? ($7.69) we asked Ron. He said its something a foodie friend of his in Malone came up with, The guy who runs the funeral home there.
Its a wrap stuffed with lean turkey, crispy bacon, red onion and Swiss cheese and the Zuni magic homemade raspberry pepper jelly that gave it a nice bite. It spends enough time on the grill to slightly brown the wrap and melt the cheese inside. Yum!
What really put it over the top was the addition of the raspberry pepper jelly. We noticed that for $1.19 the pepper jelly can be ordered as a side. This stuff would be darn good on just about anything.
There were probably some decent desserts to be had, but we had no room for anything else after the filling lunch. The tab for three came to $53.43 with tax but before beverages and tip.
Ron made it easy for us to settle in and make ourselves comfortable. Hes a sharp businessman, casually mentioning to us the cabins that he has out back for rent, slipping us a laminated business card with room rates and restaurant hours.
The dinner menu adds chicken, pasta, seafood and steak entrees to the mix.
And despite the fact that there were no snowmobiles to be found at Trailside on this quiet weekday, several folks journeyed to the restaurant by car and wandered in for lunch while we were there.
You can contact restaurant reviewer Walter Siebel via email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Trailside Bar & Restaurant
1592 County Route 27
Owls Head, N.Y.
A little out-of-the-way place thats clearly geared up for the snowmobile and outdoors crowd this time of year.
Serving breakfast, lunch and dinner seven days a week
Breakfast: 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Monday through Saturday
9:30 a.m. to noon Sunday
Lunch: 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday
Noon to 4 p.m. Sunday
Dinner: 4 to 9 p.m. daily
OUR PICKS: chelada clams, Trailside burger, Zuni roll