OGDENSBURG Smugglers Café, located at Hosmers Marina in downtown Ogdensburg, was a little difficult to find, but worth the effort.
The café is on the Oswegatchie River where it empties into the St. Lawrence. It was a beautiful spring day as we traversed the back streets of downtown Ogdensburg on our quest for the marina. Big piles of dirty snow left over from the long winter didnt exactly paint a picturesque portrait of the area.
But there it was, Hosmers Marina, a big blue building on the shores of the churning Oswegatchie. There wasnt a boat in sight on the river or in storage that we could see as we walked around the exterior. And nowhere was there a sign for Smugglers Café.
However, inside most of the space was devoted to the restaurant plenty of café tables, a fully stocked bar with sturdy stools, high-top tables lining the windows facing the river.
It was a little before noon and Andrea was getting the place ready for the day, putting her cash drawer in place, getting the specials from the kitchen crew and doing whatever you do to the QuickDraw machine to rev that up for the day.
We grabbed a high-top to take advantage of the view of the river. Andrea presented the menu, laden with cutsie nautical-themed categories like seaweed (for salads), waterfront wraps, paninis from the pier, boorleggers burgers and so on.
We began with something from the galley grub section, the cafés soup of the day, vegetable beef ($2.50/cup).
It was served steaming hot, chock full of potatoes, celery, carrots and sizeable pieces of meat swimming in dark, hearty broth. There was more than enough for two to share. It was just a touch too salty for our liking, but other than that, delicious and satisfying.
Time for some seaweed. We got the B.L.T. salad ($7). Andrea explained that its a larger version of their Caesar salad (romaine/Parm/croutons/dressing) with the addition of bacon and tomatoes.
The bacon was really good wonderful, large, meaty pieces. The romaine was crisp and fresh. A choice of dressings was offered; we went with the homemade Caesar, creamy with just-right seasonings. Croutons were crunchy and tasty.
This salad for one could have easily served two no skimping on ingredients here.
Under the panini category, you can order a half panini with choice of cup of soup or side of homemade fries for $5.50.
We got the turkey apple panini (turkey/provolone/Granny Smith apple/cranberry mayo) with fries. It was a good-sized half sandwich, nicely grilled with plentiful, flavorful ingredients. As promised by our server, the fries were hot and crispy.
So often, homemade fries tend to be soggy. Its all about the type of potato used and the temperature and cleanliness of the oil theyre cooked in. The kitchen nailed this one.
A tuna wrap ($7) was also nicely done. Tuna salad, made with white albacore tuna and good quality mayo, was wrapped with provolone cheese, lettuce, tomato and the perfect amount of red onion to not overpower. The flavors in the garlic herb wrap served to further enhance what could have been an ordinary lunch choice, but in this case was quite special.
We ended our lunch with what else? ... dessert!
Throughout lunch, we had been eyeing a sign touting Homemade Cupcakes by Melissa Baker. Melissa, we found out, is quite the baker. She makes fancy cupcakes for the restaurant, reasonably priced at $2.75 each.
Her turtle cupcake was a killer, a delicious, moist, almost sponge-like chocolate cupcake was topped with whipped cream drizzled with caramel and chocolate.
Another with butterscotch frosting was equally good, the same chocolate cupcake with a tasty topping that was more creamy than butterscotch-y, but totally yummy.
Lunch for two came to $27 before tip.
Andrea was great, always smiling, always accommodating. The restaurant has been open for about a year, she told us. In the summertime, they set up tables with umbrellas and patio chairs by the river for outdoor dining.
We were favorably impressed by Smugglers Cafe at Hosmers Marina. We think you will be, too.
Walter Siebel has been part of the Northern New York restaurant scene for more than three decades, cooking in restaurants from casual Adirondack eateries to fine-dining establishments, and lending his culinary talents to numerous charity events. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Smugglers Cafe at Hosmers Marina
54 East River St.
A nice little café on the shores of the Oswegatchie River in downtown Ogdensburg
HOURS: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday through Wednesday
10 a.m. to midnight Thursday through Saturday
Contact them for expanded summer hours
OUR PICKS: Vegetable beef soup, B.L.T. salad, turkey apple panini, albacore tuna wrap, Melissas cupcakes