News of Otsego County

Serving Otsego County, NY, through the combined reporting of Cooperstown's Freeman's Journal and the Hometown Oneonta newspapers.
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Fine Food Fun Food

Falling In Love With Fiesta, Again And Again And Again

FINE FOOD • FUN FOOD

Falling In Love With Fiesta,

Again And Again And Again

I have fallen in love three times at Fiesta.

The first was the salsa. Each meal is preceded by a bowl of chips and in-house salsa, fresh each day, resulting in salsas with different personalities from night to night. Sometimes spicy, sometimes mild. Don’t let the lightness of this salsa fool you, it is super yummy on chips or dishes.

The second was the tacos; simple and tasty, it’s just not Tuesday for me without the $2 Taco Tuesday special. Pork, beef or chicken, you can’t beat this combination of delicious food at a great price.

My third love was the Diablo Calamari. Deep fried and served with a spicy dipping sauce, this is the dish that made me love calamari. And if you’re in the mood for seafood, this is a great appetizer before heading for main courses like their California whitefish tacos or their shrimp quesadilla. (Fiesta Mexican Grille and Cantina, 19 Clinton Plaza Drive, Oneonta)

IAN AUSTIN
Staff Photographer

If you want to feel like a Very Important Customer, head over to Spurbeck’s Grocery, where they greet you like an old friend whether it’s your first time in or your 50th. They don’t skimp on the sandwiches, and if you’re lucky, you get in on a day when they’re doing one of their specialties – paninis, chili dogs – but you never know when that might be, so you might want to stop in often!

But on days when they’re not running a special, I can always count on a cup of delicious, hearty soup. And be prepared! You won’t find thin, boring soups here – lots of them are hearty, cream-based delights, and they run a whole gamut of flavors – lasagna soup, coconut curry shrimp, kale and sausage, just to name a few!

They’ve also started offering breakfast sandwiches, and don’t forget to pick up a pound of their wicked sharp cheddar cheese for later! (Spurbeck’s Grocery, 9 Railroad Ave #1173, Cooperstown)

LIBBY CUDMORE
Managing Editor

Walk down an alley. Enter through a side door. You think twice about it but once you’re inside, it’s magic! Welcome to Alex’s Bistro in Cooperstown. You’re immediately surrounded by eclectic furniture and dozens of mirrors hanging everywhere. The heavy wood bar is to the right – feel free to sit there and dine if you like.

Here’s a must to start lunch or dinner: the Fingerling Potato Fries. Perfectly cooked and served with an awesome chipotle aioli dip, they get your taste buds going for your entrée.

The menu is also eclectic. Thai, Japanese, Cambodian, Indonesian, Indian, Jamaican…the list goes on and on. Try the Great Britain Fish and Chips. Wild Atlantic Cod is fried to a crispness, served with fries. The Japanese Salmon Sesame Noodles has shiitakes, cucumber pickles, sweet tamari and about six other things that make this noodle dish indescribably delicious.
Intense flavors and smells will bring you back to Alex’s again and again! (Alex’s Bistro, Main St. Cooperstown)

TARA BARNWELL
General Manager

Keep It Simple: There’s Nothing Like A Diner – Or Simple Tuna Melt

FINE FOOD • FUN FOOD

Keep It Simple: There’s

Nothing Like A Diner

– Or Simple Tuna Melt

Editor’s Note:  These mini restaurant reviews are prepared by the Summer Dreams staff.

Nothing beats a good tuna melt.  And I mean a GOOD tuna melt!  Plaza Diner in Oneonta has just that.

The tuna doesn’t have so many fillers that you can’t taste it. It’s got just the right amount of mayo mixed in.  Then it’s topped with melty cheese and grilled on your choice of bread.

Not everywhere you go can grill a sandwich – sometimes it’s too greasy or burned.  Not here – grilled to perfection.  It’s served with fries that are to die for too!

My friend had the ham and Swiss cheese club.  It must have been 5 inches tall, loaded with ham and Swiss and lettuce and tomato.  Good club sandwiches are about as hard to find as good tuna melts.

Give them a try, the menu is huge and sure to please everyone! (Plaza Diner, 122 Main St.

Oneonta.)

TARA BARNWELL

General Manager

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day and at Jackie’s Restaurant, they know it!

They’ve got all the traditional diner fare – eggs and bacon and pancakes, but I’m always drawn to the Biscuits and Sausage Gravy. They do not skimp on their peppery, savory sausage gravy, and the biscuits are fluffy enough to hold their own – ask to have the biscuits toasted for an even deeper flavor! (Jackie’s Restaurant, 3688 State Highway 28, Milford.)

LIBBY CUDMORE

Managing Editor

Looking for something sweet and crunchy? Give the Cooperstown Diner a try.

The honey-dipped fried chicken is fills both cravings with a crunchy exterior and soft, juicy, and sweet interior. Served with apple sauce and a choice of sides – fries, broccoli, potato or macaroni salad, to name a few – this is a delicious way to spend a meal. (Cooperstown Diner, 136 1/2 Main St, Cooperstown)

LARISSA RYAN

Office Manager

A good diner will offer you friendly comfort both in food and in atmosphere.  Sandy’s Diner, located at 5626 Route 7 at Oneonta’s Price Chopper Plaza, checks off both those boxes.

I ordered two eggs over hard and they came out perfectly – the yolks were not dried out yet held firm, and the eggs were not greasy.  The bacon I ordered with my eggs wasn’t too crisp and wasn’t too limp.

My side of French toast was delicious, the bread soft and coated in just the right amount of French toast batter.

My daughter Alexandra ordered two pancakes, which were good and enormous, almost completely covering the cute, colorful plate they came on.  She probably won’t have to eat anything else today!

And then there is Sandy’s comfortable atmosphere.  It may be located on a huge concrete parking lot, but Sandy’s interior is the opposite of its exterior.  The walls are decorated with sparkly butterflies, uplifting mottos, and rows of photographs of Sandy’s customers over the years – babies, kids, parents, grandparents, and so on.

The waitresses do what good diner waitresses do: call you “honey” or “sweetie” as they swiftly take your order, bring out your dishes, refill your coffee cup, and gab with the people sitting at the counter.

Sandy’s diner is one of those places you want go back to at least once a week until you’re known as a regular and photos of you and your family join the ones on the wall.

JENNIFER HILL

Staff Reporter

Tomato Cream Sauce? Yum! And Mel’s Reuben? Double Yum!

FINE FOOD, FUN FOOD

Tomato Cream Sauce? Yum!

Mel’s Reuben? Double Yum!

Recently, my family went to Bella Michael’s for dinner without me, but my husband promised he would bring me something from there.

That something turned out to be Bella Michael’s very appropriately named “Chicken Fantasia,” grilled chicken breast topped with a tomato cream sauce, roasted red peppers and sun-dried tomatoes, all topped with Swiss cheese. It came with sides of spaghetti, salad and dinner roll.

I love pretty much any kind of cream sauce, but tomato cream sauce ranks way up there. It was definitely the crème de la crème of this dish, but the peppers, sun-dried tomatoes, and Swiss cheese all brought it to “Fantasia” level. Having lived in Louisiana for six years, I plan to try the
special Cajun crabmeat sauce with my pasta for my next meal there, but I’m circling back to Fantasia for the meal after that one.

Bella Michael’s is on the pricey side, but very much worth the splurge. Your taste buds will thank you. (Bella Michaels, 57 River St, Oneonta)

JENNIFER HILL
Staff Reporter

Mel’s at 22 is here to stay! There have been so many restaurants on the corner of Main and Chestnut in Cooperstown that have come and gone, but Mel’s serves quality food at good prices with a nice atmosphere … a combination of a restaurant that will be here for many years!

A Reuben is a Rueben is a Rueben, right? Not so at Mel’s. First, it’s Mel’s own corned beef, topped with
imported Swiss and sauerkraut, then Thousand Island dressing.

I’m a bread freak, but not so much a rye bread fan, so I had it on a Heidelberg bread ciabatta that was fresh, grilled panini-style and all of the goodness melded together. Served with the village’s best French fries and you’ve got me coming back for more! (Mel’s at 22, 22 Chestnut St., Cooperstown)

TARA BARNWELL
General Manager

Some say it’s the water that makes Upstate NY pizza as delicious as it is. Maybe it’s that we go heavy on the cheese and stay away from overly sweet sauce.

Whatever it is, Sal’s in Oneonta puts it all together to slice up an oversized piece of heaven, served city-style on a paper plate with a fountain soda, just the way it should be.

There’s nothing fancy about Sal’s, but with the big front window and the cheery lighting, it’s like a beacon in the night after a long day. You can get a simple cheese slice or go crazy and get one loaded up with chicken, bacon and ranch! It’s all delicious.

Don’t sleep on the wings either – their garlic parmesan wings are so heavy with the good stuff that you need a dozen napkins – one for each bite! (Sal’s Pizzeria, 285 S. Main St., Oneonta)

LIBBY CUDMORE
Managing Editor

Local favorite Pop’s Place is best known for its ice cream, but that’s not all it sells. Order up Pop’s Big Burger and enjoy a delicious burger that is truly greater than the sum of its parts. The two patties of juicy hamburger, each with a single slice of cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion, and two slices of bacon combine for a satisfyingly delicious meal that doesn’t fall apart on the first bite. (Pop’s Place, 4347 NY-28, Milford)

LARISSA RYAN
Office Manager

If you like great sandwiches with weird names, then Undercover Eggplant is the place for you! Painted in purple and green in Oneonta’s West End, this sandwich shop quickly became a favorite with locals and visitors alike. Homemade breads, quality ingredients and creative combinations of flavor and texture help make every sandwich on their menu a winner.

Whether you are looking for a sandwich piled with meats (The Wash House) or a vegetarian option sure to fill you up (The Eggplant Special), the Undercover Eggplant is sure to have your new favorite sandwich nestled between two slices of their homemade bread.

Personal favorites include The One Stop, a breaded chicken breast with melted mozzarella, red onion, pesto mayo and artichoke hearts, or The Hertha Winch, which features chicken breast,
pepperoni, melted mozzarella and cajun Mayo.

Also check out their large list of seasonal specialty sandwiches, which will all be on the wall where you go to order. (Undercover Eggplant, 421 Chestnut St. Oneonta)

IAN AUSTIN
Staff Photographer

 

Indian Food Back In Oneonta; Plus, Bomber’s Burrito Bar

FINE FOOD, FUN FOOD

Indian Food Back In Oneonta;

Plus, Bomber’s Burrito Bar

Indian food has finally returned to Oneonta for the first time in nearly 20 years and I cannot be more excited.

The thing I love about Indian food is that when you smell it, it’s like a warm hug. When I walk past Noor Indian Restaurant in Oneonta, you can smell the curry in the air wafting out from the kitchen, beckoning you to come in. Recently opened, Noor is the first Indian eatery in nearly 20 years, and it is a most welcome addition to Oneonta’s expanding Main St.

Reasonably priced, it offers lamb, goat, shrimp, chicken and vegetarian offerings, piping hot, or cold the next morning. And don’t worry, they have a food license. This is one of the first things I look for when I visit new restaurants. New to Indian cuisine and a little intimidated by all the fancy names? Stop in for the lunch buffet for a fine sampling of their offerings sure to fill you up!

At dinner, beginners can try the butter chicken; it’s creamy tomato based sauce it a great entry point for beginners. Veterans can opt for more spicy options: chicken vindaloo with as hot at you like it. And don’t forget the butter or garlic naan, a perfect complement to any dinner to make sure no sauce is wasted. (Noor Indian Restaurant, 281 Main St. Oneonta)

IAN AUSTIN
Staff Photographer

Imagine tacos so good you’d drive over an hour for them. That was always the case with Albany’s
legendary Bomber’s Burrito Bar – but now, all I have to do is walk down Main Street! The menu is simple – tacos, burritos, bowls and quesadillas – but that doesn’t mean the food isn’t delicious and plentiful.

You won’t be hungry for days if you try one of their loaded burritos, and a plate of tacos allows you to try a few different fillings – I always get the Tex Mex beef and the BBQ pulled pork.

And bring friends – the booths are wide enough to seat plenty, so no sense keeping it all to yourself! (Bomber’s Burrito Bar, 221 Main St, Oneonta)

LIBBY CUDMORE
Managing Editor

Plenty Of Food – Who’s That At The Next Table?

FINE FOOD, FUN FOOD

Plenty Of Food – Who’s

That At The Next Table?

At Morey’s Family Restaurant, your booth neighbor might be a man dressed in a brocade jacket, pajamas and bedroom slippers, smoking a pipe and sitting in a high-back chair next to a roaring fire, a dog sitting at his feet.

A girl with long blond curls in a long frilly nightgown stands next to him. The room he is in looks like a parlor room in “Downton Abbey.”

Encased in clear plastic, the room with the dad and daughter isn’t too much larger than your hand.

It is just one of 150 dollhouse displays inside Morey’s Family Restaurant & Dollhouse Miniatures on Oneonta’s East End. But Morey’s quirky displays aren’t the best part.

I had one of my best breakfasts there. I ordered their Greek omelet – three eggs perfectly cooked, and folded with feta cheese, tomatoes, red peppers and spinach leaves, all lightly sautéed. I could taste the flavor and freshness of each ingredient; Morey’s chef(s) did not override them with too much oil or butter.

My omelet came with two pieces of French toast, my choice of side, which were also perfection: thick, soft bread triangles lightly coated, not soaked, in fresh batter.

You’ll remember Morey’s miniatures, but it’s the food you will want to go back for. (Morey’s Family Restaurant, 5536 Route 7, Oneonta)

JENNIFER HILL
Staff Reporter

Head to the Upstate Bar and Grill for deliciously juicy New Brunswick Jail Island salmon on apricot couscous,
encrusted with almonds and served with seasonal vegetables.

I ordered mine cooked medium well-done and was happy to have done so: Every bite was moist and filled with the biting flavor of apricot. (Upstate Bar & Grille, 5418 NY-28, Cooperstown)

LARISSA RYAN
Office Manager

Brewery Ommegang has a new menu and an expanded dining room, with plenty of room for the whole family to enjoy lunch or an early supper.

I always get the chicken and waffles, served with a maple-bacon béchamel and a tangy raspberry jam. Try it with a Rosetta ale, which is aged on cherries and tastes like no other beer you’ve ever had.

And, of course, you need frites – they come with a house aioli, but if you’re REALLY hungry, you can get them with the Nirvana IPA cheddar-bacon sauce, or poutine made with local cheese curds – be sure to order enough to share!
And make sure to check out the daily beer specials so you can find one that pairs well with your food.

LIBBY CUDMORE
Managing Editor

By The Lake, By The Beautiful Lake

FINE FOOD • FUN FOOD

By The Lake, By

The Beautiful Lake

The Blue Mingo never disappoints. This was my first time there this season; now that the rain has stopped, I hope to get there a few more times before Columbus Day.

Just walking in is a delight. Smart thinking on their part – you walk through a tasteful gift shop where it seems you just need one of everything!  Then starts a delightful lunch sitting outside on the covered deck overlooking Otsego Lake.

If you have nothing else, start with the onion chips. Not rings, but chips!  Fried to perfection, these tender little onion chips get dipped in a tasty combination of Sriracha and mayo with a hint of lemon.  Not sure exactly what that sauce is but it’s really GOOD!

Try Treats From Clam Strips To Steaks With Blue Cheese

FINE FOOD • FUN FOOD

Try Treats From Clam Strips

To Steaks With Blue Cheese

Editor’s Note: SUMMER DREAMS writers are reporting weekly on some of their favorite dishes in local restaurants.

Remember clam strips from Howard Johnson’s heyday?

You don’t find them many places these days, particularly of a quality that bring back long-ago memories, but you’d run across such an offering at The Farmhouse Restaurant in Emmons, just off Interstate 88’s Exit 14.

They’re clam strips are sweet, moist – just like you remember. They’re listed as an appetizer, but you can add French fires and cole slaw and make it a main course.

JIM KEVLIN, Editor & Publisher

What is it about sunshine that always makes me crave sushi? Whatever it is, I know that when I need my summer fix, I go to Mt. Fuji and pick up a couple of hand rolls and a seaweed salad, perfect for a light lunch on a warm day. Try either the Dragon Roll or the Eel Avocado if you’re feeling adventurous! And if you’re in the mood for something a little more substantial, they offer a great bento box that comes with teriyaki or tempura, a California roll, a salad and rice. And if you’ve got a big party, why not sit at one of the Hibachi tables and watch the chef make his magic before your eyes? (Mt. Fuji, 134 Main St, Cooperstown. (607) 544-1088)

LIBBY CUDMORE, Managing Editor

If you’re looking for pizza, stop by New York Pizzeria on Chestnut Street. Their service is always speedy and the pizzas delicious. I like the pepperoni pizza with sausage and black olives. They always have a robust flavor while the black olives add a tang to delight the senses. That plus the just crunchy enough crust is enough to make my family a regular at the New York Pizzeria. (New York Pizzaria, 75 Chestnut St, Cooperstown. (607) 547-2930)

LARISSA RYAN, Business Manager

I can attribute Jay’s Place on Oneonta’s West end for finally solidifying my late-blooming appreciation of both blue cheese and rare steaks. Long before I avoided both like the plague; the idea of pink meat and pungent cheese wrinkled my nose. But it was Jay’s sirloin topped with bacon garlic blue cheese that finally made a believer out of me. They were also the place that made me love calamari, with their basket of lightly panko-encrusted calamari. This hidden little gem has become one of the key places my wife and I go for a special occasion not only for it’s amazingly tasteful food, but because it’s slightly hidden location lends itself to a more relaxed atmosphere when you don’t want the chaos of a more centrally located eatery. (Jay’s Place, 3200 Chestnut St # 113, Oneonta. (607) 432-9584)

IAN AUSTIN, Staff Photographer

If you’re looking for a delicious meal while still counting calories, try the Apple Endive Salad and the Red Pepper and Gouda Soup at Ken’s American Cafe. They both offered smorgasbords of flavors that boosted my energy.

Besides endive, the salad had sliced granny apples, shaved sharp cheddar, and wheat beer dressing.  The dressing offered some sweetness to balance out the endive’s slight bitterness and the tang, and the cheddar added some savory.

The soup had roasted red peppers, onions, garlic, and smoked Gouda.  The flavors together gave a rich, toasty taste, with the Gouda giving a sweet, creamy finish.

It goes without saying that I will be going back to Ken’s for those dishes again, and I may even try some of the other items! (Ken’s American Café, 748 NY-28, Oneonta. (607) 267-4670.

JENNIFER HILL, Staff Writer

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21 Railroad Ave. Cooperstown, New York 13326 • (607) 547-6103