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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Mel’s at 22

New Bar Installed As Mel’s Redo Nears End

REOPENING DUE NEXT WEEK

New Bar Installed As

Mel’s Redo Nears End

Clerk of the Works Frank Halay, right, directs the installation of the new bar, as a month-long renovations at Mel’s at 22, the Cooperstown hot spot, is nearing completion. The bar was built in Amish carpenter Paul Byler’s shop in the Town of Springfield and transported down East Lake Road at noon today to restaurateur Brian Wrubleski’s establishment.  Next to Halay are Mike Beilby, Sean Murray, Adam Halay, William Bawolak, Shannon Hugick and Jacob Stutzman.   Mel’s regulars have been asking, what happened to the cow?  Inset right, Frank Halay unloads the spruced up painting from the truck, ready to once again hang over Mel’s bar.  The bar and restaurant is expected to be open for business again next Wednesday. (Larissa Ryan/AllOTSEGO.com)

HAPPENIN’ OTSEGO for TUESDAY, DECEMBER 31, 2019
HAPPENIN’ OTSEGO for TUESDAY, DECEMBER 31

Parade, Poetry, & Party

To Celebrate New Year

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New Years Eve!

CELEBRATION – 5 p.m. Start a safe & sober New Years celebration with parade down Main St. followed by poetry readings, festival featuring live music, games, dancing, & special guest Anthony Eardley, Oneonta’s American Ninja Warrior. Then first ever talent show featuring $1000 prize at 7:30, then black-light after-party featuring entertainment by Cosmic Karma Fire Spinners. Foothills Performing Arts Center, Oneonta. 607-431-2080 or visit www.facebook.com/FNOneonta/

With Music, Good Cheer Mel’s At 22 Marks Fifth

WRUBLESKI FAMILY, PATRONS CELEBRATE

With Music, Good Cheer

Mel’s At 22 Marks Fifth

Surrounded by family, friends and patrons, Brian Wrubleski and his family at this hour this evening the fifth anniversary of Mel’s at 22, which quickly established a place in Cooperstown’s restaurant and social scene.  Brian is flanked his daughters, Alex Gauther, right, and Natalie Wrubleski, and joined by his in-laws, Richard and Dorothy Dabrowski, visiting from Webster, Mass.  The Dabrowskis are parents of Brian’s wife Maryellen, the restaurant’s namesake, who passed away in 2013.  (Jim Kevlin/AllOTSEGO.com)
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

 

Mel’s, For A Good Meal – And, If Needed, Help

WRUBLESKI SAVES PATRON

Mel’s, For A Good Meal

– And, If Needed, Help

By JIM KEVLIN • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com

Brian Wrubleski, here with daughter/business partner Alex, last week saved a patron at the table behind them from choking. He recalled that, on Alex’s first day in the restaurant business, she’d similarly been called upon to perform the Heimlich as well. (Jim Kevlin/AllOTSEGO.com)

COOPERSTOWN – Working in the kitchen at Mel’s at 22 late last week, Brian Wrubleski got the word:  “Somebody’s choking.”

One waitperson had already attempted the Heimlich maneuver, he was told.

Walking out onto the restaurant floor, Wrubleski saw a second waitperson was performing the maneuver on a customer who, with a morsel trapped in his windpipe, had fallen out his chair in the restaurant’s southeast corner.

HAPPENIN’ OTSEGO for SATURDAY, JUNE 29
HAPPENIN’ OTSEGO for SATURDAY, JUNE 29

Duck Derby For The Leo Club

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DUCK DERBY – 10 a.m. Help launch a flock of rubber duckies at the headwaters of the Susquehanna. Support Cooperstown Leo Club on day trip to the United Nations in NYC. Cost, $5/duck or $20/5-ducks at Otesaga, Mel’s @ 22, others. Finish line just South of Main St. Bridge, Cooperstown. 607-282-2956 or visit www.facebook.com/CooperstownLionsClub/

HAPPENIN’ OTSEGO for SATURDAY, OCTOBER 27
HAPPENIN’ OTSEGO for SATURDAY, OCTOBER 27

Fall Guitar Fest Concert

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GUITAR CONCERT – 7:30 p.m. Headline concert of Classical Guitar Fall Festival features The Newman & Oltman Guitar Duo performing de Falla, Rossini, Moravec, more. Fine Arts Building, SUNY Oneonta. 607-865-8775 or visit cgsuny.org

CONCERT SERIES – 7:30 p.m. Open 49th Cooperstown Concert series featuring Molly Tuttle, performing distinctly original works. Ballroom, Village Hall, Cooperstown. 607-547-1812 or visit cooperstownconcertseries.org/molly-tuttle-saturday-october-27/

HAPPENIN’ OTSEGO for THURSDAY, FEB. 2
HAPPENIN’ OTSEGO for THURSDAY, FEB. 2

Design, Print 3-D Valentine’s Gift

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Check back at 5 p.m. for tomorrow’s events.

3-D PRINTING – 10-11:30 a.m. Design a keepsake heart box for someone special. Fee based on weight Registration required. Huntington Memorial Library, 62 Chestnut St., Oneonta. Info, hmloneonta.org/calendar/

YPN NETWORKING – 6-8 p.m. Come meet young professionals from the Otsego area. The topic for this evening is community involvement. The Beverage Exchange, 73 Main St., Cooperstown. Info, www.facebook.com/YoungProfessionalsNetworkYPN/

FUNDRAISER – 7 p.m. Live music will be performed. The public may donate for the opportunity to perform. Donations go to the Cooperstown Lion’s Club fund to support area residents to lessen financial stress. Mel’s at 22, Cooperstown. Info, www.facebook.com/Melsat22/

HAPPENIN’ OTSEGO for WEDNESDAY, FEB. 1
HAPPENIN’ OTSEGO for WEDNESDAY, FEB. 1

Play Pong With Friends, At Mel’s

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PONG TOURNAMENT – 6-9 p.m. Mel’s at 22, 22 Chestnut St, Cooperstown.

CHILDREN’S STORY HOUR – 10:30-11:30 a.m. Cooperstown Village Library, 22 Main St., Cooperstown. Info, www.villagelibraryofcooperstown.org/calendar

DISCUSSION GROUP – 3-5 p.m. Discussion of current events. Cooperstown Village Library, 22 Main St., Cooperstown. Info, www.villagelibraryofcooperstown.org/calendar

ICE SKATING – 3-7 p.m. Badger Park, Cooperstown.

GAGA BALL – 3:30-5 p.m. Clark Sports Center, 124 Cty. Hwy. 52, Cooperstown.

Husband Dedicates Mel’s To Wife’s Memory

Husband Dedicates Mel’s To Wife’s Memory

By LIBBY CUDMORE • The Freeman’s Journal

Edition of Thursday, Dec. 4, 2015

 

Daughter Alex and her husband Steve are participating in Brian Wrubleski’s venture. (Jim Kevlin/The Freeman's Journal)
Daughter Alex and her husband Steve are participating in Brian Wrubleski’s venture. (Jim Kevlin/The Freeman’s Journal)

Opening Mel’s at 22 was not just a dream come true for Brian Wrubleski – it was a chance to honor his wife, MaryEllen, who died Dec. 21, 2013, at age 53.

“It had been a goal of ours for a long time,” he said as he stirred a batch of his homemade clam chowder in preparation for a Monday lunch crowd. “After she passed away, we found this location. She always said, ‘When it’s the right time, it’s the right time.’ I guess now was the right time.”

The restaurant, in the space that once housed Sherry’s, a legendary Cooperstown soda shop, opened in early November and in the three weeks, Wrubleski’s cuisine – including specialties like fried pork belly, grilled salmon with Asian-inspired glaze and Southwest-inspired chicken – have drawn rave reviews and a packed dining room.

“It’s good, classic American fare with an ethnic flair,” he said.

Wrubleski, a former Webster, Mass., police officer who graduated second in his culinary class from Johnson & Wales, is Bassett’s former head of dining, and worked two years as the head chef at the Otsego Country Club. “My parents were bakers,” he said. “I’m trying to use lots of local foods, and I make almost everything from scratch.”

And it’s a family affair. Daughters Natalie and Alex manage, hostess and serve, while son-in-law Steve Gunther works behind the bar. “Steve and I were living in North Carolina and I was working in an office, but secretly, I’ve always wanted to do something like this,” said Alex. “When it came around for my dad, I felt like it was right!”

But he also shares his kitchen knowledge with staff who aren’t blood relatives. “I try to show my team everything I know about hard work,” he said. “I put in 12 to 16 hour days, but the end result is that I get watch people enjoy my food.”

And even more than a restaurant, it’s a chance for Wrubleski to join in the community. “My biggest passion is when I see people at the store or at the gym, and they tell me they love this place. They’ve given me so much support in this endeavor.”

It’s part of the reason he makes good food at reasonable prices. A 12-ounce sirloin steak with three sides costs $23, his specialty fried haddock costs $15. “I want to take care of the locals,” he said. “I don’t want anyone to say, ‘It was good, but I can’t afford to eat there again’.”

He’s also starting to offer more gluten-free and vegetarian options.

MaryEllen was the chairwoman of the annual food drive for the Cooperstown Food Pantry, and with the one-year anniversary coming up, Wrubleski plans to honor her memory by making sure everyone in the community has enough good food to eat. “I’m going to volunteer down at one of the food pantries on Christmas,” he said. “I realized I have to give back some of what I’ve had to those less fortunate.”

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