Table Talk: The Tavern
By Blaze Marshall
Monday, November 28, 2011
The long awaited opening of The Tavern on Aviation Road took place in September. Matt Sokol, Cullen O’Brien, and John Horgan ventured into the restaurant business and as often happens, it took longer than expected. But now that well-populated area west of I-87 has a neighborhood tavern to call its own.
Constant Companion and I waited a couple of weeks to try our area’s newest entry. The first few days evoked comments from friends such as “Jammed,” “Packed,” “Too crowded,” and all the usual expected experiences of a new place. On our visit, on a Tuesday night, The Tavern was less than half full.
One enters through a long hallway, next to a Zumba Fitness center. The walls are covered with old-time photos of the Aviation Road area and there is a long settee for diners-in-waiting. The open bar and dining area is behind this hallway, with the bar centered in the middle of some high-tops, booths along the wall and individual tables.
The obligatory flat-screen TVs are behind the bar and the walls are hung with Red Wing Hockey and some baseball memorabilia. A huge moose head stares down the entire dining and bar area. The bar is finished oak, fronted with half logs and the booths are dark plywood. There is nothing fancy or overdone here. Interestingly, a large steel refrigerator occupies one wall near the bar. You can sense the blood, sweat, tears and capital that the owners put into this “Cheers” type atmosphere.
John Horgan was tending bar and we chatted for a moment before taking a booth along the front wall. Casey, our waitress, presented us with a simple two-page menu while we enjoyed a Stella Artois draft beer.
Two students from Chef Bill Steele’s SUNY Adirondack class were teaming up in the kitchen that is now just serving dinner. The Tavern opened with lunches but wisely cut back almost immediately according to John. Perhaps downtown the lunches would thrive but not on Aviation Road where the largest employer is the Queensbury School District.
The Tavern offers Getcha Goin’ items like chicken wings, beef nachos, mozzarella sticks, Adirondack chili, an Asian trio of pork, turkey and spring rolls as well as choices of grilled thin bread; margherita, ciasto and cebula style with andouille sausage, caramelized onion, spinach and parmesan cheese.
Entrees are straightforward American cuisine including a grilled Rueben, a Tanner’s sausage dog topped with chili or cole slaw and a southern style pulled pork featuring Purple Pig bbq sauce, slaw and sweet potato fries.
The Tavern features Sokol’s hand-pressed burgers including Kyle’s major burger with cheddar cheese, onion rings, bacon, lettuce, tomato and bbq sauce. There is also grilled kielbasa with Monterey Jack and tangy gold mustard.
Companion went with one of her constant favorites; a Holly’s Caesar salad with crisp, ice cold romaine, a very good homemade dressing and fresh reggiano parmesan. She topped that with grilled slices of chicken breast and gave it a “Thumbs up.”
I chose a bowl of baked French onion soup that was one of the very best I have ever had. Quite a tribute as I rarely miss an opportunity to have a bowl of French onion. The Tavern’s is very hearty and consists of all fresh ingredients with crispy cheese. I followed this great beginning with a Backwoods Chicken sandwich, an interesting combo of grilled chicken breast, pepper jack cheese, chili, cole slaw and a spicy guacamole sauce. Just a touch of everything on top of a plump chicken breast and it works!
I belatedly received the extra side of sweet potato fries that Companion ordered. However, Casey graciously removed them from our bill.
The Tavern is a no-frills, feel good place that works for a very light, casual dining out experience. The area could use it and I suspect it will become a local hangout to discuss everything from the Adirondack Phantoms to Queensbury politics.
The trio of owners chose not to rush it, hoping to get everything right! A few more additions to the menu, some additional exposure and positive word of mouth will make The Tavern what Sokol’s Market has been for years; a good, reliable, reasonable experience for food buffs, away from those damn chains!