Think Little Falls, N.Y. Got it?
Then think excellent French cuisine at a quirky restaurant tucked alongside the Erie Canal. Got that?
Can’t quite get those two ideas to mesh? Understandable. I offer some help in the way of the Canal Side Inn on South Ann Street, a great locally owned restaurant worth a trip to this city that is trying hard to make the most of its position along one of the state’s most famous waterways.
The Canal Side was a perfect destination for a dual celebration of wedding anniversaries for my wife and I and for a couple we’ve known for many moons, who hail from Schenectady, N.Y.
We entered the restaurant through the bar, which looks like it could be in your Uncle Johnny’s basement because of the wood paneling that covers the walls.
We were brought into the adjoining dining room, which keeps the wood-paneled theme to a (thankfully) lesser extent and also has some finer touches, like linen tablecloths and local artwork.
We started with several appetizers, including smoked trout with a horseradish sour cream sauce that was delicious (my pick, thank you). A crabcake special had nice flavor, the generous slice of duck pate was terrific, though the soup of the day, a chicken and mushroom veloute, was a bit bland.
My wife and I both had the filet mignon with a flavorful classic wine sauce. The tournedous sauce bordelaise (I took French in high school) offered mouth-watering after mouth-watering bite. Couple M ordered veal with a rich cream sauce and the chicken Mediterranean special, both declared winning entrees.
A rousing cheer of happy birthday emanated from the bar at one point during our evening, and it turns out it was Chef James’s 60th birthday. Here’s hoping for many more, and many more of them creating top-notch food at Canal Side.
The restaurant is in the Canal Place section of the city. There are two restored factory buildings across the street that offer antiques, artwork, an ice cream shop, and a small bookshop. You can stroll along the canal and on Moss Island which, for the more adventurous, also offers rock climbing. Lock 17, one of the highest lift locks in the world, is right there, too.
There are a couple other restaurants/cafes on South Ann Street that deserve a future look, and I also will need to satisfy my inner history buff by visiting the nearby home of Nicholas Herkimer, the Revolutionary War general.
We spent the night about 10 minutes away in Dolgeville, at Ward’s Pond Bed and Breakfast. The beautiful historic home has a wonderful verandah where we spent time enjoying adult beverages and chatting.
Again, food comes into play in a big way. A three-course breakfast was outstanding: a baked egg dish followed by banana-filled crepes with fresh berries, followed by ginger snaps, tiny pastries, and a speck of ice cream.
A wonderful way to start our day, which included stops at a unique greenhouse — Lyndon Lyon — known for its orchids and African violets, and the Dolgeville Mill, which has new furniture and antiques. A trip to the Adirondack Rawlings bat factory on McKinley was unproductive, as it was closed, which was the only strikeout of our day.
In the on-deck circle is a look at several restaurants, all locally owned, in Schenectady.