It was sweltering Friday, though I refuse to complain about the heat after this past winter, and Wife L had some friends over to use the pool. I wasn’t asked to leave, but I wasn’t asked to stay, either.
So after trying but failing to play golf at the course carved out of a farm field (I’m serious) just east of Route 12 in Waterville, I took a circuitous route to the heart of New Hartford.
Coworker A had recommended Georgio’s Village Cafe, so I ventured inside. There was a wait at the bustling restaurant but I was offered a table outside. Outside didn’t sound good, even at 7 p.m., so I declined and took a walk to Cavallo’s, just down the street. But that restaurant was super busy, too.
I remembered Coworker D had recommended the Chowder House, and it being Friday, that sounded like a dandy option for a fish fry. I worked my way down Burrstone Road, past Utica College, and Notre Dame High School, and into a more residential section of New York Mills. And there was the Chowder House.
I sat at the bar, which has four or five tables, and was stunned to see the Mets, and not the Yankees, on the tube. Not many Mets fans in CNY. I took that as a good omen for my meal.
The regulars at the end of the bar were chatting with the efficient barman, and while their shrimp cocktail and Portobello mushroom appetizers looked great, I ordered just the $9.95 fish fry. The dinner came with delicious homemade bread, cole slaw and my selected side of sweet potato fries. The haddock was flaky and moist, and I thought the breading was dead-on: a bit of crunch and texture but nothing that overwhelmed the fish, which was a good size.
I enjoyed the vibe at the Chowder House. The owner, Jim, was chatting with folks at the bar as he helped get drinks. The bar area has the prerequisite kitschy items like ugly looking blowfish hanging from a fish net. The dining area was nearly filled.
There were interesting specials like rosemary haddock and a complete clam bake for $23. The Ahi Tuna on the regular menu sounded wonderful, a tuna steak with marinated artichoke hearts for $15. There also is chicken and veal dishes if you’re not into the seafood thing, but if you’re not, I’d steer in another direction.
I decided to continue my exploration of New York Mills, a longstanding village that seems completely hidden between commercial strips like Oriskany Boulevard to the north and Commercial Drive to the west. You can see where the village gets its name. A mill built in 1880 has been impressively converted to a retail and commercial space called #3 Mill. Looks like another former mill was turned into a senior center. I drove by Hapanowicz Meat Market, famous for its Polish kielbasa and sausages, and a park where some pickup basketball was going on.
I also found Uncle’s Tavern along Main Street, and felt compelled to stop in. There were guys and gals in their 20s and folks in their 60s enjoying conversation, music, and darts. A standing fan was barely pushing the hot air around, but the bottled beer coming out of the “bevador” was cold. Apparently there used to be a dozen bars in the small village during its working-class heyday. Good to see this one thriving.
I’m still a relative newbie in CNY years, having been here eight years. I guess that is why it’s so much fun to discover these places that some folks have known about for a long time, but I’ve only just stumbled upon. There I am talking about Mickey Mantle in a neighborhood bar that has been around a long, long time, when just two miles away is every new evolution of chained restaurant and shop on Commercial Drive.
I learned a bit more about the history of the Chowder House and the Hapanowicz market from Jimmy, the owner of The Boat restaurant in Vernon. I was driving home and saw the lights on at the restaurant at the corner of routes 5 and 26. The place had been shuttered for some time. Jimmy wouldn’t say how long, only that the place was closed for renovations and has been in his family for 41 years.
It’s great to see it open again, and a look at its menu was encouraging. Lots of veal and chicken dishes, along with, yes, some interesting fish fry specials. We’ll let you know how the food is when we stop in again for a meal. If you’ve been already, let me know by dropping a comment.