Route 20 in CNY gets all the love. Those beautiful signs that herald it as a national scenic byway, its claim to fame as the longest road in the country, the associations and groups formed to sing its praises. All well-deserved, indeed. But then, just to the north, is Route 5, the ugly sister of Route 20. Don’t hear much about this road, though it shares the same exact pavement with Route 20 in two different sections as it runs 370 miles across New York state. And don’t even get me started with Route 5S.
But there we were the other day, traveling on the Ugly Sister through Vernon. I used to cover the Vernon Town Board for the Rome Daily Sentinel, writing stories about the Hood dairy plant and Vernon Downs. Back when people I knew were getting married and not divorced, I would attend receptions at Dibbles Inn. Lately, I’ve enjoyed breakfast a couple times at Nothin’ Fancy.
The other night, we discovered a place that was new to us and a place we’ll be going back to: The Black Stallion.
There’s the horsey name, thanks to the proximity to the racetrack, and there’s a bunch of miniature race cars (NASCAR, not open-wheel) adorning one wall in the bar, thanks to being across the street from the Utica-Rome Speedway, and there’s a well-organized wait staff and a mighty fine kitchen crew out back. This place was a surprise to us; a pleasant surprise.
It calls itself an Italian restaurant, but there is a whole lot more to it. On the Friday night we went, there were six different specials, mostly involving creative sauces and combinations of fish and scallops. You have your CNY standards like Chicken Riggies and Italian Greens, but there are plenty of beef and chicken options, too. Wife L had one of the specials, a grilled, mild white fish on a bed of wilted greens with a garlic butter sauce. She loved it.
I had the Chicken Asiago. This perfectly prepared chicken breast comes with broccoli, artichoke hearts, asiago cheese, and roasted red peppers in a lemon garlic sauce.
The fish special was $21 and my chicken dish was $16. You can get baked ziti for $10 or Alaskan king crab for $26. There really is an interesting range of entrees and specials.
You might be apt to drive right by because the exterior might not stand out to you, and inside is your standard dining area with not a lot of frills, but it really is a well-run place.
We’ll take another ride on the Ugly Sister one day and try The Black Stallion again.
On another, completely unrelated, note. Is the flox that seems to be absolutely everywhere I walk these days a good thing or a bad thing? I enjoy the bright colors but I wonder if it is forcing out other plants. This photo is from the Chenango Canal walking path, just off Eaton Street in Hamilton.