A quick bite in England on your way to Vermont
Overall rating on a scale of 1-10
Service 8 •Food 8 •Ambiance 8 •Price $
By Victoria Moran
If someone invited you to lunch at a place that had 14 varieties of draft beer, 100 varieties of bottled beer, your choice of the Wessex, the Essex and the Middlesex sandwiches, assorted British bric-a-brac and spectacular views …where would you think you were going? London or Chelsea would be good guesses, but the answer is Hoosick Valley. Nestled a few miles from Troy, on the way to Bennington, VT, lies a well-kept secret—Man of Kent—a real life English pub where my friend and I enjoyed a lovely lunch.
Owner John Stoate is the perfect pub owner. Not because he has a British accent, but because he is friendly and gracious and provides a fun, warm environment. The building has seen many ownership changes since the 1920s, but Stoate has owned Man of Kent since 1985.
This is a place where the quality of food matches the views—both are excellent. The pub seats approximately 40 and offers wonderful views. We were seated at a prime table overlooking the Shingle Hollow Creek. There was also a marvelous bird feeder attached to the dining room window next to us. It was so relaxing to watch the chickadees at the window and the geese wandering around the grounds. There is even a guard goose named Millie! In the better weather months, you can opt to sit outside on a patio and enjoy the wildlife up close.
Menu items include traditional British pub fare with other options for the less adventurous. Tea is always served traditionally in a beautiful porcelain pot. Beer choices are plentiful both draft and bottled. Just a small sampling includes Pilsners, Lagers and Ales. They also have a nice wine selection and they make a mean Bloody Mary.
My friend started her lunch with the mean Mary minus the liquor. She loved it because she loves spicy hot stuff; if you do not, skip this horseradish-laden drink.
I never drink at lunch, but in the interest of doing a fair appraisal, I forced myself to try a nice cold beer—the Speckled Hen on draft. It transported me back to when I visited London two years ago.
My choice for lunch was vegetarian chili, which was served with homemade corn bread. It was spicy (but not unbearable) and very thick, full of a variety of beans, peppers and tomatoes. It was, bar none, the best vegetarian chili that I ever tasted.
My friend ordered a grilled BLT sandwich. It was served on Rockhill Bakery bread and in addition to the basic bacon, lettuce and tomato (and side of chips) it had pepper jack cheese for a tasty kick. Call us glutons, but after hearing from our waitress how wonderful the mac and cheese was, we asked for a small bowl to share. This, too, was delicious—it was traditionally made, except for the addition of chopped tomatoes, which added a nice flavor. If you need comfort food on a cold winter’s day (or any day) this is a great choice.
Other menu offerings included fish & chips, gourmet burgers and grilled and hot sandwiches. They also offer American traditional choices like pastrami, roast beef and ham & cheese. If you want a great English lunch, try the Ploughman’s Lunch. A nearby diner ordered it and it looked tempting, but very filling. It has sandwich fixings, but is not technically a sandwich—it is comprised of French bread, hunks of cheddar, pickled onions, tomatoes, pickles and chutney.
Before leaving, we each ordered a dessert (homemade by Stoate’s friend) to bring home. I brought the cheesecake home to my husband (he felt slighted that I brought another dining companion and it helped heal his bruised feelings). He said it was not overly sweet, but light and delicious. It was served with a strawberry sauce.
My friend chose the chocolate pecan pie. Her comment sums it up: “If I lived near this place I’d be quite large from eating this pie all the time.”
Total price including tip: $31.64.
Important note: credit cards are not accepted.
Man of Kent is located on RT 7 North in Hoosick Falls. Hours are Thursday-Monday 11am-9pm. Closed Tuesdays and Wednesday Sunday’s are often very busy with skiers in the winter. For more information call 686.9917.
The Sunset Café
Casual Southwest Fusion Cuisine
Overall rating on a scale of 1-10
Service 6 •Food 8.5 •Ambiance 8 •Price $$
By Judith Power
Have you been in the mood for some yummy feel good food? Head off to the Sunset Café in Ballston Spa where the atmosphere is cozy and casual with a decidedly rustic southwest flair. One of the first things that Grant and I noticed was the salt and pepper shakers on each table. Each set is different—our table happened to have a lobster salt shaker stuck in a lobster trap pepper shaker, which immediately put a smile on my face. I just love the funny and quirky little touches that make a restaurant comfortable and fun.
The Sunset Café also boasts some wonderful and interesting artwork on the walls. If one of the paintings happens to catch your eye, they are all for sale. The café is comprised of three rooms. The front room boasts a large window that overlooks Front Street. If you are an avid people watcher (as I am), this is the place to sit. A nice bar sits in the back, complete with a wooden bar top and ESPN on the television.
It is not often that I am overwhelmed (in a good way) by a menu. However, the menu at The Sunset Café is, in a word, amazing. I certainly was not expecting the variety of dishes offered. They serve anything from delicious sounding quesadillas, to sandwiches, to full course meals of steak, pork, chicken and fish. Most dishes have their own little flair…the best example I could find was the PEI mussels offered on the appetizer menu. You wouldn’t expect to find mussels on a southwestern menu, but if they were steamed in Corona beer and lime…
Grant and I finally decided to order our appetizers so that we would have more time to study our options for dinner. He ordered a cup of the smoked chicken corn chowder and the barbeque pork crepe. I decided to try the guacamole and chips because it had an interesting description that included olive oil and garlic–two things that are traditionally not included in a guacamole recipe. This is where the idea of southwest fusion kicks in, and it didn’t disappoint.
Grant’s chowder was very good–hearty, but not heavy. It had a delicious smoky flavor and was not too creamy. The barbeque pork crepe was wonderful. It was not the usual thin white flour crepe. Instead it was a corn crepe–a little like a corn tortilla, but not as thick, stuffed with tender pieces of pork. Drizzled over top was the barbeque sauce. It was an ingenious way to serve the crepe because it allowed you to taste each flavor of the dish without being overwhelmed by a single flavor. The guacamole was very good, as it was not typical restaurant guacamole that tends to be overly smooth and bland. It had decent bite-sized chunks and was full of flavor.
After much deliberation, we decided on our main courses. Instead of ordering one of the six varieties of quesadillas, I went with the St. Louis Style Ribs and Grant decided to try the southwestern cassoulet. Dinner comes with your choice of a salad or soup. We opted for the house salads since we already had a tasty bite of soup. I asked for the regular Italian dressing because the house roasted garlic, tomato basil vinaigrette sounded a little too garlicky for me. Grant ordered the salad with their Santa Fe blue cheese dressing–it added a slight kick to his salad, which he enjoyed, along with the corn muffin served on top.
The ribs were quite good—meaty yet tender with the perfect amount of barbeque sauce. They were saucy enough to where I needed extra napkins, but not so saucy that they were dripping with excess. It was served with slightly bland coleslaw that was balanced by delicious baked beans.
Grant enjoyed his cassoulet. His grilled beef tenderloin came out cooked to order (rare) on a bed of spinach with navy and kidney beans, spiced nicely with thin slices of sausage. Although the beans were good, they were a little too al dente for his taste.
Finally, we decided to have dessert. What else but a cup of fried ice cream to end a great southwestern dinner? It was very sweet, and perfect to share.
Total price including tip: $76.
The Sunset Café is located on 42 Front Street in Ballston Spa. Hours are Monday-Thursday 11:3am-9:30pm, Friday and Saturday 11:30am-10:30pm (bar until midnight) and Sunday Brunch 10:30am-2:30pm. For more information call 885.8550.