At the Table

Smith’s of Cohoes serves comfort food in evocative setting

Sunday, March 24, 2013
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COHOES — “I wish more places were like this,” sighed Mary. “A good dinner in a nice setting without paying an arm and a leg.” That sums up Smith’s Restaurant in Cohoes. We had a wonderful meal for a reasonable price with good service in a historic setting.

Mary describes the cuisine as “Casual American.” Smith’s serves standards like seafood fra diavolo and chicken cordon bleu, and home cooked meals like slow-roasted turkey, pot roast, meatloaf, and calf’s liver.

Smith’s is where you go if you want comfort food. If you want something fancier, they’ve got veal Marsala, filet mignon, and scallops. Dinners include sides like pasta or potato and vegetable. Chicken Parm is $15.99 including pasta.

Smith’s of Cohoes

WHERE: 171 Remsen St., Cohoes. 237-9809, www.smithsofcohoes.com

WHEN: 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday to Thursday; 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday; 4 to 10 p.m; Saturday, 1 to 9 p.m. Sunday

HOW MUCH: $60.80, with tax and tip

MORE INFO: Credit cards: Visa, Master Card, American Express Children’s menu. Reservations accepted. Parking next door and across the street in public lots. Reservations recommended on weekends.

Historic surroundings

Smith’s is historic. The 50-foot African mahogany bar was brought from the original Tammany Hall in New York City. You don’t appreciate how big it is, or the barroom itself, until you find you’re still walking and haven’t reached the dining room yet. Another Tammany artifact, a handsome wood refrigerator, holds bottles of champagne and wine behind steamed-up glass doors.

The dark wood paneling in the dining room is real, the ceiling is tin and the floor is old-fashioned black-and-white basket weave tile. Heavy beams reach across the ceiling from deep wood moulding and a deep lighted ledge. To their credit, the ledge is not used to display bric-a-brac. The windows are pebbled glass, the heavy carved fireplace mantel and the tables are wood, and even in the daytime the room is a bit gloomy. A roaring fire would have helped cheer it up on a chilly night.

Smith’s serves excellent crusty rolls, along with a choice of house-made garlic butter. The rolls are generous; I broke mine open and stuffed a bit of garlicky butter into one steaming half. Yum.

Smith’s specialty house soup is tomato crab bisque, a thick, chunky and hearty soup that’s just a little spicy.

The house dressing is champagne vinaigrette, served in a small ramekin alongside extra-crispy Romaine and mixed baby greens. I needed only a little of the thick, sweet stuff smeared onto the red onions, shredded carrot, ripe grape tomatoes and cucumbers, it was that tasty. I would definitely choose it again.

We waited a bit for our dinners but it gave us a chance to observe our surroundings. Two servers had the dozen or so tables well in hand. All the food that was on the way to other tables looked appealing and made me second-guess my choice.

Flavorful offering

The chicken cordon bleu’s ($16.95) spot-on flavor was the combination of a thick-cut slice of smoky ham and oozy Greuyere. The menu promised it would be breaded and lightly fried but it was deep-fried with a batter coating that was crisp and brown, a method that guarantees the boneless chicken inside will be tender and moist. I loved it, along with the buttery green beans and chopped fresh tomatoes, on which the chef uses just the right amount of salt — plenty. Mary and I both liked the smashed potatoes, which, as promised by the waiter, “were different.”

I’m just guessing here, but to prepare these you boil some billiard-ball sized redskin potatoes until they’re mostly done, then flatten them into hockey pucks. Top them with Parmesan cheese and bake them in the oven. You could eat them out of hand once they cooled off. Smith’s gets points for doing something different with potatoes.

Mary enjoyed Big Mike’s pork chop ($19.95), named for the former owner and colorful Democrat who rose to political prominence in the early 1900s. It’s a porterhouse cut, with chop on one side and tenderloin on the other. Mary said it was juicy and delicious and enjoyed the savory topping of apples and onions.

Desserts homemade

Homemade desserts are a strength at Smith’s, so be sure to leave room. There were several to choose from, and the quality of the ones we sampled were outstanding.

Mary compares all carrot cake ($6) to the one at her favorite restaurant, but she said Smith’s was actually better. It was moist, more full of raisins and nuts. There are three slim layers, with plenty of cream cheese frosting between them and on the cake. I tasted a bit; it was savory, almost juicy, with plenty of cinnamon flavor.

You must try the red velvet cheesecake ($6), one of the best desserts I’ve ever had — not just because of the inch of cream cheese frosting, although it didn’t hurt. The dense red cheesecake was moist and a bit crumbly and they wisely used chocolate graham cracker crumbs for the crust.

Husband Eric really enjoyed the baked macaroni and cheese ($10.95) I brought home for his supper. Smith’s uses medium-sized shells for the pasta, which can cup the creamy sauce. It comes with two slices of grilled crostini. He polished off the rest of the cheesecake and enjoyed it as much as I did.

The tab for dinner including tax and tip (but not the take-out supper) came to $60.80. I’m thinking back to what a nice time we had chatting in that historic dark room on a cold evening, well-cared for by the staff and well-fed by the kitchen.

 

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