At the Table: Barnsider justifies longevity with first-class, inclusive dinner

The Barnsider Restaurant gets it. No wonder they've been in business for 42 years. We had a thoroug

The Barnsider Restaurant

WHERE: 480 Sand Creek Road, Colonie

WHEN: 4 to 10 p.m. Monday to Thursday, 4 to 10:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 4 to 9 p.m. Sunday

HOW MUCH: $81.47 with two sodas, tax and tip

MORE INFO: 869-2448. Credit cards: MasterCard, Visa, American Express, Discover, Diners Club. Children’s menu. Wheelchair accessible. Reservations accepted Sunday to Thursday for parties of any size, Friday and Saturday for parties of 5 or more. Go to

The Barnsider Restaurant gets it. No wonder they’ve been in business for 42 years. Mom and I dropped by one night; it was the first visit for the both of us, and we really enjoyed it.

My frequent companion Mary advised me ahead to ask for a table around the perimeter of the main dining room. “You don’t want to sit in the middle,” she advised. It’s lively, open and bustling, and with the cathedral ceiling it can get a bit noisy. The host genially offered a us small table by a window when we asked.

Our server greeted us with, “Is it anyone’s birthday? Dinners are half off with ID.” It wasn’t, but it’s a nice draw. Perhaps they’re feeling the recession, too, although it didn’t look like it. Our dining room was packed.

“It was a busy night,” said manager Michelle Hughes. “But there has been a significant drop-off.”

At the Barnsider , you don’t have to spend a lot of money to get the works, because their comprehensive salad bar is included and dinners come with sides. So if $25.95 sounds like a lot of money today, keep in mind that’s all you’re spending on food before you add appetizers and desserts.

Unique appetizers

And you should try an appetizer. They have old standbys like escargot, shrimp cocktail and clams casino, but I was riveted by the description of the bacon beef Wellington: tenderloin tips wrapped in bacon and baked in puff pastry with a Cabernet and caramelized onion demi-glace. Thinking realistically about the fact that all my pants fit again made me decide against ordering an appetizer. I recommend you do, of course, especially if it’s your birthday.

The salad bar had big bowls of fresh Romaine and crisp iceberg lettuce and we happily filled up our plates. “Nice big plates,” commented Mom. The toppings weren’t anything out of the ordinary, like three bean salad and baby corn, but it was meticulously attended to and perfectly neat throughout the evening. We found three kinds of fresh bread, along with some fabulous sharp aged cheddar cheese at the end of the salad bar. If I had that cheese in my house, I’d be picking on it all day.

I would have liked more dressing choices that weren’t creamy, and found too late the bottles of Balsamic vinegar and oil. Their Italian dressing is a bit weak.

Mom ordered the 14-ounce sirloin, medium rare ($25.95). “That’s our best steak,” the server told her, approvingly. She ordered a baked potato on the side, and said it was the tastiest one she’s had out. It was crispy on the outside and fluffy inside. And their best steak? She held up the first piece to show me. Perfectly cooked and juicy, with the good, sweet taste of sirloin, she said. She liked it so much that all 14 ounces were completely gone in short order.

“It’s not the same the next day,” she rationalized. We highly recommend it.

shrimp and rib

I ordered the shrimp and prime rib ($25.95), and my plate was packed. There was a dish with two stuffed shrimp that looked like russet potatoes with perky tails, a watercress garnish with lemon wedge atop, a pile of fresh steamed vegetables, a small metal cup of au jus, and a lovely slab of perfectly medium-rare prime rib. Let me tell you about it.

First of all, the Barnsider gets stuffed shrimp. When I was learning to cook, husband Eric showed me the proper way to stuff a shrimp. He looked at the puny ones on the baking sheet, sighed, and picked up a lump of stuffing the size of a golf ball. I watched as he wrapped the butterflied shrimp around it and topped it with a chunk of butter. Then a light bulb went off. “It’s not about the shrimp, is it?” I asked, as he nodded. The Barnsider ‘s shrimp are not only generously stuffed, they’re topped with lots and lots of buttered bread crumbs. Oh, and the shrimp are tasty too. I saved one for Eric, who highly approved of it.

The steamed mixed vegetables were brilliantly colored: bright orange strips of carrots, spring green broccoli, yellow and green squash, and gleaming cauliflower florets that set off the other colors. Of course, those bright colors mean that the vegetables weren’t cooked so long. I nibbled a few crunchy carrots and decided to take them home and steam them a bit more. Since I’d had plenty of vegetables at the salad bar, I didn’t mind a bit.

“They shouldn’t crunch,” said Hughes. “That’s not how they’re usually served,” she added. They were delicious the next day with lots of butter and salt.

The 10-ounce serving of prime rib was just the right size. It was medium rare, just like I asked, and full of rich beefy flavor. I ate the tasty parts around the outside and called it a day. I was full.

So was Mom, but we ordered one slice of their homemade key lime pie ($5.95) with two forks. We could pick at it, we said. Holy cow, is it good. The cake was served with raspberry and peach sauces that came from real fruit. The graham cracker crust was held together with plenty of butter and sugar, and the filling was rich like cheesecake. Tart, limey, smooth cheesecake. “If you close your eyes, it’s just like you’re eating cheesecake,” said Mom. I closed my eyes and immediately went somewhere I didn’t want to come back from. It was that good. We finished it.

It was a thoroughly pleasant evening, the food was excellent and the servers took good care of us. The Barnsider delivers on service, quality of food and price.

Lighter fare

You can dine more casually from a lighter menu and save even more in their lounge, the Hawkeye Grill. “You can get the same sirloin steak we serve in a sandwich, including sides, for $10,” Hughes said.

So the Barnsider merits a trip for your birthday or anytime. They are starting a separate fixed price menu soon, for $26.95. It includes appetizer, entree and dessert and it gives you just another reason to go. Save room for an appetizer and you can share dessert.

Categories: Food, Life and Arts

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