BALLSTON LAKE — Husband Eric and I headed to Finnigan’s, in the building that housed the longtime Good Times Lakeview Restaurant and subsequently Villago, with its expansive view of Ballston Lake.
The building looks freshened up, with neat yellow siding, new-looking windows and gravel recently spread in the parking area.
I like the cheerful yellow paint in the main room, with accents of green, some left from the St. Patrick’s day holiday. It blends seamlessly into the Irish-themed decor.
Windows fill two walls, offering a splendid view of Ballston Lake across the road. There’s a stone-paved patio easily accessed from the dining room; a hardy, hat-wearing couple drinking Irish coffee had it to themselves this weekend evening. Once the weather warms up, the patio and its view will offer the best seats in town.
The main dining room is cheerful and clean, with bar on one side, a fireplace opposite, and both high- and low-top tables that can easily be reconfigured. Three large screens each showed a different sport, but were thankfully muted.
Thankfully, because when the dining room became full it was noisy and hard to hear each other. It can’t be helped much, with walls of windows, wooden floor, and tables and hard surfaces all around. Finnigan’s is lively, convivial, welcoming and friendly — and sometimes a bit loud.
The menu is American, leaning heavily on Irish favorites. Appetizers are fun snacks such as mozzarella sticks ($11) and coconut shrimp ($13), wings ($16) and fries, both sweet ($9) and Russet ($7), with shrimp cocktail ($19) and other healthier fare available.
There are homemade soups and build-your-own grilled burgers or chicken breast on a bun. The basic burger, with house-made potato chips, coleslaw and pickles, is $15.
Sandwiches come with the same amenities; have a Reuben ($19) or BLT ($13). Top as you wish; in these inflationary times, everything is an extra charge.
Entrees, like bangers and mash ($19), shepherd’s pie ($19) and chicken parm ($19), come with starch and vegetable, and rolls available upon request. The night’s special, a 12-ounce sirloin, was $28, and the server said it was delicious.
She was patient, unruffled and attentive, even by the end of our meal when the place was packed, and made sure the meals were what we expected.
“How are your drinks?” she wanted to know when we were ready to order. Eric’s Beefeater martini, up with a twist of lemon ($11), was excellent. I had a house Sauvignon blanc ($7.50).
Entrees are served with “fresh warm dinner rolls and butter upon request,” per the menu, so we requested them when we put in our order. They looked promising, tucked neatly into a basket with a paper napkin and some butter packets, but were cold and flavorless. “They taste like a brown-and-serve roll out of the package,” commented Eric. One bite was enough for me.
Eric started with a crock of New England clam chowder ($8), which was piping hot. There were small pieces of clam with larger chunks at the bottom. How was it? “Good.” He ate it all and commented favorably on the oyster crackers.
I added a small garden salad to my meal ($3.50 extra), composed of crunchy, fresh Romaine with onion, grape tomatoes, red pepper and cucumber slices. I liked the balsamic vinaigrette that came in a cup on the side.
The server made sure our drinks were refilled before the entrees came out. Eric had the Faroe Island salmon ($25), a glazed, flaky and delicious piece of fish. He enjoyed a large baked potato with butter and sour cream that had a crackly and salt-dusted exterior.
He enjoyed the maple-flavored salmon very much, and I liked the looks of it, too, plotting how to recreate it at home. We both had asparagus, which you cannot get away from this time of year. The stalks were cooked a bit more than I’d like, but were tasty and most were fork-tender, not stringy.
I thought the server brought the wrong meal because it didn’t look like a blackened chicken dinner ($19) at first glance. Two pieces of chicken were covered in dark-colored spices and sautéed; I almost thought it was steak. Ah, but no, it was heavily seasoned, tender white-meat chicken that had quite a Cajun kick to it.
I was glad to have wine to wash away the first of the heat, but once I got used to I thought it was quite good. There was a bit of delicious liquid on the plate from the chicken, and I wish there had been more.
Speaking of liquid, the asparagus brought its own buttery sauce along, too. The meal was crowded onto the plate: My blackened seasoning ran into buttery vegetables, which ran into crispy fries.
A butter-soaked fry is not a bad thing, though I’d prefer to start with everything on its own. The plates are too small or they like the look of a very filled plate, but it makes the components quite cozy.
Most of the meals served near our table were burgers and sandwiches, which came in paper-lined baskets or trays.
Finnigan’s didn’t offer a dessert menu, so I got a box for my leftover chicken and we asked for the tab. The charge for all of the food and a Saranac root beer for Eric came to $59. With martini, wine, tax and a 20% tip, the total was $98.93.
About those terrible-tasting dinner rolls: I brought one home and baked it in a 400-degree oven for eight minutes, just to see. It came out with a crackly crust and was browned on the bottom.
“Tastes a lot better,” said Eric, reaching for more butter.
We stepped onto the patio after our meal and soaked up the view. We’ll be happy to visit again in the warmer weather on a pleasant night, the restaurant noise behind the door, and the dark sky and stars above for a ceiling.
Caroline Lee is a freelance writer who lives in Troy. Reach her at [email protected].
Finnigan’s On The Lake
WHERE: 175 Lake Road, Ballston Lake; (518) 952-7185; www.finnigansonthelake.com
WHEN: 4 to 9 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday, 4 to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday
HOW MUCH: $98.93
MORE INFO: All major credit cards. ADA compliant. Children’s menu. Reservations accepted for large groups only. Parking lot.