BOLTON LANDING — It was a dark and stormy night. Earlier, a line of strong thunderstorms raked the region, dragging behind it more storms and highly welcome cool air.
Not the best weather to visit the Algonquin restaurant, or the many others that offer outdoor dining here in clement weather. Husband Eric and I, along with his brother, Rich, and his wife, Helene, showed up after the first deluge. More storms held off until after we left.
The outdoor tables were empty, their chairs stacked up. The high-tops with the best views were deserted and the party lights were dark. “Usually there are visiting boats pulled up at all the piers,” Rich said.
They’d been here before, Rich and Helene, and enjoyed it all: the outdoor dining, lively atmosphere and good food. “Love the Algonquin!” texted Mary, when she found out we were going.
The bay, empty of boats, had a pleasant moodiness about it on the still, muggy night. The mountains beyond the lake were coated in shades of gray, increasing with distance.
A benefit of the poor weather was that we got seated right away at a desirable table at the far end of the porch. It’s first-come, first-served at the Algonquin, no reservations. It would have had a superior view but for the sturdy plastic sheets lashed onto supports to keep out the weather.
“It’s different with boats coming in and out,” said Rich, and I could imagine it. Kids help tie up the boats and the mariners join the crowd.
“I’m melting in here,” said Helene, peeking around the plastic sheet that kept the air out — and in. It also kept in the noise, and the family-friendly atmosphere did get a little loud.
Still, we were happy it was summer and we were outside, happy to be together at this lovely restaurant in such a beautiful spot.
The Algonquin serves lunch and dinner seven days a week, April through October. There are three outside decks and a large dining room inside with its own wide-ranging view of the bay. Upstairs is the Topsail Grille, which features a mahogany wood and granite bar made by the Hacker Boat Company. The Grille is open for private events only.
The lunch menu features sandwiches and burgers, soups and meal-sized salads, with a few house favorites such as fish tacos ($16) and a lobster roll (market price). You can start with a shrimp cocktail ($14.50 for 4 large) or steamed Rhode Island littleneck clams ($16).
An 8-ounce burger with cheese is $14.50; a triple decker club with fries is $16; a power bowl of quinoa, edamame and kale with vegetables and vinaigrette is $13. There’s a kid’s menu with favorites: hot dogs, chicken fingers, mac and cheese (all $8.95).
The dinner menu (available after 4:30 p.m.) features most of the same and adds steaks, such as an 8-ounce filet with Béarnaise sauce ($38) and surf and turf ($38). There are also pasta dishes like seafood scampi with shrimp, scallops and lump crab meat ($36). Chicken parm with pasta is $25.
Eric started with a bowl of New England clam chowder ($7), which he gobbled up, commenting favorably on the peppery flavor, thick and creamy texture and abundance of clams.
We skipped appetizers and each ordered an entree. The server allowed us to add a side salad to each for $4, and brought them out as a first course.
The salads were composed of chopped Romaine, sliced cucumber, grape tomatoes, and shredded purple cabbage and carrot, all very fresh. Helene ate my cucumbers; I enjoyed the rest with the mustardy balsamic vinaigrette dressing.
Rich gave the honey mustard dressing a big thumbs-up. Everyone liked the salads.
I ordered a house favorite, the Fish Point ($18). It’s “an Algonquin long-standing tradition,” states the menu, a fillet of sole, egg battered and pan-seared, topped with lemon butter and served over toast points.
Toast points always seem so fancy. The large fillet eclipsed them, its batter light, nice and crispy around the edges. I liked it more than the fish, which didn’t flake apart as I expected and was a bit fishier than I liked. The toast points were grilled on two sides and buttered, and were softened by the heat of the fish. If there was lemon butter sauce, I didn’t see it, and it could have used some.
The meal was rescued by really excellent french fries, golden brown and delicious, lightly salted and very crispy.
Eric chose the horseradish-encrusted salmon ($29) with a chive cream sauce. The plate was beautiful, each element laid out neatly, and the rich sauce poured over the fish looked appetizing.
“I thought horseradish would have more flavor,” observed Eric, though he enjoyed the salmon and ate it all. The rice was textbook pilaf, very good.
Algonquin gets points for fresh, really attractive vegetables. They were colorful and nicely seasoned, and there was a variety of them: purple onion, carrot, red pepper, green squash, either roasted or sautéed. They looked beautiful.
Helen ordered the 12-ounce New York strip steak ($34) medium, and reported that it was a little overdone. It looked terrific but was “disappointing,” she said, and “almost hard to eat.” There was juice on the plate, but not a lot of flavor to the meat.
Rich had a similar experience with his New York strip, which he usually orders medium-well. That’s tricky to do right, and Algonquin overdid it.
They both ate most of their steak, though, and said the sides were good. The baked potatoes with lots of sour cream and butter were excellent, and Rich finished off the giant potato he was served.
It was the first time the food wasn’t spectacular, our companions told us. “I liked my dinner,” said Rich, pointing out the nice, tasty salad. “I can’t believe how good that dressing was,” he said. “You could tell it was Dijon.” The restaurant makes its own dressings, sauces and desserts.
Rich, who is just as positive and generous as his brother, added that the prices were reasonable for a resort during the summer and that the mixed drinks were excellent.
The restaurant lost power earlier in the day, which probably affected the functioning of the kitchen. “It was mayhem,” one of the managers admitted later. We didn’t get bread with our meal because it wasn’t ready yet.
Some things we experienced are beyond the restaurant’s control, like noisy families in the closed-up porch and the weather.
Our server was competent and friendly, and though it was an off night for the kitchen, we enjoyed our experience and would go back.
The Gazette reviews are for two people, so the tab for food for Eric and me came to $61. With two drinks each (we weren’t driving), tax, 3.5% credit card surcharge and tip, the total came to $133.99.
The Algonquin stays open through October, and it would be a lovely drive to go there this time of year. The dining room looks cozy and every seat at the bar has a great view. It’s worth another visit.
Caroline Lee is a freelance writer who lives in Troy. Reach her at [email protected]
WHERE: 4770 Lake Shore Drive, Bolton Landing; (518) 644-9442; thealgonquin.com
WHEN: 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily, April through October
HOW MUCH: $133.99 for two with tax, surcharge and tip
MORE INFO: All major credit cards. Children’s menu. Parking available. ADA compliant.