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The Frugal Forager: Elephant Bistro gets high marks for hearty sandwiches

The Frugal Forager: Elephant Bistro gets high marks for hearty sandwiches

It was a rare treat to have husband Eric along for a delightful lunch at the Elephant Bistro in Cana

Elephant Bistro

WHERE: 64 Church St., Canajoharie. Phone 673-6700.

WHEN: Tuesday and Thursday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.; Wednesday, Friday and Saturday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 5:30 to 9 p.m.

HOW MUCH: $30.03

MORE INFO: Wheelchair accessible. Children’s menu available. Credit cards: MasterCard, Visa.

Husband Eric sometimes forgets that the only companion he ever had to scare up when he did these restaurant reviews was yours truly. Now I take a rotating group of friends. The qualification is that if you recommend a place, you get to come. Those who print directions are asked again.

So it was a rare treat to have Eric along for a delightful lunch at the Elephant Bistro in Canajoharie. It’s a darling place, in an old storefront on charming Church Street, whose whole high first floor is given over to the bistro.

The Bistro is in the middle of a row of buildings, which means there are only windows at front and back. But those windows are generous and high, which lets light pour in and dramatically illuminate the spaces at the ends of the building even on a gloomy day.

The tin ceiling, at least 12 feet high, makes the Bistro feel spacious. A sprawling wood bar fills the center, more intimate space. The walls that aren’t exposed brick are beadboard painted a warm mustard yellow. We took the table in the front window near the potted palm and the folded sandwich chalkboard, which read “8 TO 11 LIVE MUSIC.”

Luncheon list

Elephant Bistro offers dinners on weekends, but we were there in the afternoon and sampled the lunch menu. It’s an uncomplicated laminated sheet listing a few sandwiches, salads and daily soups and quiche. Beverages are on the back. Prices are friendly.

Much to my dismay, Eric headed straight for the grilled cheese sandwich, a grown-up version, the menu says, with brie, pepperjack and cheddar cheeses on sourdough bread ($7.50). It sounded wonderful, but a bit rich. If that wasn’t bad enough, he caved right in and ordered a cup of the day’s creamy soup, shrimp bisque ($3.25).

He boasts of his healthy morning regimen of grapefruit, cantaloupe, yogurt and high-fiber cereal. But his resolve wanes as the day waxes. Doughnuts at the office? Drive-thru lunch of cheeseburgers? The good intentions go up in flames.

Back at the Bistro, it’s pleasant to listen to the soft jazzy music and admire the local art for sale while you wait for your meal. It wasn’t long before the bisque arrived, in a tall green coffee cup.

“Mmm, boy,” he said after the first spoonful, and then, “Doesn’t shrimp have fiber?” I tasted the lovely pink stuff with its tiny curled shrimp, which wasn’t as thick and creamy as I feared, and would have more to say about it, but he wanted it back.

Elephant Bistro offers Izze sodas and Saranac beverages made nearby at the Utica brewery, I was pleased to see. I had an Izze grapefruit ($2.50), and Eric had Saranac root beer ($2.50).

Generous sandwiches

Our sandwiches arrived shortly after. The Gobbler ($7.50) had thick, moist slices of white turkey, stuffing heavy on the sage and sliced jellied cranberry sauce. I passed on the thyme mayo, the second of the one-two Thanksgiving seasoning punch. Best of all, the sourdough bread was swiped with salted butter and the sandwich was grilled.

The hand-cut meat was just warm enough, and I could see the wisdom of grilling, which kept the outside of the bread firm while the inside turned slowly into wonderful cranberry-flavored mush. I liked the kettle-style chips, those hard, crunchy slices of potato that are often coaxed into halves and quarters in the cooking.

The sandwiches were broad but not overstuffed and easy to handle. Eric eyed his before he dove in. “I can see the brie,” he said, pleased. While I automatically relegated half my sandwich to leftovers, he announced, “I’ll finish this.” I saw an alarming amount of cheese; this sandwich was just a vehicle for getting it inside him. The crisp grilled sourdough formed a kind of shell that held, well, melted cheese. He liked the slight kick from the pepperjack cheese, he said. It’s an excellent sandwich.

Elephant Bistro serves thoughtfully constructed coleslaw made from purple cabbage. Not a bit watery, Eric said, with chips and chunks, not shreds, of cabbage. “I’m full,” he said, needlessly, scraping the last of the slaw off the plate.

Cupcakes look good

I loved my sandwich and my just-fizzy enough Izze soda. We both recommend the hearty, tasty sandwiches at the Elephant Bistro. There’s dessert on offer, and I saw some handsome cupcakes on display, but it was time for the check.

We visited the Bistro in the sleepy hours of the afternoon, when lunch parties lingered and bar patrons visited and chatted over beer or coffee. The servers moved easily between kitchen, bar and dining room, neglecting no one. The atmosphere was relaxing, languid. I could have stayed until dinner.

With tax and tip, our lunch came to $30.03. Our meal was delicious, the service considerate and the atmosphere charming.

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