The Turf Tavern in Scotia has been around since the 1940s, and owned by the Gallants since 1996. They’ve renovated the outside, the bar and, most recently, the banquet area.
But inside it feels like updated 1940s. They kept the good stuff, like the old wooden phone booth repurposed as a showcase for jewelry and tasteful gifts. The dark wood paneling all around the restaurant makes it cozy. Stylish light fixtures, real candles on every table, and cloth linens dress the place up.
I would have liked to sit in the front window to watch foot traffic, but the best tables were already taken. The dining room stretches out as far as the sidewalk, then back and around, adjoining the banquet area. Admire the mural of the Scotia Bridge given to the owners in 1957: It shows a precarious series of covered bridges perched across the western gateway to the city.
Our energetic server whisked out menus and rattled off the specials. She took our drink order and left us to the menus. We could tell she was all business and that we were in good hands.
Things are reasonably priced at the Turf Tavern — chicken Parm for $15 and a 6-ounce filet mignon for $18. But this was Ten Dollar Tuesday so the prices were even better. There were five entrees to choose from, all served with salad and bread. It explains the full parking lot.
The menu has a good selection of appetizers — Maryland crab cakes, fried artichoke hearts and steak teriyaki. Dinners such as prime rib and veal scallopini are joined by more high-end combos: surf and turf, veal and shrimp, filet and shrimp. Pasta dishes include the classic seafood fra diavolo. In short, your parents would feel right at home here, and you won’t mind going either.
Virginia and I started with an appetizer combo ($13) of shrimp, stuffed portobello, and bruschetta. We each took a giant bacon-wrapped shrimp. The smoky bacon was crispy, a salty contrast to the delicate, slightly sweet shrimp. Together, it tasted like a hotdog, but a really good one. The stuffing in the portobello was tangy, perhaps from lemon, with a bit of crab flavor. We weren’t so interested in it, but we loved the bruschetta, topped with fresh chopped tomato and basil and covered in melted mozzarella cheese. The same bread that we tasted and left in the bread basket really shone when heated.
Our dinners included fresh salad, with leaf lettuce, tomato wedges, outstanding garlic croutons and black olives. Aside from the pieces of lettuce that were too big, it was nicely done. I had a generous serving of house cranberry walnut dressing, which had a bit of heat and just enough walnut pieces. All their dressings are homemade; another favorite is the cheddar cheese, with chunks of cheese and a definite cheddar taste.
I’ve been looking for a good sirloin steak since my favorite restaurant closed, and the Turf’s comes very close. My sirloin ($24), almost two inches thick and medium rare in the center, had grill marks and a bit of char around the edges. It was a tender, delicious steak with a tiny gold mine of fat here and there. The pile of hot and crispy fried onion rings on top didn’t hurt.
There was a scoop of chunky smashed red skin potatoes that did the job but was not outstanding. The chef’s fresh vegetables, served family style, were yellow and green squash livened up with red pepper and asparagus. The squash was browned a bit, which enhanced the flavor.
Virginia chose the salmon with citrus sauce ($10), which came with a molded serving of wild rice, a small dish of the citrus sauce, and a bright lemon wedge. Chopped parsley dusted the plate.
“It’s really mild,” she said of the fish, and added, “it flakes just right.” Small pieces of salmon dunked in the orange flavored sauce were delicious, she said, but it was good on its own. It was a picture-perfect plate, perfectly prepared and graciously served. For $10! Wow.
The server displayed homemade desserts on a silver tray. Virginia chose hummingbird cake ($5.95), a Southern favorite layer cake with pineapple, bananas and nuts and covered in cream cheese frosting. It’s a cross between banana bread and carrot cake, but it’s lighter than both. If you try it, you’ll order it again.
I was intrigued by the lime pie ($5.95), a beautiful homemade hand-crimped pie crust with bright green chiffon-like filling piled high. You can really taste the lime flavor, and it’s light and sweet. Turf Tavern is a destination for homemade desserts.
The service was efficient, thoughtful. Virginia didn’t have to ask for a hot decaf refill, it just showed up. Did we need anything before our meals came? Did we like our meals? When I said mine was wonderful, the server smiled and looked very pleased.
I like the classic menu, the warm atmosphere, the snappy service, and the thoughtfully prepared food. You can tell Turf Tavern has been doing things right for a long time. I wouldn’t change a thing.