I thought I was having an early dinner at O’Leary’s in Scotia with Jazz Cruise cabinmate Patti when I clumped up the three stairs to the front door of the restaurant.
Surprise! O’Leary’s had morphed into Mohawk Taproom & Grill while I wasn’t looking (July 17, 2014 to be exact).
Brandon greeted us almost immediately, but I had a chance to glance around: bar on the right, five televisions tuned to sports programs, all the stools occupied by men, colorful chalkboards announcing the names of the beers on tap, tiny white lights festooning the ceiling like so many distant stars.
Sit anywhere you want, Brandon offered. The first table was too wobbly but the second was just right. Patti ordered coffee. I requested hot tea and water. Said Brandon: “I don’t think we have any.” “Water?” I asked mischievously. “No, tea,” Brandon replied seriously as Patti tried to hide her chuckles.
Plenty of options
The menu was a straightforward presentation of pub fare, classified as Appetizers, Salads, Burgers, Sandwiches and Taproom Entrees. Lots of fried options, even Fried Pickles ($6.95).
I began with the soup special, Creamy Steak and Ale ($4.95). The crock was small but the soup was full of flavor. I detected a hint of cheddar, which might have added to its slight over-saltiness. But the small pieces of steak were tender and complemented nicely by the thin slices of potato. All it lacked were a few flecks of carrot for color.
Patti’s heaping basket of fried mushrooms ($6.95) were served sizzling, crunchy outside and burn-the-tip-of-your-tongue hot inside. A cooling horseradish sauce worthy of a prime rib came on the side for dipping. Both sinful and fabulous for those of us who usually avoid fried foods.
I requested fried onion rings ($1.50 extra) instead of the usual french fries with my American Burger (minus the cheese). Expecting only a few crispy rings I laughed when I saw them struggling to stay on the plate.
Mohawk Taproom & Grill
WHERE: 153 Mohawk Avenue, Scotia, 357-8005, www.mohawktaproom.com
WHEN: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Friday-Saturday, noon-8 p.m.
HOW MUCH: $49.59 with tax and tip
MORE INFO: 3 stairs to front door, street parking. All major credit cards accepted.
Grilled to a perfect medium rare as requested and topped with lettuce and a tomato slice, the juicy burger was worthy of applause. I brought half of it home.
I’ve been told the most popular burger at Mohawk’s is the 50-50 Burger: half beef and half ground bacon. I doubt I’ll ever get brave enough to order it.
The real deal
Patti’s pastrami Reuben ($9.95) — also available with turkey — came with the traditional Swiss cheese, sauerkraut and Russian dressing (on the side). The pastrami was the real deal, and though the sandwich wasn’t two inches thick, the quality of the meat compensated for its lack of abundance.
For $1.50 Patti subbed fried green beans for french fries, rationalizing that she could add some vegetables to the meal. The same fried coating covered the crisp-tender brilliantly green beans. “Really unusual” was her description of the beans. Half the sandwich and most of the beans went home with her.
Midway through the meal Patti remarked, “So far, the music isn’t so loud you can’t stand it.” An important observation when folks are trying to have a conversation.
If there was any letdown in the meal, it was dessert. Only two were offered — vanilla caramel cake and Oreo cream pie. We ordered the gooey, sweet caramel cake to share, and it did not measure up to the rest of the meal.
As we crunched our way down the sidewalk with our take-home bags, Patti mused, “They sure know how to deep-fry stuff.”
In fairness, Mohawk Taproom and Grill does offer salads and non-fried foods, but when a restaurant does something extraordinarily well, it makes sense to go for it. Just bring your own teabag.