I recently attended a talk on small museums in New York state and learned they all have at least three things in common: They are generally based on a single theme or topic; they have knowledgeable staffs; and each possesses a “wow” factor.
CP’s Family Restaurant fits this definition of a museum, and adds a fourth characteristic — food. I walked into the 20-table establishment and was immediately struck by the automotive memorabilia. Hundreds — probably thousands — of collectibles related to automobiles were suspended from the ceiling, attached to the walls, stuck in corners, taped on the backs of seats, displayed in cases, hung from nails and stashed in otherwise unoccupied crevices.
Above our small table was a calendar dated December 1958. How appropriate for us — the beginning of high school.
We were seated in a nearly enclosed area of a half dozen small tables and booths separated in part from a larger area of mostly family-sized tables by glassed-in displays of model cars, trucks and tankers.
It is hard to know where to begin. Given the focus of this review, the food should take precedence, of course. A family restaurant would be expected to serve comfort food at reasonable prices. Virtually everything on the menu was kid-friendly. No anchovies or capers, no hot sauce, nothing to elicit a wrinkled nose and an “euuww!” from a young one. A side of spaghetti ($2.95) or a grilled cheese sandwich ($3.95), along with a cup of soup ($2.95), would appeal to most kids.
Besides sides and sandwiches, offerings included the usual assortment of appetizers, salads, dinners (most in the $10-13 range), hot platters and baskets ($7-9), and wraps, melts, paninis and clubs ($8.95). Happily, there were no cutesy names to make descriptions of the food necessary. Meatloaf was meatloaf.
John ordered potato skins stuffed with bacon and cheese ($6.50) as an appetizer. Four scooped-out, flattened potatoes appearing as if they had been run over with a steamroller arrived spotted with melted cheese and tiny pieces of bacon. I tasted a small piece and even with the accompanying sour cream and a heavy dose of salt and pepper, they were uninspired.
His Veal Parmesan Plate for a reasonable $7.25 fared better, consisting of an oval dish-sized veal patty blanketed with melted mozzarella and house-made marinara. Efficient server Sue produced a grated cheese shaker from her apron pocket. Though not “gourmet,” the dish more than satisfied John’s appetite.
An oval dish of coleslaw accompanied the entree. John described it as having mild dressing, which was not overly vinegary, and he was gratified that the shreds of carrots and cabbage were short enough to allow him to easily pick up a hefty forkful.
I was in a fried chicken frame of mind. My dinner of four crispy pieces of fried chicken (all dark meat for $10.75) fulfilled my need for a home-cooked meal on a cold rainy night. I chose a small dinner salad instead of soup to start, and while it was composed of ordinary iceberg lettuce, a couple of chunks of tomato, a few small cucumber slices and red onion rings dressed with what I am sure was bottled Italian dressing, it was nevertheless fresh and chilled.
The accompanying spaghetti was cooked al dente, sauced with the same marinara used on John’s veal parm, and served piping hot. A sprinkling of grated cheese added interest and flavor.
The fried chicken was excellent. Its breading was seasoned and crispy, while the meat itself was tender and juicy — not at all overcooked or dry. A small paper cup of jellied cranberry sauce added color to the plate.
Despite his perpetual vow to skip dessert, John succumbed to an Almond Joy cream pie with a graham cracker crust ($3.25) and a generous topping of whipped cream. He said the combination of flavors of almonds, chocolate and coconut were perfectly blended. I noted that the crust had absorbed some of the moisture from the pudding — like filling, which rendered it a little soggy.
Since CP’s had placed me squarely in the ’50s, I ordered a hot fudge sundae. Served in a traditional tulip glass, the dessert dressed me in a plaid skirt and Shetland sweater.
Baked meatloaf dinner ($10.50), roast turkey with dressing ($11.95), open-faced sandwiches with gravy ($8.95), BLT clubs ($8.95) and cheeseburgers ($4.95) plus more are on the menu — unpretentious, homemade comfort food suitable for adults and children alike, served with care amidst Chuck and Carol Phillips’ eye-popping collection of antique toy pedal airplanes and cars, signs and license plates. A model train, complete a with lighted red dining car, delighted diners by making its rounds overhead during dinner.
The sign over a doorway, “Stuck in the 50’s,” nicely described CP’s Family Restaurant’s food, service and memorabilia.
CP’s Family Restaurant
WHERE: 17 Main St., Hagaman, NY 12086 518-843-1905
WHEN: Tues.-Sat., 11:30 a.m.-8:30 p.m., Sun. 11:30 a.m.-6:30 p.m.
HOW MUCH: $35.25 for two people without tax and tip
MORE INFO: accessible (ramp), parking lot, all major credit cards accepted, daily specials, takeout, catering