“I feel like I’m on vacation,” said husband Eric, sipping an ice-cold martini while a gentle breeze cooled the deck overlooking lovely Saratoga Lake.
When the weather is good here in upstate New York, it’s really good — and you can take advantage of it at a restaurant like Carson’s, which has an awning-covered deck and umbrella tables on its patio. It’s where Cliff’s used to be, until he retired. Carson’s carried out extensive renovations and opened in March 2015.
The chairs are plastic, but they’re sturdy and roomy, and we got a table just one row away from the best view. Carson’s is a bit higher than the lake, affording a panoramic view. White boats bobbed. Blue mountains loomed in the distance.
The menu is mostly casual food, American-style and a little nicer than you’d see at the usual wing joint. There’s tuxedo shrimp, stuffed with horseradish and wrapped in bacon ($14.95), or mini crab cakes ($10.95) to start, then it moves on to salads, burgers (the Classic, with choice of fries, is $10.95), wraps and hot sandwiches like a blackened mahi-mahi BLT ($14.95). Entrees cover chicken, mac and cheese, steak frites, prime rib, fish and chips, steaks: something for everyone. Prices for entrees range from vegetable rice bowl at $11.25 to a slab of prime rib for $30.95.
The bar was efficient; our drinks came in just a few minutes. Eric’s martini was generous and chilly, my New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc was crisp and snappy, with a bit of grapefruit flavor. Their wines are a step up from the big bottles, and they have two kinds of sparkling wine splits at $8 each, which add to the festive air.
Eric enjoyed the grilled salmon with brown rice pilaf, spinach ($18.95) and a soft fresh-baked, thyme scented roll. The rice tasted so good Eric didn’t realize it was healthy. Nice job sneaking that in. “Delicious, the spinach is great and I like the garlic,” he said. The salmon was crispy on the outside, something else he liked, and a creamy, roasted red pepper sauce finished the meal nicely. He added, “Mmm,” for emphasis.
I didn’t want to pass up the surf and turf skewer appetizer ($14.95), so I ordered it along with a small salad ($5.25) to make a meal. The skewers were lovely, fat shrimp alternating with nuggets of flank steak cooked medium. The meat was tender enough, and the shrimp were marinated and the tangy, tasty and sticky balsamic sauce really livened things up. I picked around the red onion in the salsa and enjoyed the fresh tomato and basil.
Their house salad is composed of baby leaf lettuce, red onion and slices of cucumber, all very good except for the scale. The carrot and the croutons were just a little too big and I don’t want to be chewing a mouthful in public. The balsamic thyme vinaigrette tasted more of mustard than thyme, which is fine for some but not for me. That was OK — I used it anyway.
Grilled salmon with brown rice pilaf, sauteed spinach and roasted red pepper sauce. (Caroline Lee/For The Daily Gazette)
Eric always has room for dessert, and the creme brulée ($6.95) is made in-house and delicious. They use a shallow dish, the better to increase surface area for a thick layer of burnt sugar topping, a nice contrast to the smooth, vanilla-scented custard. There are other perfectly fine desserts, but they’re not made there. Get the creme brulée.
The deck was busy and tables turned over quickly. The staff was efficient, polite and seemed to always be smiling.
The tab for our food, before tax and tip, was $46.10.
There’s live music on the weekends in the bar, out on the patio in good weather, starting at 7 p.m. Check their website for the schedule.
We were almost sorry to leave the view of lake with the party lights just coming on. Eric, pleased with himself, said, “I picked this place, you know.”
Carson’s Woodside Tavern
WHERE: 57 NY Route 9P, Malta, 584-9791, carsonswoodside.com
WHEN: Kitchen hours 11 a.m. to 10 p.m Monday to Thursday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 12 p.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday.
HOW MUCH: $46.10 for food, before tax and tip
MORE INFO: Credit cards: Visa, MasterCard, American Express, Discover, Diner’s Club International. Children’s menu. ADA compliant. Large parking lot. No reservations. One takeaway from Carson’s is that all the servers were smiling, at least some of the time.