MALTA — I almost missed Bentley’s Tavern, in the Parade Ground Village shopping center off Route 9 in Malta. Next to a dentist’s office, the tidy, white vinyl-sided building could have been another office. Until I smelled the hamburgers. This was no office.
Inside, Bentley’s is larger than it looks from the outside, wood-paneled mostly, and broken up into sections: bar, booths, high tables, a dining area and two further dining rooms, one which could be closed off for parties. “It’s cozy,” said my friend Kathy, “much more than you’d expect.” It feels like a tavern.
At lunchtime midweek, Bentley’s was busy enough that two employees were hustling to keep up with the bar and the kitchen orders. They were both efficient and competent, and though we waited a bit for service, everything flowed smoothly after. They both served us, and were friendly and quite pleasant.
Bentley’s is part of the My Favorite Tavern group, which is owned by a local family who also run the Mill on Round Lake and the Rusty Nail Grill & Tavern, both further south on Route 9, in Saratoga County.
The menu is simple and appealing: appetizers, soups and salads, sandwiches, burgers, a few entrees. We especially liked the $5 appetizer menu with tater tots, pretzel bites, bang bang shrimp, corn nuggets; all of them are fried or come with cheese or creamy sauce, which is not a bad thing. Or get wings (single order $10), homemade spinach dip with tortilla chips ($10), or quesadillas ($8 to $12).
Soups are homemade and salads are more interesting than they sound: Buffalo chicken ($12), southwest cobb ($13), taco salad ($12). Specialty sandwiches and wraps, like the reuben ($11), a cubano ($11) or the Adirondack cheesesteak ($12) come with a choice of fries, coleslaw and black bean and corn salad for your side. Add a bit for a side salad or fry upgrade.
The sides are the same if you get a burger, and Bentley’s has plenty of them. The basic burger is $11. There’s a spicy sriracha burger with jalapeños, pepper jack cheese, onion straws, sriracha sauce and sriracha aioli spread ($13). The chopped cheese burger is a deconstructed cheeseburger with sautéed peppers and onions, lettuce and chopped tomatoes on a toasted hoagie roll ($12).
The few entrees, all comfort food and $15 or less, include chicken in gravy with rice, mac and cheese, fish and chips and shepherd’s pie.
Settled into a roomy booth, we sipped our big diet sodas ($3 each) and shared corn nuggets ($5). Somehow there’s whole kernel corn, chopped jalapeño peppers and melted cheddar cheese in a crispy cornmeal crust. I don’t know how they did it, but use a fork. Kathy liked the tiger sauce: “it tastes like mayo with some spice in it,” but not too much. We both liked the crunch.
I ordered a cup of the day’s soup ($5), homemade tomato basil, thick, with chunks of tomato and sliced garlic. I could see the bits of basil and enjoyed the pieces of tomato, which somehow made it seem healthier. It was delicious.
The chicken apple salad ($13) was topped with a slice of beautiful, char-grilled sliced chicken breast over mixed greens and lettuce with pieces of grilled spiced apple and candied sliced almonds, and homemade apple cider dressing. It sounds seasonal, but it’s on the regular menu, a nice change from plain chicken over a bowl of greens. The dressing tasted of cinnamon, which seemed a bit odd at first but then it worked just right with the rest of the ingredients, and it was balanced out by a bit of mustard. The salad was tasty and interesting enough that I didn’t ogle the burger across the table … much.
“This is very easy to eat,” said Kathy, digging into the patty melt ($13). It’s served on toasted swirly rye, and Kathy chose the colorful black bean and corn side salad. Bentley’s gets points for the pile of beautiful, intact, big golden rippled potato chips. It’s a little thing, but makes the meal better.
The burger was cooked perfectly, medium-well but still juicy, topped with caramelized onions and melted Swiss. “It’s really nice with Swiss,” said Kathy.
“Those TVs are huge,” said Kathy, and we looked around, noticing them for the first time. Bentley’s has lots of them, but the sound was off and they weren’t intrusive. Whatever sport you like to watch, it’s on a screen here, somewhere.
The server wrapped up the leftovers and brought the bill. The tab for this very nice food came to $36.
If you’re looking for an inexpensive casual meal with solid service and good food, then go visit Bentley’s. The fact that it is locally owned just makes it even better.
WHERE: 4 Hemphill Place (Parade Ground Village), Malta, 518-899-4300, www.myfavoritetaverns.com
WHEN: 11 a.m. to 12 a.m. Sunday to Thursday, 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Friday and Saturday
HOW MUCH: $36, for food before tax and tip
MORE INFO: Credit cards: MasterCard, Visa, American Express, Discover. ADA compliant. Children’s menu.