The middle-market great steak is my Holy Grail, and I just had one at Sammy’s.
You know where to find a guaranteed great steak and you know what you’re going to pay. For me, that means only on a special occasion.
But how about a decent steak that isn’t gristly and actually tastes good, at a nice enough restaurant that won’t break the bank? That’s been impossible to find lately. Until now. Thanks, Sammy.
Sammy Cohen’s is a locally owned family restaurant on Schaghticoke’s tiny main street, just off the highway where it crosses the Hoosic River. It’s been Sammy’s for about two years. You can’t miss the one-story building, with its red metal roof and porch across the front.
The front door marks the space between the dining room, on the left, and bar area, to the right. Decor is inoffensive and pleasant, there’s paneling on the lower half of the walls, beige paint above. It’s designed for comfort: Chairs are padded, there’s plenty of space between tables and the oversized booths easily seat six.
There were a few folks at the bar and two tables were occupied when Virginia and I arrived at about 6 p.m. on a weeknight. Large television screens in the bar and dining room were thankfully muted. The server seated us at one of the gargantuan booths right away, then left to make a fresh pot of decaf for Virginia. We studied the menu.
We started with an order of pretzel sticks ($7.49) that come with either mustard or melted cheese and bacon. The four warm and puffy logs with the right kind of salt tasted delicious, like they’d been brushed with something to give them extra flavor. They didn’t need anything, much less cheese and bacon; they were very good on their own. “Boy, these are really tasty,” said Virginia, who also liked the whole-grain mustard.
Entrees arrived at just the right moment. Virginia ordered Sammy’s signature haddock ($16.95), a nice piece of flaky fish robustly seasoned, topped with roasted red peppers, sautéed onions and mushrooms, and served with zucchini and rice pilaf. It was handsomely presented and very colorful, with an effort to make it look appealing.
The seasoning was a bit spicier than the menu suggested, and than Virginia cared for. But she found that, when taken with the buttered and seasoned vegetables and the rice pilaf, the heat on the fish was softened enough for her to enjoy it. Also, she could easily scrape most of it off. She liked her meal enough that she finished everything.
We both tried the rice pilaf and wondered, was that curry we tasted? Someone in the kitchen was trying to liven things up by adding a layer of flavor. It was interesting and tasty.
Their only steak is a good-sized New York strip ($22.99). Mine was about an inch thick, with thoughtfully considered grill marks and a bit of tail attached, and remnants of fat around the edges, all good signs. The tail’s the most flavorful part, the one I go for first, and it was wonderful, with a bonus bit of beefy fat that I always feel sort of guilty eating. Slice. Eat. Mmm.
It was medium rare, erring on the rare side, and tender. The flavor was spot on: meaty and beefy, with fat that coats your mouth so you know you’re eating a steak. There was no gristle, every bite was edible. There was char that crunched, and juice that oozed. Perhaps it had been seasoned before cooking, and the melted pat of garlic butter didn’t hurt. I took the Maldon sea salt that I keep for a good steak from my bag. Its crunch and clear flavor only made it better.
I kept a piece of meat to take home so I could tell if it really was that wonderful the next day, and it was.
The side of smashed potatoes were just OK, and a nice, fresh side salad with balsamic dressing arrived well after the steak was underway. I didn’t care. I was all about the steak.
We wrapped up with an injudicious indulgence, deep-fried cheesecake, that the server sold us on ($6.95). It wasn’t what we expected. It was a kind of tortilla burrito filled with cheesecake-like bits. “Ooh,” we cooed when it arrived. It was fancy: arranged just so, crisscrossed with two kinds of sauce, with whipped cream and a dusting of powdered sugar over all. “He likes to make it look pretty,” explained the server.
If you’re expecting creamy cheesecake, that’s not quite it. The flour tortilla doesn’t gain much flavor in the fryer, but it all looked so nice, we were pleased anyway.
The server brought the check and ran my card promptly. The tab for our food, without drinks and tax or tip, came to a fair $56.17.
Thanks to the kitchen staff, who went the extra mile to make sure our food looked and tasted better than usual.
Unless it’s a steakhouse, I usually skip the steak when I’m doing a review in favor of an entree that needs more work than a flip on a grill. Something made from different components, preferably with a sauce, gives me much more information. I’m so glad I broke my own rule that night.
WHERE: 188 Main St.,
Schaghticoke, 518-753-2158, sammycohens.com
WHEN: 4 to 9 p.m. Tuesday to Thursday, 11 a.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday, 12 to 8 p.m. Sunday
HOW MUCH: $56.17 for food, before tax and tip
MORE INFO: Children’s menu. Parking lot across street. Credit cards: MasterCard, Visa, American Express, Discover. ADA compliant. Reservations accepted for larger parties.