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Galway's Cock ‘n Bull still going strong after 43 years

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Galway's Cock ‘n Bull still going strong after 43 years

Friendly place by the side of the road specializes in steak with poultry and seafood
Galway's Cock ‘n Bull still going strong after 43 years
The Cock ’n Bull Restaurant on Parkis Mills Road in Galway on Friday, April 5, 2019.
Photographer: Erica Miller/Gazette Photographer

Cock ‘n Bull

Address: 5342 Parkis Mills Rd., Galway
Year opened: 1976
Restaurant type: Traditional American steakhouse/Farm-to-table
Menu: Predominantly steak with poultry and seafood
Words the business lives by: “A Friendly Place by the Side of the Road,” by former owner, Don Staber.
Contact information: (518) 882-6962, thecocknbull.com

GALWAY — When Rick Sleeper was growing up in Galway, a tiny town in Saratoga County, there weren’t too many places to get a job unless it involved farming.

Fortunately for Sleeper, family friend Don Staber was opening a restaurant in town in a 19th-century former dairy barn, which he was going to call The Cock ‘n Bull.

“I loved it—it was exciting,” Sleeper said of working at the restaurant in his early teens. “I mowed lawns, peeled shrimp and washed dishes—pretty much the same things I still do today.”

Sleeper, who was working in music and television production, bought the restaurant from Staber in 1996 after yearning for a career that would allow him to spend more time with his family.

“My career was keeping me in hotels and airports, and I wanted to be around when my daughters were growing up,” he said. “I loved this business.”

Over the 23 years since Sleeper purchased the Cock ‘n Bull, he’s turned the restaurant from a strictly fine dining establishment to one with a more relaxed atmosphere.

“It’s important to be approachable—especially on weeknights,” he said. “We now offer smoked meats, grill food outdoors and have an outdoor patio.”

Cock 'n Bull signature dish second option.
Cock 'n Bull signature dish second option.

The restaurant also expanded its appetizers, which include chicken wings, nachos, mozzarella sticks and Irish fries—locally grown potatoes smothered in Monterey Jack cheese and bacon—among others.

Sleeper also incorporated his love of music into the business by bringing in musicians from Nashville, New Orleans, Boston as well as other cities, to perform for patrons.

“We have one of the best listening rooms in the Capital District with perfect acoustics,” he said.

“Music is my other great love aside from food and we have the ability and the capacity to do something really spectacular, so why wouldn’t I?”

One thing that’s stayed the same at The Cock ‘n Bull over the nearly 45 years it’s been open is the restaurant’s signature dish – the 10-ounce sliced sirloin, which comes topped with garlic butter.

“It’s our number one seller and it’s been on the menu since the beginning,” said Sleeper, adding that the restaurant also serves as much poultry and seafood – including twin lobster tails and Alaskan king crab – as they do beef. “We’ve always been a steakhouse, so that’s the center of everything we do, but over the years, we do a lot more, so the menu is a lot wider.”

Before farm-to-table restaurants became popular, during Staber’s ownership, he formed relationships with local businesses, which Sleeper continues today.

“We work with local farms and businesses including Antonucci Foods in Gloversville, and we have a garden here on site,” said Sleeper, who also taps maple trees himself in order to sell as well as incorporate maple syrup into various dishes and cocktails at the restaurant. “We’ve been doing this 30 years before anyone ever mentioned ‘farm-to-table.’”

The Cock ‘n Bull also began offering local brews from Davidson Brothers Brewing Co. of Glens Falls and Glenville-based Wolf Hollow Brewing Co. when both businesses first opened. 

“It’s the natural thing to do when your friends are in a business that works with yours,” Sleeper said.

When it comes to the longevity of The Cock ‘n Bull, Sleeper credits Staber for the restaurant’s success.

Music at the Cock 'n Bull in Galway.
Music at the Cock 'n Bull in Galway.

“When Don opened it in 1976, he carved ‘A Friendly Place by the Side of the Road’ ‘on the mantel over the fireplace and that’s really what it’s all about,” Sleeper said. “You can get a great filet mignon at many places across the Capital District, but we’re friendly and welcoming.”

Sleeper, who has coffee with Staber, now 86, every Sunday at the restaurant, said the trust Staber bestowed on him when he bought the business means more to him now than it did when he first took over. “I don’t think I appreciated it for what it was,” Sleeper said. “When I first started, I thought I knew how to do it, but the first 10 years I didn’t know what I was doing. I learn something new every day.”

More from Dine 2019: Saratoga County

Though Sleeper said he has no major plans for the restaurant in the near future, he said one thing will remain the same.

“It will be the best place to get a steak in the Capital Region as long as I own it,” he said. "That’s for sure.” 

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