People who make the long drive west to Fulton County—for a weekend dinner at Saltsman's Hotel —should bring their friends and an appetite.
They'll need the friends for conversation during the trip. They'll need appetites for the platters and bowls of food that Saltsman's has always been famous for.
Jim Subik, who along with wife Tammie has owned the restaurant in Ephratah since 1979, also wants visitors to bring some curiosity to the junction of Route 67 and Route 10.
"It's a history lesson in a sense," Subik said of the hotel, which has been a dinner stop since the 1840s. "We get people who come in here who are well into their 90s. I'm in the kitchen most of the time, but once in a while I'll catch somebody and they'll say, 'You know, my grandparents brought us here.' And they're almost 100 years old themselves. It gives you chills to hear them say that."
The hotel was built by Peter Schram in 1813 and the social center for dining and dancing was first known as Apollo Hall. Other owners came later; five generations of the Saltsman family operated the place for about 100 years.
The Subiks bought the restaurant from Raymond Saltsman Jr. in 1979 and say the establishment is one of the oldest restaurants in the state. The hotel part of the business ended sometime before World War II.
The restaurant opens Easter weekend and closes after Halloween. Nights of operation are Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The restaurant employs 14 people, mostly part-time. The main room can seat 100 people; a smaller banquet room has room for about 50 more.
Saltsman's Hotel owners Jim and Tammie Subik.
Visitors may want to examine the old photographs of the younger hotel and taxidermy exhibits, which include a stuffed raccoon who greets guest in the bar room with a toothpick holder.
People can't eat history, though. They can quell pangs of hunger with entrees such as fried chicken, grilled ham, grilled pork chops, charbroiled sirloin, deep-fried sea scallops and baked salmon, among other selections.
"Our menu is not a 50-item menu," Subik said. "It's pretty basic but we have all the important things. And we have specials, prime rib on the weekends, roasts on Sunday, that sort of thing."
Nobody leaves hungry. The "family style" servings mean all entrees include coleslaw, a choice of appetizers, corn fritters topped with maple syrup, creamed potatoes, baked onion casserole, the vegetable of the day and fresh-baked bread.
Fried chicken, which has been a staple at Saltsman's since the beginning, remains one of the most popular dishes on the menu.
"We also sell a lot of salmon," Subik said. "Salmon has become a very popular item. And our prime rib, I started serving prime rib maybe 20 years ago, that seems to be growing in popularity all the time."
Old-style foods—such as milkweed and elderberry pie—are seasonal favorites.
The Subiks live in Caroga Lake, where Jim is the town justice and Tammie works as a court clerk. Last summer, the couple listed the restaurant for sale.
Jim Subik said there has been some interest. "But I haven't seen any money yet," he said. "It's kind of overwhelming, we have a big kitchen, just put a brand-new floor down."
More from Dine 2019: Montgomery, Fulton and Schoharie Counties
- Johnstown's Union Hall supplies contemporary American cuisine in Revolution-era setting
- Lanzi’s on the Lake in Mayfield is part of long family tradition
- Chef and owner of Broadalbin's SALT cooks outside the box
- Craft beer and craft food at Broadalbin's Project 29 Pub
- Grapevine Farms in Cobleskill offers comfort food, wine — with an unexpected twist
Ideally, Subik said, a young couple with some restaurant experience will invest in tradition.
"I'd be willing to stay with them for a season just to get them on their feet, just try to keep the tradition going," he said.
Contact Gazette reporter Jeff Wilkin at 518-395-3124 or at [email protected]