LATHAM — Who am I to disagree with more than 10,000 Facebook followers?
But I do. My lunch at the Tipsy Moose in Latham disappointed.
There’s buzz around the restaurant, as its number of adherents testifies, and it always looks busy, even in the middle of the day.
It’s just to the east of the Latham traffic circle on Old Loudon Road, and the temperamental traffic light where it meets Route 2 guarantees you’ll get stuck at the intersection, giving you an opportunity to examine the log-cabin restaurant from any direction.
That is part of the problem. The other is the volume of traffic that backs up across the front of the restaurant and at times extends far down Old Loudon Road.
Don’t be put off by the tiny lot — Tipsy Moose has more parking available at 175 Old Loudon Road, the TurnKey Internet Company property. There’s plenty of parking and it’s a short walk.
There’s also plenty of parking at the second Tipsy Moose on Vandenburgh Avenue in Troy, which opened last November. I visited the Latham location, which opened in 2016.
On the beautiful late summer day I met Patrice for lunch, I was pleased to nab a parking spot right in the front. The friendly bartender invited us to sit anywhere; we took a table on the porch as the lunchtime crowd started to arrive.
It’s small, but charming and welcoming, Adirondack-themed, with rough-hewn furniture and a giant carved moose that holds a sign welcoming you. A small patio with high tables and a motley assortment of drink advertising signs has outdoor heaters to keep you warm as the nights grow cool.
Drinks in canning jar-style glasses, food served in cast iron skillets or on metal plates, and a chandelier made from antlers, all add rustic, campground cred.
You’d expect to find a wide selection of canned, tap and bottle beers, and you’d be right. There are lengthy, separate beer menus for each location, and they are impressively curated and up to date. Followers receive an alert when new beers are available.
In addition, there is a full bar and a specialty drinks menu, as well as a variety of wines by the glass, all under $10.
The tavern-style menu features smoked meats and lots of handheld comfort food, in addition to salads, mac and cheese and several varieties of poutine. A dozen wings in more than that many variations is $12.95, an 8-ounce burger with lettuce, tomato, onion, pickle and chips is a reasonable $10.95. Pizzas are sized for one or to share; an individual pulled pork pizza is $11.95.
Vegetarians can have seitan wings or tacos or add it to their mac and cheese ($12.95, includes two toppings).
There are enough meal-sized salads to keep the dieters happy, too.
Patrice sipped a club soda with lemon ($2) and I had a pink lemonade ($3) whose color and flavor conveyed that it was commercially prepared.
We started with Moose Sticks, which the menu describes as house-made pretzel sticks, and cheddar ale sauce made with Moosehead Lager beer ($8.95). Less pretzel and more breadstick, we thought, with char marks, and sprinkled with sea salt. The cheddar ale sauce tasted only mildly cheesy. It comes in an adorable miniature cast iron skillet, but I had to stop and focus to find the flavor. “Not enough going on,” Patrice said.
We liked the runner who brought the food and politely showed us the metal pans stacked under the condiments when we asked for plates. The server, meanwhile, took our order and my credit card and that was the extent of our interaction; she did her job. Tipsy Moose has had some staff turnover recently, I was told.
Tipsy Moose has the coolest brioche-style rolls. I was pleased to see mine was grilled, with a moose silhouette branded onto the top.
I ordered a brisket sandwich ($9.95), thinly sliced smoky beef topped with a sweet and tasty barbecue sauce I wished I had more of. I deconstructed it and discovered the flavorful, nicely fatty beef and tasted black pepper. The thin slices were a good idea because the meat was a bit chewy.
Fresh coleslaw with corn topped the meat, and a tasty dill pickle and pile of Cape Cod-style chips rounded out the meal.
Their homemade black bean veggie burger with tasty Southwest-style seasonings had a nice kick of heat. The burger looked like whole and mashed black beans combined with some kind of binder, patted into shape and baked, and it was a generous serving. The lettuce and red onion were fresh and attractive, but even with a generous amount of ketchup, Patrice didn’t want to eat much of it.
After reading several recipes for black bean burgers online that suggested Tipsy Moose has the right idea, even with a grilled brioche bun and fresh lettuce and red onion, it just didn’t look appealing or taste that good. A plus: it wasn’t mushy, a common problem.
Patrice summed it up: “I wouldn’t go out of my way for another.”
The tab for our meal came to $34.85 before tax and tip.
By this time, the tables on the porch were all filled with couples and groups of friends, all looking like they were having a great time. I examined everyone else’s plates on my way out, and didn’t see anything I’d order next time. Nothing looked bad, but nothing caught my eye.
My comments are a drop of acid in the bucket of goodwill of the many folks who friended The Moose. There’s a reason they love it, be it congeniality or the extensive beer list, but on that day I didn’t see what it was.
The parking space that was so convenient and easy to pull into could only be exited by backing directly into traffic. The light changed a few times before someone took pity on me.
I am greatly outnumbered in my opinion of The Moose. Good for them, but nothing I saw or tasted gave me any reason to want to go back.
The Tipsy Moose
WHERE: 185 Old Loudon Road, Latham, 518-631-4444, tipsymoosetavern.com
WHEN: 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday to Friday, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday and Sunday
HOW MUCH: $34.85 for food, before tax and tip
MORE INFO: Credit cards: Master Card, Visa, American Express, Discover. Parking in small restaurant lot and at 175 Old Loudon Road. Accommodations made for children’s meals.