HALFMOON -- “This is a nice find,” said my friend Virginia as we wrapped up our meal at the Klam’r Tavern, across Clamsteam Road from the Mohawk River.
There’s a lot to like, starting with the location, which is peaceful and bucolic, with a view down the hill of water, boats and birds.
You’ll like the place as soon as you see the front door with its brass, clamshell-shaped handle. The nautical decor continues within; throw in some sports bar and a bit of roadhouse, and you’ll get an idea of what it’s like.
It’s casual but clean-looking and orderly, with neatly set tables in the dining-room space that takes up most of the building. The bar side is fresh-popcorn scented, with a pool table and high-tops, also tidy and pleasant.
The windows don’t take full advantage of the river view, nor is there outdoor seating, but the restaurant is still in its early days, having opened a little more than a year ago.
The focal point of the dining room this evening was the football game on a wall-sized television mounted to the back wall of a stage large enough to hold a decent-sized band.
We chose a booth where Virginia could see out the window, and the pleasant server introduced herself right away. She brought drinks and stayed around long enough to offer helpful advice about the menu.
And the menu is, as you would expect, seafood-oriented, with lots of American favorites such as wings and quesadillas and salads and burgers thrown in.
The cost of an 8-ounce classic tavern burger served with French fries and coleslaw is 11 klams (get it?). There’s two kinds of clam chowder every day (cup, 4 klams, bowl, 6); steamed clams (11 klams); and clam shooters (here it gets awkward, 1.75 klams each. I’ll stop.).
The menu is refreshing: There’s no artisinal, fermented, micro- or free-range anything. The nightly dinner specials ($9.99, eat-in or takeout) are straight-up honest: chicken parm, fried clams, chicken shish kebab and roast turkey. You can’t get any more down to earth than Thursdays — homemade meatloaf.
They didn’t have decaf coffee. The server apologized, joking that the place runs on caffeine. “You don’t run into that too often,” Virginia remarked, turning down the offer of a fresh pot of regular.
That was the only criticism of the night. Our food was delicious, the ambience laid-back and pleasant, the kitchen speedy and the service terrific.
A dozen steamed clams were on special ($6.99, regularly $7.99) and Virginia took the server’s advice to get the littlenecks because “they’re sweeter.”
They just about fell out of their shells and were indeed sweet, Virginia found, and especially good when dunked in melted butter with the cute fork.
“There’s always a little bit of chew, but you don’t have to work at these,” she said. “Wow. That was good,” she concluded.
We shared some Bavarian pretzels ($8), delightful soft browned freshly made nuggets, nicely split across the top, shiny from butter and topped with real pretzel salt, served in a basket lined with pretend newspaper. The craft beer cheese dip was smooth, cheesy and a bit hot.
“I taste the cheese first, then the beer, then the heat,” said Virginia, who thinks about what she eats.
The server recommended the fish and chips dinner ($13). It comes with pieces of hand-breaded and fried flaky white fish rather than one dramatic plank; their version has smaller pieces with delicious breading that are easier to eat. “How nice that looks,” Virginia observed, when my plate dropped and was turned to its best advantage. “It looks light.” And the wedge of lemon was neatly trimmed.
I only ordered it to keep with the seafood theme, but found I didn’t want to stop eating — it was that good and light. There was enough fish left to share with Virginia and some to take home.
I liked the cocktail sauce a lot. It had texture and tomato bits, and just enough horseradish to remind you it was there, not to knock you over.
Virginia loves a pulled-pork sandwich and Klam’r delivered, on a toasted brioche roll. I tasted a bit, and noticed smoke and sweetness right away. Was there sauce? “It doesn’t need it,” she said, firmly. She gave the toasted sweet roll and coleslaw topping high marks.
Overall, thumbs definitely up.
Klam’r gets points for their fries, hand-cut Russets for me and the sweet potato version (a dollar upcharge) for Virginia. Both came just-cooked, hot and crispy, and both had great flavor.
Mine came in agreeably variable sizes, some extra crispy bits, some leggy; and Virginia’s were sweet, just as they should be. “You can really taste the sweet potato,” she said.
We also gave points to the homemade pineapple coleslaw, made with extra-thin sliced cabbage and black pepper. The bits of pineapple gave you a taste now and then, and added interest to an otherwise ordinary side.
The server came by to see how we liked our meals and laughed out loud when we told her, enthusiastically, how much we liked them.
There were a few homemade desserts, we were told, and so we shared an order of raspberry chimichangas ($5), a cheesecake and jam-stuffed dessert whose only claim to homemade was probably due to its turn in the restaurant’s fryer.
But no matter. What looked like two Chinese spring rolls were plated with raspberry sauce and dusted with powdered sugar. They were sweet and mushy and warm inside, crispy out, a nice end to a very good meal.
The tab for our dinner came to $44.99 before tax and tip, a reasonable price for a delicious dinner.
Add comfortable accommodations and friendly and helpful staff — and most importantly, wonderful food well-served — and you have a winner.
Klam’r is, indeed, a find.
Klam’r Tavern & Marina
WHERE: 32 Clamsteam Road, Halfmoon; 518-930-0577; theklamr.com
WHEN: 3-11 p.m. Wednesday to Friday, 12 p.m. to 12 a.m. Saturday, 12-11 p.m. Sunday. Closed Monday and Tuesday.
HOW MUCH: $44.99 before tax and tip
MORE INFO: Credit cards: Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover. Children’s menu. Plenty of parking. Reservations for large parties appreciated.