HEUVELTON — A rural restaurant on a quiet road between Heuvelton and Ogdensburg has changed names.
Deer Field Inn is now Inn on the Greens. As the name indicates, it's on a homebrew golf course. With all the snow covering the ground, White Plains might have been a better name. But we'll stick with Inn on the Greens.
It's a big building that looks like a large golf clubhouse. The high-ceilinged open bar area is separated from a cozy-looking dining room by sliding glass doors — a tastefully decorated room, right down to linen tablecloths on every table.
With the change of ownership, we were led to believe that Inn on the Greens was catering to the snowmobile crowd, so we were expecting something much more casual and informal than what we were witnessing. Comfortable, clean and welcoming were our first impressions. A lot of wood and lighting bright enough to indicate the owners were rightly proud of it.
January is a slow month in the restaurant business. So I rounded up three friends to join me for a guys night out to spend what I thought would be a quiet night at this hard-to-find eatery. We were surprised to find the bar and the dining room buzzing with business.
As at any good neighborhood bar, we were welcomed not only by the establishment but also its clientele. Several nice folks at the bar rearranged their seating so our party of four could be together. Steve the barkeep was fun and engaging with a great sense of humor and a great sense of commitment to the place.
Steve's beer cooler had the usual domestics and also a few more trendy brews like Sierra Nevada and Stella Artois. The menu had a good range of offerings that included the usual fried bar snacks to options like crab-stuffed mushrooms, steamed clams, chicken and pasta dishes, ribs, stuffed shrimp, haddock, steaks and prime rib.
Along with a round of drinks, Steve brought us a warm baguette and butter from the kitchen to munch on. Just about then, we figured it was time to get comfortable right where we were and spend the evening at the bar with Steve and the locals.
Our newfound friends, obviously not their first time there, were quick to make menu recommendations. They also complimented us on our choice of seats at the bar. We thought they were referring to being able to view one of the three big screen TVs until they offered, tongue-in-cheek, "Now you can check out all the hot ladies who come here."
As we got down to selecting our appetizers, we learned the restaurant was out of crabmeat, which eliminated several menu choices we were eyeing. But there was plenty left to choose from.
We picked four to share, priced at $6 apiece.
Bacon-wrapped shrimp were mighty tasty. The shrimp were perfectly broiled without burning the bacon, not an easy feat if you've ever tried it yourself. A chunk of pineapple between the bacon and the shrimp was a different touch.
The dipping sauce reminded us of duck sauce, adding a bit of moisture and sweetness to the salty bacon.
Calamari was standard prefrozen restaurant fare but not overly breaded as some can be. The sauce left a little to be desired, an orange marmalade-horseradish sauce too thick to dip into that needed more horseradish.
Steamed clams, although on the small side, were nicely prepared, steamed until they just opened so the clams were still tender and sweet. A very simple melted butter sauce accompanied.
Pierogis, stuffed potato dumplings, are something you don't see very often on restaurant menus. These were clearly another commercial product, but pan-frying them added a new dimension along with the addition of sautéed bacon and caramelized onion.
Two soups were available, Italian wedding and French onion. We decided on the onion soup ($4.50), served traditionally and done just right, a savory, not-too-salty stock capped with mild, just-browned cheese.
We were pleasantly surprised with our entrées.
One of our new bar buds recommended the Saturday night special, prime rib ($17). We asked for the rarest piece they had and were very satisfied with a moist and juicy medium. It had a nice garlic-herb taste that really accented the beef flavor.
We were hoping for a side of mac and cheese, but they were sold out due to a popular fish fry the night before, so we went with wild rice pilaf. Vegetables were a high-quality IQF (individually quick frozen) product tastily doctored up with butter and Mrs. Dash-like dried herbs.
Chicken Marsala ($12) was nicely done. The chicken was fork-tender, the sauce was light yet retained the distinct Marsala wine flavor, the sautéed mushrooms on top were real. Wild rice and veggies accompanied.
Filet mignon ($19) was a honkin' hunk of beef tenderloin cooked to a nice medium-rare when it arrived. Strangely, it appeared the cook had to make two swipes through the top of it to check the desired temp or to better hold the crust.
The "horseradish crust" specified in the menu was more like a horseradish sauce flashed under the broiler just before serving. It was good — sweet to start, then came the nice kick of the horseradish.
Frutti di mare ($18), literally translated "fruits of the sea," was a lovely seafood medley consisting of shrimp, scallops and clams in a tasty tomato sauce, tossed with pasta. The menu called for angel hair, but it was served with al dente spaghetti, which actually worked better with the abundance of seafood and sauce.
The clams, same as our appetizer clams, were small and difficult to negotiate. Since we were at the bar, and since the hot ladies hadn't shown up yet, we felt comfortable picking up the clams with our fingers and sucking the clams out of their little shells.
Aren't you glad you weren't sitting next to us?
We made an executive decision to skip dessert in favor of another round of drinks, which gave us a chance to reflect on the evening. All in all, Inn on the Greens was a wonderful discovery — a place that punched well above its weight. The atmosphere was congenial and inviting and the food well above our expectations. And we nominate Steve for employee of the month.
Dinner, excluding drinks and tip, came to $101.
A word of advice: If you're not familiar with this part of St. Lawrence County, or even if you are, be sure you've got a GPS with you or get directions in advance. The restaurant is a little hard to find, but worth the effort.
You can contact restaurant reviewer Walter Siebel via e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Inn on the Greens
350 Taylor Road
A hard-to-find restaurant with a congenial and inviting atmosphere where the food was well above expectation.
HOURS: Dinner served 5 to 9 p.m. Thursday through Sunday
Bar opens at 1 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday
Sunday breakfast buffet begins at 9 a.m.
OUR PICKS: Bacon-wrapped shrimp appetizer, filet mignon with horseradish crust, frutti di mare (shrimp, scallops and clams in tomato sauce tossed with pasta)