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Two lunch outings in St. Lawrence County

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We visited two places in St. Lawrence County for lunch recently — two very different places: First Crush Bistro in downtown Potsdam and Silver Leaf Diner on the main road just outside DeKalb Junction.


Quite a contrast between the two. Read on.


FIRST CRUSH BISTRO
32 MARKET ST.
POTSDAM
265-WINE
WWW.FIRSTCRUSHWINEBAR.COM


It's hip, it's cool. It's almost like finding a neat little bistro in a big city. Except it's in Potsdam, on the "busy corner" where Market Street meets Elm.


First Crush Bistro is a coffee bar by day and a wine bar by night, serving Starbucks coffee and a splendid array of wines, as well as creative cuisine for breakfast, lunch and dinner.


It's long and narrow. Banquettes line the left wall with huge mirrors above. Windows on the opposite wall afford a view of downtown and let the late winter sunshine in.


The lunch menu consists of fresh salads like the Adirondack (greens, apples, cranberries, walnuts), the Chipotle (greens, black bean salsa, cheddar) and a classic cobb (greens, avocado, chicken, tomato, eggs, bacon).


There are traditional sandwiches with a twist, like the Bostonian (turkey, tomato, cranberry mayo) and the Board Room (ham and cheddar), and enticing wraps like the Grilled Santa Fe (prime rib, cheddar, chipotle mayo) and the Long Beach (shrimp salad, avocado, maple dressing).


There are a dozen paninis available. The Bocatini is made with mozzarella, tomatoes, pesto and fresh basil. The Hot Wing panini consists of chicken smothered with hot wing sauce. The Huntington Beach is turkey with mozzarella, avocado, roasted red peppers and red onion.


Our party of five got the chance to sample something from every category. We began with two very flavorful soups of the day, tomato Florentine with spinach and a touch of heavy cream, and Southwestern chicken, creamy good with just enough heat to give it some zing.


Health Club Wrap, one of many vegetarian offerings, combines tomato, cucumber, greens, avocado, bean sprouts, carrots and black bean hummus with a touch of honey-Dijon dressing in a spinach wrap. It was fresh and light.


First Crush calls its Reuben panini the Rubini. It was packed with all the right stuff: corned beef, Swiss cheese, sauerkraut and Thousand Island dressing between two pieces of pressed rye bread.


A new panini is the High on the Hog, slow-roasted pork topped with Havarti cheese and apple butter, served between healthy wheatberry bread. Well, something had to be healthy in that panini, right? It was yummy.


All sandwiches are served with hefty, seasoned corn chips.


I was going to skip dessert, but the ladies in our party insisted (can you believe that?).


We (they) considered the Bananas Foster Flambé for Two (bananas, brandy, butter, rum) but decided on Godiva chocolate cheesecake and the Crush crisp of the day.


The cheesecake was heavenly, and the peach crisp and the blueberry crisp were fresh and refreshing, a generous amount of fruit with a crumbly topping served warm over vanilla ice cream.


Lunch for five came to $75. Our waitress, Sharon, provided friendly and impeccable service.


First Crush is open for breakfast and lunch from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday and Tuesday. They serve dinner Wednesday through Saturday, extending their day to 9 p.m.


SILVER LEAF DINER
3231 ROUTE 11
DEKALB JUNCTION, N.Y.
347-1058


Driving on Route 11 between Gouverneur and DeKalb Junction, you can't miss the Silver Leaf Diner.


It's a little place on a big piece of property that used to be a truck stop. Now it's just the diner and a flea market.


The Silver Leaf is a timeless place, not really old but certainly not of the present. Art deco stainless steel behind the counter reminded us of those old diners that were actually railroad dining cars taken off their tracks. The Formica counter was worn smooth from years of forearms leaning on it.


We sat at the counter to get the full ambiance of the place, watch the cook at the flattop grill and hang out with some Carhartt guys who looked like they'd been chain sawing trees all morning. The acrid aroma of fryer grease hung in the air.


The cook was also our waitress, an all-business type, short on smiles. Long day already, no doubt. She'd probably been at her station since they opened at 6 a.m.


The menu was classic diner: homemade soups, egg salad and tuna salad sandwiches, Easterns and Westerns, BLTs, three decker clubs, hot turkey or hot beef sandwiches and of course, burgers and fries. Even a Steak-umm sub. Oh, yum.


Vegetable beef soup was OK, hamburger being the beef. It needed a little salt.


Chicken noodle had a decent amount of chicken but was slim on celery, onion and seasoning. The noodles were a little slimy.


Hot turkey sandwich was a diner classic, right down to the canned gravy. A side of mac and cheese was, well, bizarre. It appeared to be watery macaroni mixed with cottage cheese. It was white and lifeless. Absolutely tasteless.


Here's a good one. On the menu, it says the Reuben is "seasonal." So we asked if Reubens were in season that day. Our cook goes over to the upright fridge at her station, opens the freezer and rummages through it, comes back and says, "Yep, we're OK."


We weren't sure if it was the corned beef or the sauerkraut that made its way from the freezer to the flattop (she's quick), but the end result was surprisingly good. Gooey Swiss cheese. Nicely grilled rye bread. Soggy french fries, though.


Desserts were pretty good, all made by the cook/waitress's mother-in-law. There were probably eight fresh pies to choose from. Raspberry pie had a very tasty filling, definitely not berries from a can. The apple pie had a superb crust. The apples were a little on the soft side. A dusting of sugar on top was a nice touch.


Lunch for two came to $25.87 before tip.


You can contact restaurant reviewer Walter Siebel via e-mail: wsiebel@wdt.net.

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