OWLS HEAD Hunting seasons under way, which means snowmobiling cant be far behind. Outdoorsman or not, we found the perfect off-the-beaten-path place to visit: Bellys Mountain View Inn in the tiny hamlet of Mountain View, just east of Route 30 between Malone and Paul Smiths. You know youre in the middle of nowhere when your cellphone doesnt work.
The Inn has been around for a long time. Its a comfortable place for visitors and locals alike to share food, drink and fellowship, we quickly found out.
We started in the cozy bar area, warm and welcoming with wood paneling, soft lighting and all decked out for Halloween. A number of regulars flanked us, occasionally drifting in and out of our conversation.
The bartender, Nicole, was a real pleasure. She was not only smart and friendly with a sharp wit, but she knew the menu inside and out and was Bellys best promoter. She was also our server for the evening, whether we sat in the dining room or not.
The bright fluorescent lights in the dining room and Nicoles magnanimous personality convinced us to stay right at the bar for dinner. When we asked questions, she described food with such enthusiasm we could almost taste it.
Such was the case with the Cajun cool fries ($4.95). Nicole said they were fresh-cut fries tossed with Cajun spice, nacho cheese and cool blue cheese. She went on to say, They look like sh— on a plate, but they sure taste great, especially with beer.
They were the real deal fries, made from fresh potatoes. The Cajun seasoning added just the right zing and worked nicely with the cheese sauce. We expected blue cheese crumbles on top; instead, the creation was finished with blue cheese dressing. Yummy nonethelessthey disappeared in a hurry.
Then Nicole recommended the Buffalo Clam Strips ($6.95). She told us theyre a specialty from one of their suppliersnot the ground clam variety that are mostly breading, but meaty pieces of clam lightly breaded.
We liked the long pieces that appeared to be chowder clams cut into strips, but they were hard to eatthe breading kept sliding off. We solved that problem by cutting them into smaller pieces, picking them up with a fork and dipping them in the ranch dressing provided.
Soup of the day was split pea with ham ($3.95 a cup). It was definitely homemade, thick and tasty. A little more ham and vegetables would have given it a boost.
Baked onion soup is always available ($4.95). It was quite good, with the usual beef stock and onions, croutons and stringy mozzarella cheese.
There were some good beverages. Finding Kendall Jackson Chardonnay in the sticks was a treat, especially at $5.50 a glass. KJ Merlot also was available. We enjoyed the house Merlot, Marcus James. Margaritas were made with Nicoles special premix that we found a little on the sweet side.
Chicken Marsala ($16.99) was so-so. We couldnt detect much of a Marsala taste, leaving chicken and mushrooms in a plain gravy type of sauce. It did have a taste of roasted garlic, probably from the whole garlic cloves in the sauce (not shallots, as described in the menu). Rice pilaf was perfect; veggie medley was of the frozen variety.
Flame-broiled Delmonico steak ($19.99) is always on the menu, but we took advantage of a special tasty topping of peppers, onions, wine and balsamic reduction, finished with blue cheese. It was cooked to our call of rare. Real mashed potatoes were a fine accompaniment. Frozen vegetables were frozen vegetables.
For something on the light side, we ordered chicken Caesar salad ($7.95). Nicole said the dressing was made in-house and came with choice of lemon pepper chicken or Cajun chicken. She recommended Cajun, and by now we were ready to order whatever she suggested.
The salad was made with crisp romaine lettuce and homemade croutons, dressed in a creamy, somewhat sweet, not-too-garlicky Caesar dressing. The Cajun-spiced chicken was flavorful but a bit dry.
Finally, there was shrimp and scallop Merango ($19.99)sautéed shrimp and scallops, bacon, onions, peppers and diced tomatoes with a kick of spice, all tossed with angel hair pasta.
The huge plate came piled high with perfectly cooked pasta, three or four fairly big scallops and three or four shrimp. The heat was definitely there, plus an interesting smoky flavor that Nicole confirmed came from chipotle. We polished off the seafood, and there was plenty of pasta to bring home for another meal.
Desserts were great. There were only two selections the night we were there, but they were both winners.
A huge wedge of double-crusted bumbleberry pie ($4.95) contained four types of berries berries that Beth, the pie maker, fresh-picked earlier in the season and then frozen. No goopy commercial filling here the berries held together well without the corn syrup binder in store-bought pie fillings.
Coconut cream pie ($4.95) was equally good, another big piece, creamy and delicious, piled high with whipped cream and topped with toasted coconut.
Food for four, excluding drinks and tip, came to $105.52.
The appetizers were fun, the soups were fine, entrees were better than we would have expected, and the desserts were terrific. The real star of the night was Nicole. So often, a bartender or a server can make or break an evening out. Nicole certainly made it for us and appeared to be an attraction for the regulars as well.
Even if youre not a hunter or a snowmobiler, we know youll enjoy Bellys Mountain View Inn. Its a little out of the way, but the folks there will make your trip worthwhile.
If youve never been to the Burrville Cider Mill, its a must-do this time of the year.
Its just five minutes from Watertown on the Plank Road off Route 12 toward Lowville. They make their own hot mulled cider there and also sell local honey and maple syrup, homemade fudge, jellies, jams and preserves. Theyve got the biggest selection of New York state apples Ive ever seen at one location.
Best of all their warm, fresh cider doughnuts, made nonstop every day right before your eyes. Youd better buy more than just a dozen, because the first dozen will be gone before you leave the parking lot. Take it from the voice of experience.
Burrville Cider Mill is open seven days a week until just before Thanksgiving.
You can contact restaurant reviewer Walter Siebel via e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bellys Mountain View Inn
2 Wolf Pond Road
Mountain View, NY
1 (518) 483-4283
Its a warm and friendly place for visitors and locals alike to share good food, drink and fellowship.
HOURS: 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday
Bar open later most nights
APPETIZER PICK: Cajun cool fries
SOUP PICK: French onion
ENTRÉE PICKS: Shrimp and scallop Merango; Delmonico steak
DESSERT PICK: Any of Beths pies. Theyre terrific.
RATING: 3½ FORKS