LYONS FALLS On a desolate stretch of road between Lowville and Lyons Falls looms a huge building with an Old West façade.
Just when we swore we were in the boondocks, there it was: the Boondocks Restaurant and Bar, a big building festooned with relic snowmobiles and ATVs on the peaked roof and enough neon beer signs to illuminate a small town along the way.
While the props on the roof define the clientele theyre after, there were no snowmobilers or ATV-ers hanging out in the bar or the dining room the Friday night we visited. Well maybe there were, but they must have left their bibs and machines at home.
We started out in the bar to get a flavor of the place. Its an inviting room with warm, natural wood tones, rustic yet refined, ample barstools and tables all around the perimeter.
A wide choice of beers was contrasted by the rather narrow choice of wines.
Exclusively serving wines from only one north country winery seems pretty uninspired and painfully provincial. The good news is the beer on tap was great, and with 14 to choose from, it was easy to find something that satisfied.
The place was theme-decorated to the hilt. We exited the bar the cabin by way of a cabin door, onto a porch, and into the great outdoors a large room with a vaulted ceiling complete with a waterfall, flowing stream, little bridges, ersatz trees and a forest backdrop along the walls. The booths and tables repeated the atmosphere of the bar, more natural wood amply finished in polyurethane to a sparkling sheen.
The only thing missing was Smokey Bear.
The menu is extensive, with appeteasers, soups and salads, burgers and sandwiches, prime rib and rack of ribs, pasta dishes as well as chicken, steak and seafood entrees, many imaginatively named to embrace the woodsy, outdoor theme.
Appetizer choices were pretty standard (onion rings, chicken tenders, potato skins) and ordering steamed clams in Lyons Falls seemed a little iffy, so we went with something that might show off the skill of the kitchen, a chicken quesadilla ($6.95) with the works (add $1).
Grilled chicken and Monterey Jack cheese were sandwiched between two flour tortillas along with chopped tomatoes, crumbled bacon and al dente broccoli bits, aka the works. It tasted fresh and flavorful, the bacon adding its smoky charm to the dish. It could have been warmer and crisper, browner instead of a shade of pale, but it offered a nice start to the meal and was perfect for sharing.
Like so many restaurants these days, in an effort to keep prices down, salads are available with dinner entrees at an additional cost. We splurged $1.95 for a very nice salad with a variety of fresh greens, cucumber, tomatoes and croutons. Balsamic vinaigrette was fine. Blue cheese crumbles added another $1. Fine.
From the salad portion of the menu, we ordered the Sicilian steak salad ($13.95), definitely an entrée-sized portion served on an oversized plate. It consisted of a tender and flavorful small but perfectly cooked steak, sliced and fanned out in the middle, robust balsamic vinaigrette lightly covering a mound of mixed greens and chunks of herbed mozzarella cheese.
We requested a side of blue cheese which added $1. Fine.
Chicken Marsala ($14.95) was a somewhat blah entrée accompanied by rice pilaf not what it could have been. The Marsala sauce appeared to be a reheated preparation with fresh mushrooms added to it. The rice was cooked nicely but uninspired in its presentation and flavor. Overall, the dish lacked the gourmet flair usually associated with chicken Marsala.
Under pasta we ordered linguini Alfredo ($9.95) and added shrimp at an additional cost of $4.95. Fine.
As it turned out, the tasty, good-sized shrimp were the best part of the dish. The rest of the entrée was a little disappointing, with a pasty cheese sauce that did nothing to enhance the linguini.
Broiled scallops ($14.95) was a dozen sweet, decent-sized, perfectly cooked scallops in an overly generous pool of garlic butter. An equally generous amount of almost crispy bacon crumbles added pungency to the entrée. The bed of spinach in the menu description turned out to be a few leaves swimming around in the butter.
We substituted a side of restaurant service sweet potato fries for regular fries for a buck more. Fine. The crispy, lightly salted fries came with a unique and homemade (we assume) dipping sauce made with mayonnaise and maple syrup.
Most of the desserts were restaurant service offerings with the exception of homemade crumb-topped apple pie ($6.99) and Amaretto bread pudding ($6.49).
Talk about contributing to obesity in America. They were humongous portions served with several scoops of ice cream, but so laden with sugar, a few bites were all we could manage. The ice cream was necessary to cut the sugar in the apple pie, but there was no relief from the sugar in the bread pudding.
Additionally, the bread pudding had some kind of sugary icing on top, an opaque layer of melted and cooled sugar, best we could figure. And there was no hint of the distinctly almond-flavored Amaretto liqueur. But, like the apple pie, it was served nicely warmed.
Our server, Courtney, was attentive and confident, well informed about the menu and well trained to tend to the needs of the customers.
We choked down a couple of glasses of locally produced Merlot with our dinners at a cost of $5 per glass. A Crown Royal and Coke was a safer and more economical choice at $4.75. The food portion of our adventure in the boondocks at the Boondocks came to $101.18 before tip.
The Boondocks is a charming spot, clever in its woodsy cabin by the stream motif, but certainly more of a roadhouse than anything else. Its a great family destination or a shelter on a cold evening where you can be comfy in your jeans or with your snowmobile suit at half mast. An informal, relaxed place with a few rough edges, but an honest one.
You can contact restaurant reviewer Walter Siebel via email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Boondocks Restaurant and Bar
3950 Route 12
Lyons Fall, N.Y.
The Boondocks is a charming spot, clever in its woodsy cabin by the stream motif, but certainly more of a roadhouse than anything else.
HOURS: 11:30 a.m. to 1 a.m. seven days a week
Sicilian steak salad is a good bet. Try the broiled scallops plentiful. Sweet potato fries with maple dipping sauce yummy.
RATING: 2-1/2 Forks