ALEXANDRIA BAY The tourist shops are closed for the season. The huge tour boats have been pulled up on land. The busy bars and restaurants are lifeless.
But the Dockside Pub is open open year-round, the sign out front proclaims. Its like a lighthouse on the dark and deserted streets of downtown Alex Bay in the middle of winter.
Inside, families with young kids were enjoying pizza and wings. Guys in military garb were grabbing a burger and fries, occasionally checking their Quick Draw tickets. Locals had taken their positions at the bar, enjoying Busch beer in cold cans as they commented on the local news on the low-def TV.
So in walk four city slickers to pull off an incognito restaurant review. Heads turn and eyes focus on us. Were new here, and they know it.
But the small staff was warm and welcoming and seemed genuinely happy we were there. We huddled at an open space in the bar. The gal tending bar and waiting on tables at the same time made sure we had drinks in hand, asked if we planned to eat and offered us menus to look at.
We did wonder, though, after seeing canned beers lined up on the bar, what kind of food would be coming out of the kitchen.
We seated ourselves at a high-top table near the bar to stay close to the action. Our bartender finished her shift and grabbed a stool with the Busch boys. A new bartender/waiter took over.
Matt was personable and positive. He had the menu down cold. He treated us like regulars. A cold can of Blue Light, a couple of Saranac drafts, a Captain and Coke, and our evening was under way.
The menu is straightforward pub fare standard deep-fried appetizers, for the most part, with a few items that enticed us, like poutine and shrimp cocktail. Grilled Oriental chicken salad sounded good. There were homemade soups and classic deli sandwiches, hot sandwiches and, of course, burgers five different ways.
And pizza, which is where we started. They come in 16-inch and 18-inch sizes, available with all the usual toppings. Then we spotted French bread pizzas, full loaf or half loaf. We told Matt we wanted to share one as an appetizer. He said the half loaf would be more than enough.
Then the choice of toppings. We decided to load it up, anchovies and everything.
It came out overflowing the plate. This was one great pizza: sausage, pepperoni, mushrooms, onions and peppers and those love em or hate em, little furry fishies on a long piece of French bread sliced lengthwise. With three anchovy fans at the table, we embarrassed the hate em person into slugging down his first anchovy.
The pizza was cooked just enough to give the crust a crispy outer shell on the bottom, and the cheese on top was melted enough to glue all the toppings together. Base price of the half loaf was $7.99. Toppings brought the total to $11.65.
Next, a salad to share. Matt somehow managed to fit four small plates on the undersized table around the plates holding the salad, the pizza and our drinks.
Antipasto for two ($6.49) was a large oval-shaped plate filled with iceberg lettuce, sliced tomatoes, black and green olives and a few diced red peppers. Several slices of salami and provolone were draped over the top. Pepperoncini around the edges completed the plate. Your basic north country antipasto. Nice homemade balsamic vinaigrette was served on the side.
Salami and provolone deli sandwich ($5.99) utilized the same meat and cheese as the antipasto. It was served on fresh, thick-cut Italian bread from the local Big M a nice touch dressed with iceberg lettuce. Fries, crispy and served hot, added $1.99 to the cost of the sandwich.
After finding out that the Italian pork sandwich was out of season (We marinate the pork ourselves but just dont move enough of it this time of year, Matt told us) we ordered the three-tier grilled cheese sandwich. Priced at $3.49, its a triple-decker grilled cheese comfort food delight.
We asked if they could customize it with bacon and tomato. No problem. That jacked the final price up to $6.54. It was well worth it, though nicely toasted with just enough butter/grease for that real grilled cheese sandwich feel on your fingers.
The cheeses were not specified, but our best guess was American, cheddar and possibly mozzarella. It hit the spot on a cold winter night. The only thing missing was a cup of tomato soup to dip it in.
Turkey Reuben ($6.99) was very good. The bread was toasted nicely; the turkey was sliced very thin and appeared to be roasted turkey breast. The sauerkraut amount was just right, not overpowering the meat and Thousand Island dressing in the sandwich. Nice crisp onion rings added $3.15 to the price.
The only full-fledged dinner entrée was sirloin steak topped with haystack or shoestring onions and served with potato, veg and choice of soup or salad for $13.99.
We got the soup, vegetable beef, definitely homemade. The broth was meaty-tasting and contained large chunks of potato and what looked like frozen vegetables.
The steak was ordered medium-rare and came out a little overcooked for our liking, served over a huge slice of toasted bread that seemed to soak up all the juices, leaving the steak itself slightly dry and lacking flavor.
There was a debate at the table whether the mashed potatoes were real or instant. Matt fessed up: instant. Regardless, they were OK. Brown gravy was canned stuff doctored up, but not bad at all, tasting more like beef than can.
The haystack onions were a high point crisped perfectly and just plain delicious.
There were no dessert options that caught our eye. Root beer floats and hot fudge sundaes didnt sound overly appealing in the middle of January.
Food at the Dockside cost $65.25. A round of drinks with dinner added $13 to the tab.
If youre looking for something casual, comfortable and affordable, check out the Dockside. We wouldnt hesitate to stop back sometime, catch a little hockey on the tube and throw back a few cold ones, even if they are canned.
You can contact restaurant reviewer Walter Siebel via email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Dockside Pub
7 Market St.
Alexandria Bay, N.Y.
The Dockside is a hometown pub where locals gather for some good food and friendly conversation and a few cold ones.
HOURS: 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Friday and Saturday, noon to midnight Sunday, 11 a.m. to midnight Monday through Thursday
Some very good pub fare. Be sure to try one of the French bread pizzas. Turkey Reuben was noteworthy, as was the triple-decker grilled cheese sandwich.
RATING: 3 forks