With the maze of car dealerships on Outer Washington Street in Watertown, we drove right past the Old Garage Deli.
The relatively new eatery is dwarfed by the mega businesses around it. Its a simple, one-story concrete block building that once housed the former Ames Bros. auto repair shop.
The small sign on the front of the structure is almost impossible to see from the road. A changeable-letter sign at the curb along with a racing flag are your landmarks for the deli.
Inside, the white concrete block walls overpower the miscellaneous automotive signs and repair tools meant to create a garage atmosphere. A long counter wall divides the space, about half relegated to food preparation and the other half to a modest dining area.
We seated ourselves at a tall table near what used to be an overhead door through which cars entered. The door was up, letting fresh summer air in through a screen made to fit the large opening.
The menu is hand-written across the front of the counter half wall. We found it easier to grab several paper to-go menus from the counter and formulate our order.
There are several salads along with classic deli sandwiches and a half-dozen specialty sandwiches named after cars. Homemade side salads are available.
Theres a kids menu as well.
Two business friends joined me for the lunch review. They felt compelled to remove their ties in an attempt to blend into the atmosphere of the eatery. Actually, one of the guys took his tie off because he slobbered all over it the last time we did a review in a diner-type place.
Salads are salads and sandwiches are sandwiches, so we decided to explore the Garage Specialties.
Topping the list is the Edison ($7.95), grilled chicken with sprouts, goat cheese and housemade pesto on a ciabatta roll.
Rather than a roll, we ordered it on wheat bread, one of the five breads available along with white, rye, sourdough and wheatberry.
Its probably one of the most eclectic of their specialty sandwiches. The chicken was plentiful but just a little dry for our liking. The bread was lightly grilled on the outside. Sprouts gave it a healthy kick. The pesto was fine. All in all, a notch above deli sandwich.
Cruisin Chevy ($6.95) is a souped-up grilled cheese sandwich, made with Muenster cheese and tomatoes and just the right amount of the housemade pesto to not overpower the cheese. Our choice of bread was sourdough.
The guy who messes up his tie every time we go out got the messiest possible sandwich, the Stingray ($7.75), a variation on a Reuben.
Keeping in true Reuben tradition, rye was his call on the bread. The deli puts warmed pastrami, Muenster, sauerkraut and spicy mustard between the two pieces of grilled bread. Yummy. And messy.
There isnt a Reuben in America where the innards dont squish out from between the bread when you bite into it, and the Old Garage Delis Stingray is no exception.
It was a tasty variation on a theme that really worked well.
All sandwiches came with a pickle, crisp chips and a small plastic container of their signature Chipotle mayo.
With summer still in the air, a side of potato salad ($1.75) and mac salad ($1.75) were a must.
Both generally lacked flavor. The mac salad was minimally enhanced by the addition of canned tuna. The potato salad needed mustard or egg or salt and pepper something.
The fact that they were served in stubby Styrofoam to-go bowls probably didnt help the situation, either.
French fries ($1.50), on the other hand, were really nice, seasoned shoestrings from one of their suppliers, served hot and crispy.
The deli serves Pepsi products which includes Pure Leaf brand all-natural brewed tea. We tried the peach-flavored version. Nice and refreshing.
Lunch for three hungry guys came to $35.58. Portions were plentiful; prices were reasonable.
The food was generally decent. But the place itself is not attractive, despite the owners effort to create a theme atmosphere. Maybe they were trying to appeal to the workers at the car dealerships down the road, but we saw little evidence of their support.
Stop by the Old Garage Deli and give the food a try and see what you think. Their Facebook page is updated daily with specials.
■ 1844 House, on Route 11 between Potsdam and Canton, has been awarded the prestigious Wine Spectator Award of Excellence for 2013. 1844 House is the only restaurant in St. Lawrence County to receive this honor and the only restaurant in the county to have received 5 forks from the Watertown Daily Times. www.1844house.com
■ Richard Brosseau, one of Lake Placids most noteworthy chefs, has opened his own restaurant, Freestyle Cuisine, in the old Caribbean Cowboy location behind Sourdough Bakery on Saranac Avenue, opposite the Comfort Inn.
Richard has long been a foodies friend in the Adirondacks, known for his unique and creative yet approachable cuisine. He has previously worked at the Wawbeek in Tupper Lake and the Interlaken and Alegria Café in Lake Placid.
■ In downtown Lake Placid, Brown Dog Café and Wine Bar has moved a few doors down Main Street to the former Petes Steakhouse location. Seating has expanded; so has the menu.
Thought of as an upscale deli in the past, the Brown Dog now features fine dining in the evening, with dishes like smoked duck quesadillas, sea bass wrapped in banana leaf in a coconut curry sauce and a sea salt-crusted veal strip steak with warm Boursin.
Heading to the Finger Lakes this fall? Here are a few places that Ive visited recently that I really liked:
■ Lascas Restaurant, Auburn: Veal, choice steaks, chops and seafood prepared in the Italian style. Veal Tomato Caper was excellent, tender veal sautéed and finished in a tomato, butter, caper sauce over angel hair pasta. Chicken Lasca was excellent as well, a boneless breast of chicken stuffed with smoked ham, Swiss cheese and fresh broccoli, finished in a light cream sauce. www.lascas.com
■ Moros Table, downtown Auburn: This was not our first visit and once again, it did not disappoint. Salmon and avocado rolls for an appetizer were way better than youd find in most Japanese restaurants. Entrees are available in small and large portions. Fresh cod with zucchini and basil mousse was a taste treat for $15 (small portion). Hearty beef bolognaise ($9/small) was rich and hearty, served over homemade pasta with fresh ricotta.
■ Snug Harbor, Hammondsport: Spectacular hillside location overlooking Keuka Lake with food to match. Smoked salmon crostini with capers, onion and housemade fresh herb crème fraiche were the perfect starter. Pan-seared duck breast served medium-rare with an elderberry merlot demi-glace and creamy risotto was fabulous. Chicken breast stuffed with Fontina and wrapped with prosciutto was excellent. Both entrees were served with sautéed local zucchini and summer squash.
You can contact restaurant reviewer Walter Siebel via email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Old Garage Deli
19059 Route 11
A new deli in an old garage
HOURS: 10:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily
OUR PICKS: The Stingray: pastrami, sauerkraut, Muenster cheese and spicy mustard on rye; the Edison, grilled chicken with homemade pesto, goat cheese and sprouts