Utica, NY - Just Passing Through
I recently spent a stop-over in Utica NY, on my way to Canada. Before I left I realized I would have time for dinner and breakfast and I quickly emailed Billyboy, who went to college here, to ask for suggestions. One VERY helpful email later I was all set to hit a place called Holland Farms to try their Chicken Riggie for my supper. Little did I know...
I left Boston on the afternoon of the 12th... by about 7pm I checked into my low budget hotel just off the Pike (aka the Thruway or I-90). I checked the online map, drew it in my head (always works and I have a great sense of direction), checked that the website that said the place was open til 9pm, and hit the road just after 7pm. Now it was DARK and it was RAINY but all I had to do was go right out of the hotel and a ways down then right again on a major road. Then a couple of miles on that road to my destination. Only ONE turn - what could be easier?!?! In Utica, in the dark & rain... ha. As I leave the hotel, I call Billyboy to tell him how psyched I am to try his suggestions. But I soon see too that things do not look as I expect from the map, and he happily goes online to "follow" me and help. (THANK YOU!) So he was the first to know that when I reached Holland Farms, I got Travellin'-Manned!!!! Sigh.
No worries, they are really all about the pastry in the morning, and on the way I'd told Bill that I passed a place with a big sign that said "World's Finest Chili Dogs". See below. This was a no-brainer of a stop. Especially with a crowded parking lot. So the Patio Drive-In it was...
Oh boy what a treat!!!!!! I felt like I was Buffetbuster somehow living in Cecif's body. (Weird but follow me...) I walk in and am immediately greeted by a very friendly man - who turns out to be the Owner. And the place was full of local regulars. Antony's grandparents had started the drive-in back in 1954, his parents had followed in their footsteps. He had actually left Utica to attend the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park (I've been there!)... so he had great training. And his experience was at some mighty-fine restaurants around the country. Did this make him a food snob who converted the drive-in to fancy food? Not a chance. he is all about good, local, comfort food. He makes grandma's recipe macaroni salad (yum) and soups every day.
Here is Tony moving a big pot:
The original menu he took off the wall for me:
The current menu:
Tony told me they originally had waitresses on roller skates (a real drive-in) and he pulled out one of the original car trays. Cool!
(sorry that is blurry, I hate using flash!)
My first dog... a chili dog with onions and side of mac salad. They are Hoffman dogs, which Billyboy told me are local (very good!)
and close-up. Note that the "chili" they put on dogs in this part of the world is NOT the regular beef/bean kind, but rather a sauce-like concoction with a tang/hotness to it. Very tasty!
My beer, also local: (in fact you can see the plant from the window here!)
As I was ordering a second chili dog - with cheese - the waitress said to me (in a TOTAL Buffetbuster moment), "Be sure you save room for pie!" I almost fell off my stool. Seriously. No one ever says that to me, I never order two dogs, and I almost never have room for dessert. But, in honor of Billyboy and Cliff, I decided I'd better listen up. Of course they also told me that the waitress makes the pies herself, from scratch. (I hear BB going "Yes!" and making that arm motion like he scored a touchdown...)
Note the toasted bun. They did it up right! (This is a great all-beef dog, btw...)
PIE TIME! I chose chocolate cream pie. Very good! Great crust, light interior just chocolate-y enough without killing me, and whipped cream on top. Choclate jimmies complete the picture. Mmmmm.
I have rarely ever left a meal so full. And btw the locals were all chatty and friendly and Tony and his wife were fantastic! I HIGHLY recommend it.
I took a shot of the outside the next morning as I went past:
Breakfast on the 13th: gotta hit Holland Farms. So I can see where I am now (bright sunny cold day) and I have no trouble navigating to the cow billboard again...
You know it is going to be one of those days when you pull into a full lot, you walk in and the first thing you notice is a guy on a piano playing & singing. Wow! This is Carleton Boone and he is a great guy... not to mention a terrific singer! I had a short chat with him about why he was there. (Me: "Are you always here?" CB: "Nope, they asked me to come in for Valentine's Day!" Me: "But that's tomorrow..." CB: "I know but the owner likes me and she got started withthe holiday early!") So there you are. And here he is at his piano:
The sign by the entry is all about the buns, and I know I have to have one (even though it's not usually my fave).
I was also told that half moons are a specialty around here, and the front case showed me they had plenty:
I got one jelly roll for me and a neat looking box of three cookies to take to the friends I was visiting. (I forgot to photo the box & cookies! Oops!) One of the women behind the counter had a great shirt on and I asked for a photo of it, she was happy to help:
On my way out Carleton Boone wanted to chat a bit more and then said he had something for me in his car - a CD of his music! So I happily accepted some music for the road. (And darned if it wasn't terrific stuff! Mosly Sinatra covers and very well done & produced!) That was one WORTHWHILE stop!
I took the jelly roll back to my hotel where I had probably the messiest breakfast ever! This thing was LOADED with powdered sugar. And it was delicious.
Also on my way back to the hotel I stopped at a place on Billyboy's list called "Florentine". He had mentioned a specialty there called a pasticciotti- (he noted:"cc" in the middle
) and I bought one for the road.
For my morning driving/coffee break I had it with coffee... Delicious! Fantastic light and crumbly and just-the-right-sweetness crust. Wow... this was a great treat. Wish I'd bought more!
I made a quick trip up and over the border and am now visiting (& dog-sitting) in Kingston, Ontario. I visited Ottawa over the weekend, but sadly did not get to try the Beavertails or the poutine... I was with friends who cooked.
Now I know there are people complaining about trip reports that are not really trips... and this is not like a WJ, TTM or BB trip, by any means. But I hope no complaints and y'all enjoyed it.
And no, I am not going to get a GPS. I am poor and like road maps!
post edited by cecif - 2009/02/18 23:06:26