The Towne Tavern
Rustic, reasonable and reliable
Overall rating on a scale of 1-10
Service 8 • Food 7 • Ambiance 7 • Price – $$
Just to mix things up a bit and keep you on your toes, I am starting this month’s review with this conclusion: every town needs a Towne Tavern. Don’t feel like getting all dressed up for a night of pretentious food and condescending service? Don’t feel like spending a small fortune? Want to kick back and enjoy familiar food with friends or family? Then make the Town Tavern your next dining destination.
Located in scenic Averill Park in Rensselaer County, the Towne Tavern sits on Route 66, just past the intersection of Routes 43 and 66. My dining companions, Jeff and Tina and I arrived on a Saturday evening at about 7pm to find a full house. It happened to be the night before Mother’s Day and apparently this was a popular place to celebrate; lucky for us we had reservations.
As we entered the two-story building, its history is evident in the wood beams, rustic decor and the many stuffed wildlife creatures watching over the guests. Apparently the building was originally erected in the 1800s as a blacksmith shop, later home to a German restaurant and then eventually became the Towne Tavern.
The first floor features a large wooden bar, some bar tables and several dining tables and booths. This seemed to be the area where couples and single patrons chose to sit. We were led up to the second floor which appeared to be designated for larger groups. Perhaps due to the timing of our visit, the second floor also happened to bear a striking resemblance to Chuck E. Cheese – this was indeed the “family section”.
To take the edge off the happy chaos of our surroundings, all three of us ordered an “adult beverage”. The Towne Tavern features a nice selection of beers on tap, including the refreshing summer favorite, Blue Moon, of which I ordered a pint. Tina had a Heineken light and Jeff, a Coors Light. (All three beers were $2.75 each).
As we enjoyed our cold drinks, we perused the expansive menu. Offering everything from wings, ribs, pizza, steaks, burgers, salads and Panini’s, the menu was a bit overwhelming, and perhaps too ambitious. Most diners around us seemed to opt for simple, straightforward fare like burgers and fries, or the barbeque specialties.
Jeff and Tina couldn’t help but order the “Award Winning Chicken Wings” to start. From the six or seven varieties offered, they chose the maple bourbon wings ($7.50) and I settled on the lighter Crab Cocktail ($9.95), lump crab meat served with a spicy cocktail sauce over a bed of lettuce.
When the wings arrived, the amazing smell made our stomachs growl with anticipation. The sauce smelled intense, smoky, sweet and spicy all at the same time; there was a clear presence of both maple and bourbon. I thought of dipping my fingers into the bowl, but decided against it. (I liked these people after all!) However potent the scent of maple bourbon, Jeff and Tina said the wings themselves, although meaty and tender, lacked the depth of flavor they were expecting. To be fair, they decided that “Award Winning” may have referred to another flavor of the wings. The maple bourbon variety was certainly satisfactory, but in reality they were closer to “Honorable Mention” status.
My crab cocktail arrived in an elegant margarita glass, looking very sophisticated. The crab meat was tender, but didn’t impart abundant flavor. Crab is my favorite seafood of all; however the star of this cocktail was the zippy cocktail sauce, chock full of horseradish.
There were several dinner specials offered, including an intriguing Tilapia Ruben, a Prime Rib and a specialty pizza. But, Tina wanted to try a dish the Towne Tavern is known for, so she ordered the half-rack of ribs with sweet potato fries ($11.95). Jeff had the Taborton burger, topped with melted American cheese and hickory smoked bacon ($8.95) and I ordered the Stuffed Portabella, described as a mushroom cap layered with sautéed spinach, tomatoes, basil pesto and fresh mozzarella, baked in the oven and finished with a balsamic reduction ($7.95).
Jeff’s burger was of a nice size, cooked well, and was clearly made in-house and not pre-frozen. But it was a little bland, seeming to lack seasoning. He had no major criticisms, yet it wasn’t exactly memorable, more like a reliable go-to meal you can count on not to let you down.
Tina’s ribs promised a lot, but didn’t quite deliver. The menu described all of the BBQ dishes as first being smoked and then applied with a special dry rub of mixed herbs and spices prior to being cooked “low and slow” until the meat is “fall off the bone” tender. The rub on Tina’s ribs was indeed spicy and flavorful, but the meat itself was not that tender, and in fact, a bit on the dry side. Towne Taverns’ four homemade barbeque sauces definitely came to the rescue here. The sweet potato fries that accompanied the ribs were your standard issue, yet still addictive, as fries should be.
My Portabella mushroom cap, actually an appetizer, was one of the best parts of the meal. This dish is a classic and dependable combination of flavors. There was just one minor issue: the “basil pesto” was in reality a bed of fresh basil leaves. But to be fair, this modification of the menu description actually worked better. The basil leaves provided a sharp, pungent and crisp complement to the rich mozzarella cheese and sweet, tangy Balsamic reduction that topped it. This is a healthy, yet satisfying appetizer, or light main dish, that I am determined to re-create at home, especially with this summer’s bounty of ripe tomatoes and fresh basil soon to be available.
The dessert menu mocked us, with its tantalizing selection of cheesecakes, homemade Amaretto bread pudding and ice cream sundaes, as well as several pies from local bakery Pie Squared, including apple crumb, mixed berry and key lime. We ended up surrendering to the apple crumb pie with vanilla ice cream, and a side of three forks, ($6). We made a wise choice, although I am confident that any of the Pie Squared pies would be winners. The piece of pie was, true to its bakery’s namesake, “square”, and also quite large, but we weren’t complaining. The apples weren’t mushy and tasteless, but instead tart and still a bit crunchy. The crumb topping was buttery with a touch of cinnamon – in a word this dessert was delectable. Do yourself a favor – don’t eat that whole basket of wings, put down that last rib and save room for something special – a homemade dessert you won’t regret.
We left feeling as if we could probably count on the same experience if we returned another time. So if you need a neighborhood hangout that you can count on for friendly service and standard fare at a nice price, then head east my friends, to the Towne Tavern.
The total cost for four beers, two appetizers, one side salad, two entrees and one dessert (excluding tax and tip) was an unbeatable $72.41.
The Towne tavern is located at 2850, Route 43 in Averill Park. They are open daily from 11:30am, with seating until 9pm Sunday-Thursday and until 10pm on Friday and Saturday.
For more information call 674.3040 or visit www.thetownetavern.com.
Christina DeMers is an online marketing manager, food blogger and amateur cook who lives in Troy, but eats just about anywhere.