One’s dining choices are few when you are wrapping up midday stop at Old McDonald’s Farm in Sackets Harbor. Yes, we could have had lunch at the farm, but I was looking for more than just snack bar fare. Frankly, we needed to move to a place that didn’t have a gift shop full of toys within eyeshot.
Sackets Harbor itself is a quaint little village on the shore of Lake Ontario that grows in population each summer when vacationers settle in. We had intended to visit the Anchor, but found it closed (contrary to its website’s listing of a Noon opening. We went to Sackets Harbor Brewing Company last year. While the food was good, I was less than impressed with the beer. And, after a morning with The Father, one needs adult refreshment.
There on Main Street, to the left of the brewpub, was The Hops Spot. A streetside menu advertised an interesting array of burgers and 24 beers on tap and won a consensus from the crowd.
An outdoor patio of about a dozen tables precedes your entry to the bar and restaurant. A small dining room with a built-in cushioned bench surrounds the front of the establishment, as do windows with sills full of cookbooks. A large board on the side of the dining room listed the name, strength and price of each beer available. Depending on the time of your visit, 2 to 3 beers from Skewed Brewery — its sister establishment in Salmon Run Mall — are available.
The menu itself is simple: four different appetizers, four styles of hand-cut fries, a smattering of sandwiches and salads, and a dozen types of burgers made with local meats, including grass-fed beef from the neighboring Black River Cattle Company. The burgers range from the tame — a beef burger with bacon, mushrooms, provolone and garlic aioli — to the more adventurous, such as The Harvester with New York cheddar, local maple syrup, apples and cranberry mayonnaise.
In addition to a round of beers, we started with an order of fried pickles. Deep-fried pickles are hit and miss, often times encased in a thick batter and reeking of mass-production for foodservice. In this instance, the pickles were tossed in a cornmeal and cayenne pepper blend and fried golden. Six pickles were presented with a chipotle-ranch sauce that was wasted on this dish, as the pickles never lost their dilly brine.
The Father’s Blue Boy Burger was cooked to medium and served with bleu cheese, bacon and a red onion confit. I opted for The “Eh” Burger, which was more like a casserole than actual sandwich. The half-pound burger was topped with Canadian-style poutine — fries with gravy and melted cheese curd. The roll never got soggy, and the burger sat the middle of the potato-gravy-cheese mess. By the end, I was scraping the edges of the serving bowl to get every last bit of it.
My stepmother ordered the aforementioned bacon-mushroom burger, though was skeptical about the aioli, as she wasn’t sure what it was. I told her she had probably eaten aioli before and to think of it as garlicky mayo. I didn’t have the heart to tell her about the raw eggs.
The Wife ordered a mozzarella and tomato jam panini that looked good, but boring compared to the burgers on the menu. In her defense, it was hot at the farm and she does not like eating a lot of food when she is warm.
All of the sandwiches and burgers are available on gluten-free rolls or bread on request and the kitchen goes out of its way to prevent cross-contamination. It fries potatoes in oil separate from anything with breadcrumbs and changes out knives and other utensils, according to the hostess that I chatted with.
Beef can also be swapped out for local lamb, buffalo, chicken breast or a homemade veggie burger.
We later entertained the waitstaff, as The Father and I fought over who would pay the tab. I won. I always do.
It is refreshing to see a little New York vacation town like Sackets Harbor support a place like The Hops Spot with its commitment to serving local food, support of people with gluten issues, and showcasing high quality beers. If I were to open a restaurant, this would be the type of place I would want to run. Except my version might have air conditioning.
The Hops Spot is located at 214 1/2 Main St. in Sackets Harbor. It is open for dinner six nights a week from 4-9 p.m., (the kitchen closes at 6 p.m. on Sunday) and weekends for lunch at 11 a.m. The bar stays open later. Lunch for four was $95 before tip.