Thursday, 06 February 2020 12:36

Andy's Adirondack Grille at Malta Ridge: Great Food and Family-Friendly Dining

By Thearesa St. John | News

There’s something special about dining in the Adirondacks. 

Home to agricultural and culinary traditions that are deeply rooted – not only in the soil of our farmland but also in our heart and soul.  Regional chefs are known for drawing on the inspiration and imagination of nature’s bounty, creating dishes that pair flavors of local harvests for unique dining experiences you won’t find elsewhere.

Andy’s Adirondack Grille at Malta Ridge is a perfect example of dining in the Adirondacks, from the moment you step inside to sit at the bar with friends, to dine alone, or grab a few tables with family and children in tow. 

The walls are warm, knotty pine. Large picture windows let in plenty of sunlight.  Dining tables with charmingly mismatched chairs invite guests to sit down and enjoy a meal by the stone fireplace on a cold Winter’s day, or by windows in the porch area, located in the front section of the restaurant.

Once known as Bentley’s, Andy Bentley – the owner – renamed the restaurant a few years ago. Determined to consistently improve the quality of food and service provided to guests, he didn’t want it to be known only as Malta’s ‘pizza joint,’ either.

“I love the new name we decided on. I mean, we’re located in the Southern Adirondacks, stand in my parking lot and look North – beautiful! The place has the feel of the mountains, lakes and wildlife – everything that symbolizes the area. It doesn’t get better than that.”

Andy is married with two children – a boy and girl, eight and ten years old. He hopes they grow up to love the business. “They’ll have hands-on training here, that’s for sure,” he grins at the thought. “I think everyone should have to work in the restaurant business at some point in life. You learn a lot about people.”

Executive Chef Tina Marie Clements knew she wanted to be a chef as early as the sixth grade. She attended Johnson & Wales, earning degrees in both culinary and hotel/restaurant management. She’s well-known throughout the Capitol District as well, working at various establishments over her 30 years in the industry.

The time she spent working on Saratoga Lake, at Panza’s Restaurant, brings back sweet memories. “I learned so much while I was there. My hands-on training taught me more than any textbook ever could have,” Tina recalls. 

Whenever someone asks what brought her to Andy’s Adirondack Grille in May 2018, the chef laughs. “It was something new for me. And I wanted to work less, maybe just two or three shifts a week.” Tina chuckles. “It didn’t work out that way.” Instead, she fell in love with the restaurant and in helping Andy refine – not re-invent - the extensive menu already in place.   

The bartender makes every drink under the sun – we try a refreshingly tart, green apple martini, and a silky-smooth chocolate martini that feels more decadent with every sip. Not surprisingly, local craft beers are served here as well. Our pick, Adirondack Brewery Bare-Naked Ale, a medium-bodied amber ale with a toasty-fruity flavor. 

Tina’s Thai Shrimp is delectable, freshly grilled, tender, and tossed with a sweet-spicy glaze. It has a small green salad off to one side, a perfect-sized appetizer for two. 

When our waitress, Lisa, walks over, presenting our next dish, we’re pretty sure we’ve died and gone to heaven. The menu’s Caldwell-style little-neck clams – simmered with chopped clams, white wine, garlic, and herbs tastes scrumptious, especially with the thick garlic toast-points we happily dip into the seasoned broth. 

“We always bring spoons with this dish,” she says. “People love to empty the bowl – spoons are easier than slurping.”

Later, when we grab a few moments to visit with Chef Tina, we ask what’s in the Caldwell broth, there’s a flavor that we can’t quite place. She grins, shaking her head back and forth. “Now, now,” she laughs. “I can’t give away all my secrets.” 

If you’re in the mood for handcrafted, gourmet pizza, this restaurant serves three sizes and six varieties. There’s a selection of flavorful toppings listed on the menu. We choose ‘The Godfather,’ a combination of grilled chicken, roasted red peppers, prosciutto ham – topped with fresh basil, a savory balsamic glaze, and white crust. 

Andy’s Adirondack Grille serves four soups every day. White clam chowder, a soup-of-the-day, a savory French onion, and a lobster and shrimp combo. We choose the French onion – a hearty beef-based broth layered with bubbling Swiss cheese that’s melted and oozing over the sides of each crock. 

Don’t judge me when I say we made sure to eat every bit of cheese!

With seasonal menu changes – some heartier choices are now available. One of them, known as Prime Rib Day, is offered on Wednesdays. Guests can order three different sizes. 

Are you kidding?

The slab of marbled meat is thick and juicy. It cuts easily and is melt-in-your-mouth tender. Tina hand-cuts onions into super-thin slices, breading and frying them to serve alongside the rib. It comes with a side of horseradish sauce and au jus gravy. 

Not just the décor has an Adirondack feel, but the menu also… with choices like Cedar River Chicken Parmesan, Minerva Chicken Marsala, Friend’s Lake Alfredo, Long Lake Lasagna, and Sagamore Pasta, you get the full experience. Never forgetting they’re located in Saratoga, (just off Exit 13N, minutes from downtown) their nod to the track is the delicious ‘Whirlaway’ Chicken, which honors an American champion Thoroughbred racehorse who won the US triple crown in 1941. Tina cooks a panko crusted chicken breast, drizzles a maple Dijon sauce with Applewood smoked bacon over the top, then serves it on a bed of fluffy rice seasoned to perfection – divine!

Vegetables at Andy’s are fresh, perfectly cooked and delicious – we dig into mashed potatoes, grilled carrots, peppers, and colorful, buttery squash. 

During our time here, tables fill up with couples, families with teenagers, others with small children. We catch snippets of conversation and laughter around us as we end with dessert – a rich and creamy vanilla pumpkin parfait with more than a hint of cinnamon whipped cream– just like our moms would’ve made. The mingling of voices makes it sound very homey here – as if there are no strangers under this roof.

“We love kids,” Andy tells us. “It’s nice to serve families. Listening to them chat over lunch or dinner is a pleasure. As you can see, we have crayons and paper for the little ones to color with while they wait.” 

We watch as Tina walks from table to table. Even Andy is out on the floor, visiting with guests - most they know by name - making sure everything’s to their liking. “Every guest is our favorite,” he tells us when he comes over to say good night. 

We leave the restaurant feeling full, carrying doggie bags to the car, promising ourselves we’ll be back soon.

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