Fred the Butcher’s bistro makes a seriously good sandwich
HALFMOON If you want good meat, where would you go? To a butcher, of course. And if you want a seriously good sandwich made with really good meat, go to Fred the Butcher.
The new location, in a stand-alone building just a bit south of the old location on Route 9, is larger and brighter, with a separate section called Butcher’s Bistro with a small seating area. There are also wooden picnic tables outside. The delicious smell of hickory smoke inside is the same.
You’ll find a custom meat counter and a wall of glass doors that hold a variety of frozen foods, from massive cuts of beef to carrot cake. The deli counter showcases the home-cooked and smoked meats, along with salads and some prepared foods. There’s a small produce section, of mostly locally sourced stuff. Specialty groceries will keep you browsing the aisles for some time.
Fred’s has always been a favorite in my family. My sister loves the fresh pork and Mom is a fan of the kielbasa and canned Cora tomatoes. I’ve been a devotee since Fred, many years ago, was kind enough to show me how to trim a whole beef tenderloin after seeing me watching him over the high meat counter.
The Butcher’s Bistro has a simple menu of hot and cold sandwiches, salads, and homemade soup is available fall through spring. The Bistro is open Monday to Friday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. You can eat in or take your food to go. Cold sandwiches are available anytime.
Flavor beats ambiance
Mom and I headed over to check out the Bistro. It sounds more grand than it is, but what it lacks in ambiance it more than makes up for in flavor. When you go inside, the Bistro is on the left. Pass the new olive and antipasto bar, the panoply of crunchy snacks and refrigerated cases of drinks.
We presented ourselves at the counter. “What do you recommend?” I asked. “The roast beef is homemade,” the counter person said. “And the Italian mix sub is popular.”
We signed up for one of each, roast beef with lettuce, tomato, onion, and a bit of mayo ($4.29, 8-inch) for Mom and a mixed Italian, not too much dressing ($4.29, 8-inch), for me. Mom ordered a dill pickle ($1) from the big jar on the counter. We each got a Saranac soda ($1.39 each). Fred’s gets points for stocking something besides the usual cola giants.
You can also get grilled sandwiches: the selection includes a Reuben ($5.99), Butcher’s burger ($5.99) and Fred’s baby kielbasa on an 8-inch sub roll ($4.99). A side of fries is $2.49. Salads are available and subs come in two sizes, 8-inch and 12-inch.
In just a few minutes, our sandwiches were assembled and we were ready to go. We settled in at a table inside and unrolled the white paper packages to see what we got. We were not disappointed.
The roast beef is rare, not purple, but nice and red all the way through.
Sandwiches come with thinly sliced white onion, lettuce, tomato and cheese. There was just enough mayonnaise and the cheese was Swiss. “The roast beef is out of this world and so tender,” said Mom. “I love the roll. You can’t beat it,” she said between bites, wiping her mouth. “Wow,” was her final assessment. The pickle also received high marks. “It’s a real good deli pickle,” she said.
I agreed with Mom’s assessment; they make a great sub. The Italian mix was outrageously good, with two kinds of ham, pepperoni, salami and provolone. The roll was tasty and substantial, but not too filling, and the meat-to-bread ratio was perfect. I could taste the oil and vinegar in the Italian dressing; it was just right and there wasn’t too much, like I’d asked.
“How’s the macaroni salad?” I asked Mom. She had taken a forkful, then went back, and then again. I couldn’t make out much besides “Mmm, mmm.” I heard crunching. “It’s the celery,” Mom explained. She likes Fred’s potato salad and said the macaroni salad was just as good.
I enjoyed a diet Saranac root beer, something I don’t see too often. Mom thought the orange cream flavor was great, “Like a really good orange soda.” She admitted she didn’t know where the cream part came in, but she liked it anyway.
For something sweet, I had picked up a package of Susie’s Trail Mix Cookies made by Andi’s Apple Cakes at the checkout ($2.79 for 6). They were homemade-tasting, soft and full of fat tender raisins, coconut, dried cranberries and chocolate chips. Mom wrinkled her nose when I offered her one, but acquiesced when I told her how good they were.
“I don’t like soft cookies,” she said, splitting a big soft cookie in half. She took a bite. There was a pause. “That’s a good cookie,” she admitted. “That’s a really, really, good cookie,” she added, gaining momentum. “Boy, are they good,” she said, the conversion complete, and asked the price. “They’re well worth it,” she said, a ringing endorsement.
I managed to save part of my sub for the next day’s lunch, and took home the rest of the tasty cookies. The roast beef sub and pickle were history. I made a mental note to pick up cold cuts next time I was in Halfmoon, and we headed out, happy and full.
Come to think of it, the Butcher’s Bistro is a logical next step for Fred The Butcher. All the ingredients have always been there; in the Bistro they are just put together. Good ingredients equal good sandwiches.