A burger is served with black-and-tan onion rings at the Centre Street Pub in Schenectady. (Caroline Lee)
The closest I came to beer at the Centre Street Pub in Schenectady was the black-and-tan onion rings. They were, like the rest of the food we had that night, pretty darn good. Sorry about that, beer fans, but I can tell you all about the food.
Along with a roofing company and a printer, the Centre Street Brewery once occupied the site at the corner of Union Street and Broadway. Excavation for new press footings by Acme Press in 1980 uncovered brick vaults once used to store vats of beer for the aging process, and the discovery of the brewery, established before the Civil War.
The remaining structure is the old printing company building, which makes a cavernous and somewhat awkward space for a restaurant. That explains the small high windows on the Broadway side and garage-door like windows on the other, which overlook the garden area and the train tracks. In the good weather, there is lots of outdoor seating in the beer garden.
We missed it the first time we went by. There’s a parking lot on the Union Street side but the main entrance appears to be on Broadway. You won’t miss it, because now you know that it’s right next to the railroad bridge that crosses Union Street.
It was early enough that the pub wasn’t crowded and we slid into a roomy padded booth right under the metal beer sign collection. From there we had a good view of the long bar, more tables and booths behind us, rows of decorative beer taps and many televisions. In addition to the Quick Draw you can watch a wide variety of sports.
Centre Street Pub
WHERE: 308 Union St., Schenectady, 393-2337, www.centrestreetpub.com
WHEN: 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sunday to Thursday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday
HOW MUCH: $36.78
MORE INFO: Credit cards: Visa, Master Card, American Express, Discover, Diners Club. Children’s menu available. Limited parking in lot, park on street or in the public lot on N. Broadway.
It was midweek and many of the patrons were dressed as though they had come from work. Most of the bar stools were taken.
Our server came over right away and took our drink order, which gave us a chance to look over the menu. It’s more highly evolved than the average pub menus but it’s not pricey. I like the nod to the area’s Polish community with a pierogi and kielbasa dish. There’s Canadian poutine and Japanese dumplings.
There are meal-sized salads like a Caesar with blackened chicken ($10) and sandwiches like the beef on weck ($10). A handful of entrees includes shepherd’s pie ($15), wiener schnitzel ($18), ahi tuna ($20) and a pan-seared steak au poive ($24). You can get wings and pizza, but why would you?
Lisa started with smoky-flavored French onion soup ($5), and called it the best she’d ever had. There were several croutons under the melted Gruyere, some soft and some crunchy, which she liked: “They taste like different breads with different textures,” she said.
I liked the chicken and vegetable soup ($3). There were lots of chunks of carrot, celery and onion, your standard ingredients, but it was livened up a bit with something that tasted like curry and it was definitely homemade. I like my chicken shredded because otherwise it can be a bit chewy, as this was.
Our server passed the table with a basket of fresh popcorn. I’m not saying we salivated, but she noticed our noticing and asked if we’d like some. About a minute later we had our own. It was fresh, and cooked in tasty oil (not that yellow stuff) and darn good. We ate it all. We’d hardly noticed our meals had arrived.
The hand-formed burger with homemade potato chips and a pickle will set you back only 8 bucks, a fair price. It comes on a good-quality, slightly sour egg-washed roll, and it was cooked a perfect medium, just like I asked. It was a great-tasting burger, and brought back wonderful food memories of barbecuing in the summer. They forgot the tomato and lettuce and onion, but I didn’t miss them. I had onion rings (an extra $2.50).
“These taste like beer,” said Lisa, after sampling a ring. I thought they had a caramelized sugar flavor, but we were both puzzled by the dark and light coloring of the batter.
“It’s black and tan,” explained the server, like the combination of light and dark beers. I liked them more than Lisa did, but came to the conclusion that not everything needs to be made with beer.
Lisa’s turkey panini on a ciabatta roll was excellent, with lots of real sliced meat. The roll was delicious, as were the still-warm homemade potato chips.
Points for chips
Of all the stuff that can be made fresh, potato chips are among the best. These were thin Russet slices, salty, delicious and not too brown. Centre Street gets points for the chips. The pickles were zesty, too.
Our server brought us boxes to pack up the leftovers. The popcorn put a dent in my appetite and I brought home most of my meal. Even reheated the next day, the burger was wonderful.
I didn’t forget to ask about the beer. There are 32 craft beers on tap and 28 available by the bottle. Varieties change regularly, and include local products from the Mad Jack Brewing Company at the Van Dyck Lounge and Adirondack Brewery in Lake George.
The tab for our meal came to a reasonable $36.78.