Table Talk: The Montcalm
Most of us love to go out to dinner. It’s sometimes a special occasion, a get-together with friends or a welcome break for the spouse who does the cooking. Whatever it is, dining out is one of Americas most popular treats for folks of all ages.
In the past, Mother’s Day and Easter Sunday were hands down the biggest holidays in the restaurant business; however they are now challenged by New Year’s Eve and Valentine’s Day. Even Thanksgiving has moved up in “dining out” numbers, along with St. Patrick’s Day.
The restaurant scene constantly changes as well, with new places coming and going, and a new mix of chains, coffee shops, and bistros available. Who would have thought that you could get a meal at Price Chopper or K-Mart?!
This area had a plethora of fine dining establishments in the 50s when Howard Johnson’s was the largest food chain and Interstate 87 was only a plan. Bergeron’s La Cabana on Glen Lake, Thurman’s Chalet Francaise, Glens Falls’ Colonial on Elm Street and Chestertown’s Balsam House were among everyone’s favorites. Alfonso’s on Route 9 would become The Red Coach, the Coachman and now of all things, Johnny Rockets. Talk about change! Charlie Wood’s Blacksmith Shop on Aviation Road and Russo’s Gourmet on Routes 9 and 149 would pack them in nightly.
In local restaurant history, Queensbury’s Montcalm was born in 1956 on the grounds of the Fort William Henry and moved to their present location in 1984 into what was then Alfred’s.
The Montcalm is one of the areas longest tenured dining establishments, now under the watch of Dean Beckos, following in Gus and Josie’s footsteps. The huge Adirondack style building immediately commands your attention amidst the outlet stores and “mumble jumble” of other buildings on Route 9 off of Exit 20. The Montcalm hasn’t changed much on the inside but Dean has tailored his offerings and menu to today’s tastes making this a comfortable stop for travelers, regular patrons, shoppers and special occasions.
The dining area is separated by a foyer that includes the hostess stand and coatroom. A huge, beautiful fireplace holds forth in the main dining area accompanied by a portrait of whom else, but the Marquis de Montcalm.
An expansive bar and lounge in the rear has comfortable bar stools, tables scattered about and the Montcalm’s complimentary soft cheddar cheese spread. Long settees line the wall with tables set with linens and silverware. Three antique carousel horses grace the lounge as well as an authentic telephone booth.
Executive Chef Vincent Cangelosi, a 20-year veteran, now offers a lite menu to compliment the Montcalm’s classic, extensive main offerings.
Through the years, the Montcalm has become known for their succulent, slow roasted prime rib of beef, Long Island duckling, veal, rack of lamb, and a huge copper kettle filled with your personal Maine clambake.
Constant Companion and I were here tonight for something light and were greeted at the bar by Brian; waiter turned bartender. He graciously offered ice water along with our cocktails and menus.
The lighter menu offers soups, seafood, stuffed portabella mushrooms, shrimp cocktail and house-made fried calamari. There are also salads, a broccoli and cheddar quiche, filet of sole, Chilean sea bass, chicken amaretto, fettuccini Alfredo and a 10oz hamburger with caramelized onions and fries.
Companion chose a generous tureen of fisherman’s chowder loaded with fresh crab, lobster and whitefish. Brian was right there with a generous offering of sherry to “kick it up a notch” A classic soup, absolutely one of the finest, completely satisfying Constant Companion in texture, flavor and ingredients.
She followed up the soup with a platter of baked clams casino, prepared the traditional way with bacon, herbs, and drenched in garlic drawn butter. We both anointed the Montcalm’s rolls, soaking up the juice in the metal tureen.
Yours Truly had a Greek salad with fresh mesclun greens, bits of feta cheese and an interesting, optional offering of fresh anchovies by Brain. I followed this with a crabmeat cocktail that consisted of several chunks of fresh meat alongside the Montcalm’s great cocktail sauce. Again, this was accompanied by a tray of fresh horseradish, Tabasco sauce and crackers.
There were other patrons at the bar, waiters and waitresses coming and going at the service area, but Brian made us feel like the only ones there. The Montcalm is a good stop for a cocktail and some wonderful lite food in a very comforting atmosphere.
Dean Beckos was greeting diners, gathering coats, filling in the gaps, and generally part of the flavor of the Montcalm. The condiments, the extra sherry, complimentary cheese and crackers, ice water…all without asking, are just a few of the reasons the Montcalm has made it through this large, ever changing restaurant scene.
Everyone needs to try a restaurant like this once in a while to not only experience the way it was, but more importantly, the way it should be!