POTSDAM — Scoopuccino's started out several years ago as an ice cream stand and has turned into a beautiful, full-fledged restaurant, serving breakfast, lunch and dinner.
And, of course, ice cream and gelato — homemade, to boot — along with showcases of baked goods created from scratch by in-house pastry chefs.
As you enter the building, lighted pastry and ice cream display cases tempt you.
Farther along, the dining room is nearly full — college kids, families and seniors enjoying generous portions of attractive food. A lovely granite-top bar has been added; beer, wine and cocktails are now available.
Most recently, Scoopuccino's was known as a breakfast and lunch place, serving omelets, pancakes, crepes and smoothies for the morning crowd; wraps, salads, homemade soups, hand-cut fries and burgers for the midday diners.
But they've quietly expanded the evening menu to include chicken, fish, seafood and pasta entrées, as well as growth hormone-free Windy Point Angus steaks, raised at the owners' ranch just a mile away from the restaurant.
We began by sharing several appetizers.
Crab cakes ($8.50) were very good — a lot of subtly herbed crab with very little noticeable filler served nice and hot on a generous bed of field greens. There were two fried cakes about the size of a fat silver dollar, served with a noticeably spicy hot chipotle mayonnaise on the side. Go easy if you're not a fan of hot.
Fried goat cheese fritters ($7) arrived at the same time, the exact same size and shape as the crab cakes. And they weren't really fritters — just medallions of wonderful goat cheese with a little breading, and fried. These were crunchy on the outside, warm and creamy on the inside and placed atop a huge mound of greens, served with a honey balsamic reduction.
You can't go wrong with bruschetta ($6). They begin with toasted crostini made from their own Italian bread, topped with traditional diced tomato, onion, garlic and mozzarella, finished under the broiler. The open-faced portions were fanned around a central bowl with balsamic vinegar and olive oil. Unfortunately, there was so much olive oil you couldn't get to the balsamic that sank to the bottom.
Other than that, it was a picture perfect dish.
The appetizer we were looking forward to the most, crab-stuffed portobello mushroom cap ($9.50), turned out to be our least favorite. The huge mushroom had a bitter taste, almost as though it had been marinated in sherry, and could have been baked longer — it was quite raw and hard in the center. The topping was the same mixture used for the crab cakes, but finished with a melted cheese that gave the dish a greasy look. But there's that great smoky chipotle aioli again, with its potent kick.
Where do you get both soup AND salad with your entrée? At Scoopuccino's you do, and they were quite nice.
The soup of the day was homemade and hearty chicken noodle, rich egg noodles and a flavorful broth with a good amount of meat. We were there toward the end of the night, and it appeared that the noodles had soaked up much of the great broth, which we could have used more of.
The salads were more than ample, the same field greens that came under most of the appetizers with the addition of grape tomatoes, shredded carrot and slices of cucumber and red onion. Maple vinaigrette appeared to be identical to the sauce served with the goat cheese fritters. A highlight was their own avocado dressing made with red wine vinegar — fantastic!
The entrées were very well prepared and nicely presented.
Pecan-crusted chicken ($15) was impressive. A good amount of crispy chopped pecans covered a plump, boneless chicken breast. Were those craisins we spotted in there too? A delightful raspberry sauce was drizzled over the top — not too sweet, just enough to enhance and not detract from the natural flavor of the chicken.
It came with rice pilaf dotted with minced carrots and flavored with herbs, along with simply blanched bright green broccoli.
One of the Windy Point steaks was a must. Some people just like a plain old steak, and you can choose from T-bone, New York strip or rib-eye.
We got the "black and blue" preparation of the strip steak ($18), grilled to our call of medium rare with crumbled blue cheese nicely melted on top. It was a right-sized portion, about 8 ounces, I'd say, and just shy of 3/4 inch thick. A pile of commercial steak fries accompanied.
The menu specified it being served with beer-battered onion rings. When the steak arrived without them, we brought that to our server's attention. Quickly, a plate of freshly made onion rings were delivered, unappetizingly greasy, however.
There are a number of pasta options: linguini Alfredo, penne with sausage, chicken and eggplant parm, and the one we chose, sherry mascarpone penne ($15) with a shrimp "add on" that brought the dish to a total of $21.
It was a lovely sauté of portobellos, onions, roasted red peppers and peas in a sherry cream sauce, tossed with penne pasta and sweet, tender shrimp that had a nice snap to them. Again, a little bitter taste coming from the sherry, but not as noticeable as in the portobello appetizer.
For a fish selection, we chose herb-broiled haddock ($14), a generous-sized filet cooked perfectly to white-firm with moist flakiness. It came with an herbed white sauce that we could have used a lot more of. A huge baked potato was perfect, with butter and sour cream supplied on the side.
There's also fried or blackened haddock on the menu as well as grilled salmon or Parmesan-encrusted salmon and shrimp scampi.
Our server invited us to go to the bakery area and pick out our desserts from an endless assortment of sweets.
We got the last piece of apple pie. It was a big hunk with a nice crust and a simply spiced filling. Coconut cream pie was comparably sized and as good as it looked — tall and tasty with a noticeably grainy consistency. Both pies were priced at $2.25.
For something different, we tried a pretzel-topped peanut butter cookie ($1) dipped in chocolate that went nicely with a cup of cappuccino ($2.25). And a raspberry sorbet ($2.05) was so thick and rich, although it was milk-less, you'd think it was made with heavy cream.
Dinner for four came to $125.77 before drinks and tip.
Our waitress, Hui, was very accommodating and helpful. She answered all of our questions; even went to the kitchen to find out about specific ingredients for us. The restaurant was very busy and she had several tables to work, but we never felt ignored.
Tables without tablecloths, silverware wrapped in paper napkins and sauces and dressings served in little plastic cups don't seem to go with the well-designed dinner menu they're serving. But it's a comfortable setting, just right for people like us who want something a little more special as well as the family at the next table enjoying nachos, potato wedges, burgers and ice cream.
You can contact restaurant reviewer Walter Siebel via e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
167 Market St.
With a reputation for great breakfasts and lunches, Scoopuccino's has expanded its evening menu to include chicken, fish, seafood and pasta entrées, as well as local Windy Point Angus steaks.
HOURS: 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday
6 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday
OUR PICKS: Crab cakes with chipotle aioli, goat cheese "fritters," house salad with avocado dressing, pecan-crusted chicken, "black and blue" New York strip steak, any of the homemade baked goods, ice cream and gelato.