CAPE VINCENT This quaint river village is still pretty sleepy, even with the opening of several new restaurants.
Maybe its because the season is not yet in full swing. We thought wed have a drink at Monahans Pub in the Roxy Hotel. The signs out front said Yes, Were Open, but the doors were locked and the place was dark.
Down the block, there were a few cars at the well-established Aubreys Inn and even more at the new Breakers Restaurant.
But we were there to explore a place called BIN-427. Its on Route 12E, which becomes Market Street in the village. We drove right past it on the way in from Watertown.
The restaurant has no sign and in fact the sign for the previous place (Market Street Inn) is still there so its helpful to know that 427 refers to the street address number.
A neon beer sign in the window drew our attention as we sped past for a second time. We hit the brakes and did a u-ee.
Entering through the front door, you find yourself in the sparsely decorated bar. The bar itself had an old-time look to it we figured it had been there for at least a half-century. The wall behind was well stocked with an array of liquors. There was a small selection of wines at one end, strategically placed in front of a curved glass panel etched with BIN-427.
While the BIN-427 name would suggest that wine would be a focus of the restaurant, it certainly is not. BINs offerings are mostly low-end, with names like Bully Hill, Red Cat and Flip Flop.
We tried the Flip Flop, a newcomer based in California, although its wines are sourced from various countries. Both the chardonnay and pinot grigio were better than expected (you can buy an entire bottle in a liquor store for about $7) and a good value at the restaurant at $3.50 a glass.
And the Flip Flop people arent pretentious. The label on the back of the bottle says that the wine goes well with pizza, sliders or eggplant Parmesan.
We spotted two bottles of liquor from the fledgling Clayton Distillery, the Flagship vodka, the other, Two Dog moonshine. At our friendly bartenders urging, we sampled/shared a chilled shot of the 80-proof vodka, which was remarkably smooth. The 94-proof moonshine, not so much. Kind of like a cross between lighter fluid and paint remover.
Soon after, we made tracks for the spacious and empty dining room. Wendy, our server, welcomed us, guided us to a table near a sunny window and presented us with stylishly printed one-sheet menus. There was no wine list, and she confirmed that our choice was what we had seen at the bar.
Wendy gave us a little history of the restaurant, formerly the Sleepy Hollow, explaining that the previous owners left the facility in deplorable condition. Much cleaning and refurbishing was needed before they opened the doors in mid-May. You could tell the dining room walls were newly painted and hung with new art on the walls. Tables were set with placemats and paper napkins.
We started with appetizers to share. The choices were few, pretty standard and OK.
We were in the mood for wings. We had the choice of bone-in or boneless and sweet, mild or hot sauce. Wendy explained that the hotness could be adjusted, so we went for bone-in wings ($7.95) with medium-hot sauce and were pleased with what we got: meaty wings slathered in a just-right Buffalo wing sauce, served in the traditional manner with celery and blue cheese dressing.
An order of spring rolls ($7.50) was obviously a commercial product, uniformly long and thin and light on filling. They were crispy enough, served with a tangy/sweet dipping sauce, a modern version of duck sauce.
A dozen or so steamed clams ($7.50) were served with an unusually thick butter sauce. The clams were on the small side about the size of a nickel so once they were negotiated out of their shells, there really wasnt enough clam meat to warrant sharing.
Wendy was pretty sure that the only entrée that came with a salad was lasagna, but since things were so slow, and in an effort to please us, she offered a small salad with any entrée we ordered.
The garden salad contained fresh greens, halved cherry tomatoes, sliced cukes, red onions and acceptable crunchy boxed croutons. A generous cupful of goopy golden Italian dressing was more than enough.
The small Caesar was truly a classic Caesar salad. The perfect amount of tangy, lemony dressing barely clung to the crisp romaine, just as it should; the salad was dusted with grated Parmesan and sprinkled with the crunchy commercial croutons.
The main courses arrived before we had finished our salads, so we performed a bit of a plate juggling act with Wendy to make room for the new plates.
There are only six entrees on the menu, so we figured the kitchen would do a nice job turning them out.
Shrimp scampi ($16.95) is a pretty easy dish to make. Sauté shrimp in butter, olive oil and garlic, deglaze with white wine and lemon juice, throw in a generous amount of Italian parsley, season with salt and pepper and there you have it.
BINs scampi was a little less complicated, eight medium shrimp lined up on a moderate portion of fettuccini bathed in way too much butter/oil. There was no parsley in there, and if there was wine or lemon, we couldnt taste it at all.
Chicken Parmesan ($16.95) was a breaded and deep-fried chicken breast covered with a very nice red sauce and melted cheese, served over spaghetti.
We didnt know if wed like the chicken deep-fried, but it was surprisingly crisp and the breading very tasty. Sometimes deep-frying isnt as bad as its cracked up to be.
Although perch is not on the printed menu, it appears almost nightly on the specials board, we learned, for $14.95.
We asked if the perch could be pan-fried in butter, as a true fisherman would like his fresh catch prepared simple and unadulterated.
The kitchen consented. We were expecting a little crispness from the frying pan, but instead, it was like the fish was poached. Not a bad thing, but it was darn near flavorless. It needed salt ... or pepper ... or lemon ... or garlic. Something.
It was served with coleslaw that wasnt much more than shredded cabbage and mayonnaise. No vinegar and no sugar. It was bland, like the perch.
We were excited to see haddock, fried or broiled, on the menu, because it came with mac and cheese. We were disappointed when Wendy told us that the mac and cheese side dish was available only on Friday nights, noting that the owner really should have made that clear on the menu. No kidding.
OK, second choice: the only steak on the menu, a sirloin ($14.95), buttered and charbroiled to your liking. Well take it.
What arrived appeared to be the wrong order, one of the nights specials, meatloaf. We summoned Wendy, who went to the kitchen to see where the glitch had occurred.
She returned and informed us, apologetically, that while the menu didnt specify it, the sirloin steak was actually CHOPPED sirloin. What the ...? We didnt want gussied up hamburger for the price of a steak!
She also told us that several people had ordered the dish previously, and nobody had objected to getting chopped steak. Ill bet they dont plan on coming back, either.
Wendy said she wouldnt charge us for it, so rather than have the kitchen start another entrée from scratch, we picked at the burger, the tasty mashed potatoes and the basic corn.
There was only one dessert available, strawberry shortcake ($4.95). Heres another example of something you can make at home better than we got here.
The strawberries were chopped very fine, almost a mush, and barely covered the cake. And if they were fresh at one time, they werent fresh by the time they made it to our table. Squiggles of fake whipped cream were squirted over and around the production.
Rather than a shortcake biscuit, it was served over a dense yellow cake. The cake was OK. It would have been better, perhaps, if Wendy hadnt carried out a Saran-wrapped sample to show us at the start. Even better if it had been shortcake.
Dinner for four three appetizers, four entrees (yes, we were charged for all four) and one dessert came to $116.33 before tip.
BIN-427 is a work in progress. And it shouldnt be, since the owners operate other restaurants in Chaumont and LaFargeville. How could experienced restaurateurs open a place with no sign, no website, no presence on Facebook, no wine list, blatant menu errors and simple food that most customers could prepare better themselves at home?
Wendy did a stellar job in the face of adversity. In fact, she was the best thing about the place. She was helpful, kind and eager to make us happy.
Other than a good Caesar salad and a shot of local vodka, theres not much at BIN-427 that warrants a drive out to Cape Vincent.
You can contact restaurant reviewer Walter Siebel via email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
427 Market St.
Cape Vincent, N.Y.
A new restaurant in Cape Vincent at the Market St. Inn property, formerly Sleepy Hollow.
HOURS:11 a.m. to 8 p.m. seven days a week
OUR PICKS: Caesar salad, chicken Parmesan, Flagship vodka from Clayton Distillery.