A Sackets Revisit

In February 2012, I reviewed the Sackets Harbor Brewing Company on BHS with a not very positive spin. As much affection and warm memory I had for the spot, at the time, I could only give it a four on the BHS, scale, due to a frigid dining room, sloppy plates, and under-seasoned dishes. Just a few months later, I was contacted by one of two new owners, requesting that I return for check out the changes they’d made to the menu and décor. I usually shy away from revisit posts, because I don’t want to give you guys a lot of repeat content. However, with new owners, and my personal affinity for Sackets, I decided to make an exception, and my parents and I returned last month for a waterfront dinner on a gorgeous evening.

I was sort of bummed right off the bat that the Brew Pub’s outdoor seating section was closed, but it’s for good reason: a huge new lakefront deck is under construction, and will hopefully open this month. Inside, the dining room doesn’t actually seem to have changed much since our last visit, but it is clean and bright.

Our waiter, a relative of famed former SHBC chef Karen Cornish, was very helpful, and bragged a bit about the house made dill hummus that came with the yeasty, chewy bread. A creative accompaniment to a traditional starter loaf, the hummus was citrusy, garlicky, and bright with fresh dill punch – my favorite part was the addition of a little pickle juice for kick. I may have to start adding this condiment to my hummus at home.

Dad and I began the meal by sharing an appetizer special that evening – seared tuna with watermelon and feta salad. I am mad about the watermelon and feta combo this time of year, as it qualifies as salad with no pesky lettuce to get in the way. For me, the tuna in this dish could have been raw. With seared tuna, I’m always a little put off by the texture difference and slight chewiness of the cooked edges. But that salad was summer incarnate – delightful, cooling, slightly salty and utterly refreshing with the watery sweetness of the watermelon. I would have balanced the salad with more robust chunks of feta, and the balsamic was just a touch odd in the dish. I would have gone with a rice wine or champagne vinegar so as not to compete with the delicacy of the fruit, but I loved the bite and crunch of the red onion in it. I could eat this alone for dinner on a really hot night, and be pleased with it.

Mom went simple, as usual, but unusually, she was not happy with her wedge salad. Part of this we have to put on her, as she swapped out the blue cheese dressing that ordinarily comes on the salad for balsamic dressing, and then didn’t like it – it was waaay too acidic for her, and there was a huge amount of it on the wedge, blowing out all the other flavors. That said, when it first arrived, it looked more like a culinary carnival than a salad, and we had high hopes. We doctored the almost straight vinegar with some olive oil and sugar Jim brought to us, but by then, Mom’s palate had been completely overwhelmed by all the strong acidity, and she was kind of over it. My advice – if you’re in the mood for a composed salad like a wedge, stick with the dressing the chef has predetermined for it.

Dad went for the steak – although unfortunately, I didn’t write down what cut, and as I write this up, the restaurant’s online menu isn’t actually showing its entrees for whatever reason. It was topped with fried onions that I wished they had let fry for one more minute – they were a touch blond for me. The meat itself was divine, with great, beefy flavor, and was cooked perfectly to medium well, as ordered. And unlike our last visit, this steak was well seasoned with salt and pepper. The garlic mashed potatoes on the side were a little gluey in consistency, probably mashed in a mixer instead of by hand so the starches over processed, but very garlicky and savory. Overall, Dad was happy with his plate, and I’m betting the inconsistencies were due to the chef working the grill station while less experienced line cooks prepared the onions and the potatoes. Chef clearly knows what he’s doing, but he may need to be more strict with his staff and crack the whip a bit.

I ordered an appetizer as my entrée, and it’s a repeat dish from our last review: the scallop stack. I won’t keep you in suspense, it was terrific: a trio of creamy, seared scallops atop a Portobello mushroom cap, dolloped with tangy goat cheese, and drizzled with rich basil pesto and mellow balsamic vinegar. The twangy creaminess of the panko-crusted, fried, goat cheese disc makes the dish, and I even loved the lefy greens served underneath, which formed a fresh base for all the earthy, strong flavors topping them.

After Mom’s dinner disappointment, she wanted dessert. I wasn’t about to argue with her compelling argument, so we chose the house made peach cobbler, and were rewarded with an absolute homerun. Not just sweet, this fruit compote was complex with spices, and the baked cobbler portion was decidedly savory, buttery, with a whisper of salt and more homey pie spices. We loved it.

So ladies and gentlemen, Sackets Harbor Brewing Company is back in business, with gusto. While our meal wasn’t perfect, it was really fun and pleasant. In fact, besides Mom’s balsamic snafu, the only other ding in the evening was the large table right behind ours, who had chosen to bring their unruly, creaming toddler to this fine dining restaurant, and chose not to remove him or comfort him in any way through his repeated tantrums. Folks, babysitters and Cracker Barrel exist for a reason. If your child can’t sit through an adult dinner, don’t inflict that upon him, or upon your fellow diners!

My parents and I awarded SHBC a seven on the BHS scale – well above average and above its former score. I think the new deck will be a huge boon to business, and that a tiny bit more attention to detail in the kitchen would push this place into nine territory, which it certainly was in the early part of the decade. Well done, new owners, you have a winner on your hands – keep working, and we’ll keep eating! My hunger is big; my personality is bigger!

PS: My Miss TI girls did so well this past weekend at Miss New York! Congratulations to Lonna McCary on her Kenn Berry Spirit Award, to Joelle Leek for being voted Favorite Contestant and placing fifth runner-up in the Oustanding Teen Pageant, and to Vern and Julia for their precious, priceless stage debut! Check out Lonna, in the back in the navy blue gown, proudly cheering on Joelle before her Top 6 announcement!


  1. I'm glad they reached out and asked you back! That's awesome.

    I hate ahole parents who will not remove their children from dining situations.

    1. Kids are a part of life and families are what restaurants are made for arrogant ass..and the place is a dump and food sux and the wait staff prob ate off your plate.i worked there for a day.. Your a hack

    2. Hi there, Doug. You sound like a super guy, very positive. I love it when people call me dirty words on my blog, which by the way, is a family-friendly space. Let me take a shot in the dark here -do you work at Tin Pan now?

    3. Glad to see the new "chef" is creative and putting his dishes out! - hmmm ... It seems I remember partaking in a few of those dishes 6 and 7 years ago. The Scallops and Goat Cheese; Grilled Ahi over Greek Watermelon and Feta Salad as well as other dishes on the menu - Lemon Caramelized Sea Bass, Lobster and Tortellini, etc, etc...You would think a chef would want to do his own thing. You would think the "new " owners would too. By the way the owners have owned the Pub since 2007, "selling" it to a guy from Albany so not to have to pay the $50000 in back NYS sales taxes they owed. Taxes paid they got the pub in 2009. Not exactly new owners.

  2. O.K.If you insist I will review the beer! We will be going to wellesley in Sept.& will try that new deck out on the way up. My wife Claudia, Who KILLS for scallops, already wants what you had.