I’ve always had an affinity for barns. For several of my single years, I lived in a converted barn, first at one end, and then at another. I loved the wood, the beams, the fireplaces, the multi levels.
Recently, I reviewed the Cock ’n Bull Restaurant — in a Galway barn. On a recent Thursday evening, eager dinner date and I had supper at The Rustic Loft (as in hayloft) Pub & Grill just north of Amsterdam on Route 30. While it did not resemble a barn outside, once you walked in the side door, it became apparent: Adirondack-style railings, hand-hewn beams, three levels, a stone fireplace and genuine memorabilia — not replicas.
Thursdays are open mic night for twangy singers. There were no seats at the L-shaped bar and most of the tables were occupied, even those in the loft. We were happy to be seated adjacent to the bar, ordinarily a location I try to avoid.
Server Angela and owner David Bubniak brought us menus and a small flashlight to help me read the small print on the menu in the low-lit room.
Pub food with clever names dominated: Barn Baskets ($9.99-10.99) of chicken tenders and dry-rubbed pork ribs; Farm Favs ($8.99-11.99) of Rad Cow, Hen House Quesadilla, Corn Cobb and the like; Farm Faces ($10.99 for open-faced turkey to 15.99 for open-faced sliced prime rib with sautéed mushrooms, onions, melted mozzarella on a toasted ciabatta roll); Hand Helds (a variety of sandwiches served on various breads and rolls for $8.99-10.99); assorted Half Pound Burgers (made from fresh Angus beef like Grandpa Ehmer made for $9.99-11.99 on a brioche roll with country style french fries and barn slaw); Dinner Grub (nearly a dozen full dinners from $13.99 for drunken meatloaf to 18.99 for lobster mac and cheese).
Let me not forget Happy Endings — a half dozen desserts for $4.99 to 5.99.
Despite the menu and the memorabilia, the music and movement near the bar and the door to the kitchen, we managed to focus on food. We unwound with an order of California Chips (a bargain for $5.99), multi-colored deep-fried tortilla chips served with guacamole, sour cream and picante sauce.
John’s comment: There was not enough sauce to adequately attend to the generous basket of chips. My comment: The salsa needed a bit more zing to make my nostrils flare.
We also shared a basket of St. Louie Ribs ($10.99 for four), dry-rubbed and tender enough to fall off the bones, with a small cup of barn slaw and a large heap of fries. Their own BBQ sauce was also included for folks who think ribs should be finger-licken’ good, which they were.
John’s Buffalo Hen salad ($9.99) included fresh lettuce mix, cherry tomatoes and black olives with freshly grilled chicken breast enlivened by a spicy red sauce. The promised blue cheese dressing had been substituted with another kind, but attentive Angela promptly corrected the minor mistake.
My medium-rare burger, made with fresh Angus beef and topped with lettuce, tomato and raw onion on a brioche, was perfect.
We ended the evening with good coffee and a Johnny Appleseed ($5.99) to share. Dessert represented a logical explanation for why reviews involve two people and not one.
“Deep-fried mini apple crescents” sounded great to us. In the end, we both decided the apples were lost in the dessert. John felt the flavor of the apple slices were camouflaged by the crispy coating (which I enjoyed), but was otherwise pleased by the oversized dessert. I concluded the abundance of whipped topping, melting cinnamon brown sugar ice cream and warm caramel sauce overpowered the fried apples with semi-liquid sweetness and sheer volume. For me, the apples were the star of Johnny Appleseed, but never got onstage.
One of the most pleasant parts of the time we spent at The Rustic Loft was our post-dinner chat with owner Bubniak. It was obvious that the restaurant is a labor of love for him. He learned about meat-cutting working in his grandfather’s meat market on Bridge Street in Amsterdam. Hence his attention to fresh ground beef for his burgers.
Bubniak made the tables in the restaurant from the floors in the original barn. He fashioned the glass rack above the bar from an early 1900s wagon wheel.
He looks forward to retiring from his day job in the near future and devoting full time to The Rustic Loft Pub & Grill.
The Rustic Loft Pub & Grill
WHERE: 4740 State Highway 30, Amsterdam, NY 12010 518-212-5886, www.therusticloft.com
WHEN: Mon.-Fri., 4-11 p.m.; Sat.-Sun., 12-11 p.m.
HOW MUCH: $49.95 for two people without alcoholic beverages, tax and tip
MORE INFO: Accessible (stairs required for loft seating), parking lot, all major credit cards accepted, reservations suggested, outside patio available in warm weather, live music