Have a pleasant history lesson in this small, unspoiled 19th century Saratoga County canal village, then stop for a delicious breakfast or lunch at the Vischer Ferry General Store.
Despite its close proximity to three cities, the village remains remarkably intact; a concentration of several working-class Greek Revival structures built in the 1800s by Erie canal boat carpenters helped land it on the National Register of Historic Places in 1975.
A few folks along with a friendly black dog were socializing out front when we arrived on a warm, sunny afternoon. The white-painted wood structure has characteristic columns and a temple-shaped roof over the porch. The original tall front windows and wood double doors are fitted with new glazing and restored faultlessly, as is the rest of the building.
Louise McManus, a co-owner along with her husband and two other couples, did a massive remaking of the building. They’ve restored original features and made modern improvements, like geothermal heating and LED lighting, that also makes it green.
They wanted to make it a gift shop, and thought they’d add food to draw people in. You’ll want to linger over the tasteful, carefully curated and enticing merchandise, but the cafe itself is reason enough to visit.
They offer a fresh menu each day for breakfast and lunch Wednesday through Sunday, a few sandwiches, soup, an occasional salad, scratch-baked goodies and on the weekend, more substantial fare, like mac and cheese and quiche.
A communal table separates cafe and counter to one side, discriminating gifts displayed on the other in the spacious room. Straight back is a light-filled porch open in the warm weather, and outside there is patio seating in the summer.
The day’s selections are displayed on chalkboards inside and out. The menu appears on Facebook and the tall chalkboards. Call ahead if you’d prefer, to find what sandwiches, soups, and baked goods are available.
Husband Eric chose a roast beef sandwich ($5.99) and a cup of the day’s soup ($3.50), I ordered an egg sandwich ($5.50) and we shared a Boylen’s Root Beer soda. After examining a display of books, Eric sat across the long table and poured the soda into two tall, thick, ribbed ice-filled drinking glasses.
From the kitchen, a radio played softly. We passed the time people-watching: regulars chatting to the staff and others; two small parties at cafe tables on the sunny back porch; others seated at a counter along the front windows, silhouetted against the afternoon light.
My egg sandwich was tidy, carefully constructed and steaming hot. The scrambled egg fit just so on the soft, square ciabatta roll, layered with sun-dried tomatoes, cheese and strips of smoky-tasting bacon. The tomato was soft, perhaps only half-dried with sweet, concentrated flavor. It was tidy, cut corner-to-corner — a perfect egg sandwich, every bit delicious.
We both loved the day’s soup, a hearty tomato cheddar, sourced from a purveyor in New York City that makes it to order. It was rich, and had texture and flavor from the tomatoes, with a cheddar finish. We loved it.
Eric’s roast beef on rye sandwich ($5.99) had panini grill marks, and the Swiss cheese melted over the tender, thinly sliced roast beef with a hint of pleasantly sweet onion jam and some richness from garlic aioli spread. His sandwich, like mine, was satisfying but not oversized; all the effort here went into making it taste good. And it did. We shared the kettle chips.
We took home a slice of flourless chocolate cake ($3.50) made by McManus’ daughter, a quick-study baker who keeps the pastry cabinet filled with attractive cookies, scones and cakes. The white-frosted slice was enough for two, rich, and very dense. “It’s like eating a chocolate truffle,” Eric said.
The tab for lunch came to $21.79 with tax. We left a bit more on the table for service.
The Vischer Ferry General Store offers many reasons to visit, not least the food. It’s civilized, sleepy, peaceful; a world away from shopping malls and downtowns. Check out their Instagram account for a taste of life at the General Store: friendly gatherings, good-looking uncomplicated food, dogs, long walks along the canal and mugs of hot chocolate in winter.
You’ll want to linger in the General Store, with its frozen-in-time vibe. You’d think you were in a rural resort town somewhere in New England, but the serene canal town of Vischer Ferry is just a short drive from anywhere in the Capital Region.
Vischer Ferry General Store
WHERE: 357 Riverview Road, Rexford, 579-0195, vischerferrygeneralstore.com
WHEN: 8 a.m to 3 p.m., Wednesday through Sunday
HOW MUCH: $21.79 with tax and tip
MORE INFO: Credit cards: MasterCard, Visa, American Express, Discover. ADA compliant. Children’s meals. Parking lot.