CLIFTON PARK – There is so much history in our area and I often stumble upon fascinating tidbits when visiting a new restaurant. The Flats Restaurant & Tavern, for example, takes its name from Rexford Flats, a 300-acre property that Edward Rexford bought and modestly named during the Revolutionary War.
We now know it as plain Rexford, and it’s a small part of the town of Clifton Park. Geographically, the area is not a place to go sledding with the kids.
The big news is that Clifton Park has a new independent restaurant on the corner of Grooms and Vischer Ferry streets.
Flats Restaurant & Tavern opened just over a month ago in a brand new building in a modern brick mall.
There is a large dining room with booths and tables and a bar, as well as a large terrace. Decor is industrial-chic, with concrete floors and exposed metal ceilings.
“It works,” said husband Eric.
Outside, hydrangea bushes, hanging plants, and Celtic knotwork metal art draw your attention from the parking lot on three sides.
We got a table outside, and let me tell you, people have noticed that The Flats is open. The car park near the restaurant was almost full when we arrived just after 5pm and it didn’t take long for the patio tables to fill up.
“It seems everyone is in a good mood,” Eric said after we noticed several groups of people meeting, hugging and sitting down.
Clifton Park recently welcomed Emma Jayne’s to Route 9 in Halfmoon. Another cosy, family friendly, reasonably priced independent restaurant here I think will be very well received.
“They have so much stuff,” Eric said of the menu. Eat a snack or a full meal; The Flats has wings ($16.50 for 10), a bacon cheeseburger ($15.50, includes fries, salad or fries), or a 14-ounce ribeye steak ($36.50).
There’s plenty in between, some with a Cajun influence — which feels fresh and different — like a shrimp po’boy ($18.50), chicken and waffles ($18.50), and a Louisiana chicken pasta dish ( $23.50) with Tasso Southern ham and Andouille sausage. There’s Tabasco sauce in the kitchen and they use it.
Points to the bartender who managed to deliver ice crystals in Eric’s martini ($12) on a hot night. My Matua Sauvignon Blanc ($12.50) also arrived ice cold. Table service was attentive, although it’s hard to hear when the place is busy.
We started by ordering Shrimp Casino ($16.50), a brilliant take on the standard scallop dish. Why have I never thought of that? Thanks to the chef for that. I’ll try to make it at home.
It makes perfect sense. Along with shrimp for clams, there’s a Cajun influence with the chopped okra and ham and some spiciness along with the breadcrumbs. It makes a wonderful appetizer for a group or can serve as dinner for one person.
First, there’s way too much breadcrumbs, which is how I like it. Six large shrimp are buried beneath the bold, browned and seasoned crumbs. Lemon butter sauce lingers on the floor.
“Wow, I like it,” Eric said appreciatively. He also liked the heat. Cayenne pepper or Tabasco, who cares? It’s excellent and a generous portion.
We packed up the leftovers and our meals came out quickly. Eric opted for the pappardelle pasta ($24.50), described as “ribbon noodles with braised short rib, roasted carrots, and onions in skillet sauce.”
Short ribs appear three times on the menu: in the sheet pan nachos, as a French dip sandwich and here in the pappardelle pasta. They’re very rich, moist, and flavorful, keep well, and help steer the menu in an upscale direction.
Eric had thought of the braised short ribs and pappardelle he’d eaten in San Francisco last year, and what I’d subsequently prepared at home: braised, rich, long-cooked meat with sauce reduced almost to syrup. It wasn’t quite like that, but it was good.
It wasn’t a natural choice for a warm July night, either, but he enjoyed it. The meat was shredded and mixed with thinly sliced carrots and onions. “Like pot roast,” he said. But in a good way.
The sauce was thin and threatened to spill over the low front of the stylishly offset pasta bowl. It needs a plate.
As for the leftovers the next day, I found it better than he said: the sauce had thickened, some of the pasta had been absorbed. I found the texture of the beef to be just right and the sauce balanced, if not as rich as I expected, perhaps because the meat wasn’t very fatty. Very good but something I would order in cooler weather.
I had the Chicken and Waffles ($18), described as hand-breaded buttermilk chicken served between two hearty jalapeño waffles with a tangy honey-butter sauce. You get a piece of tender white meat chicken in a super-extra-crunchy, flavorful batter that steals the show.
It keeps the chicken nice and moist, and its spiciness, perhaps from cayenne pepper, is offset by the sauce. I immediately disassembled the sandwich, sliced the chicken, and dunked the pieces in the sauce I had on the side.
The honey and butter sauce looked and tasted mostly like butter, which isn’t bad, with a hint of sweetness. I would have liked more honey to properly balance the heat. But the chicken was good enough to stand on its own.
I put the hearty waffles aside and warmed them up the next day. With butter and syrup, they made a compelling case for adding herbs and jalapeño to my morning waffles.
Sandwiches and burgers are served with a choice of fries, deli salad, or kettle chips. I forgot to indicate and got fries which were mostly small crispy pieces.
We ended on a high note, Eric noted, and shared an order of homemade peaches and creme brulee ($7) with fresh peaches. I had a few bites and found I would prefer it to be a little firmer.
Eric loved it; If he hadn’t stopped eating to pay the bill, I wouldn’t have had any.
Referred to The Flats for a homemade dessert. And for the well thought-out menu. And Cajun bright spots.
It sounds like I have a lot of little things to pick from, but overall what they do is remarkable and ambitious and we agree.
Our meal bill including drinks, tax and 20% tip came to $118.64.
The Flats opened in June but people have already embraced it. It was noisy on the patio, a sign everyone was enjoying themselves, Eric said. We saw many people there meeting with others and enjoying themselves.
Spend your restaurant dollars at an independent restaurant and support your local community. The food is getting better too.
Meet a friend at The Flats and enjoy.
Caroline Lee is a freelance writer based in Troy. Reach them below [email protected].
The Flats Restaurant & Tavern
WHERE: 675 Grooms Road, Suite 101, Clifton Park; (518) 357-3827; theflats675.com
WHEN: Monday, Wednesday and Thursday from 11:30 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.; 11:30am to 10:00pm Friday; noon to 10am Saturday; Closed Sunday and Tuesday
HOW MUCH: $118.64 with drinks, tax and tip
ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: All major credit cards accepted. ADA Compliant. Parking spot. Take away, no delivery.
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Categories: Clifton Park and Halfmoon, Food, Life and Art