A couple of years ago I was considering buying a house out on the edge of East Berne, and I couldn’t help but think there was such a scarcity of food options in the region. And then I discovered Jake Moon Restaurant & Cafe right on Route 443 in the hamlet of Clarskville, and I had a little more peace of mind. The restaurant doesn’t look like much on the outside (and ok, it doesn’t look like much on the inside either), but it has a great hometown, mom and pop type of feel. The parking lot is usually pretty packed – perhaps mostly because of the restaurant’s monopoly on decent sit down restaurants within a short driving radius – but also because it has a great menu of hearty, country-style classics. I tried a few items on the brunch menu and remember thinking it was pretty good. Not fancy by any means, but a good, robust, stick-to-your-bones kind of breakfast experience.
I ultimately didn’t end up moving to the hilltowns, and instead find myself now in an area of Rensselaer County that is equally devoid of great food options. So when I was trying to think of a good brunch option this weekend, I had to scan the map beyond my neighborhood. And I thought to myself, why not head back to Jake Moon? It was a nice fall day for a drive, and I was in no rush.
We got one of the last tables in the back corner of the restaurant, surrounded by lots of locals that seemed like regulars. Service was prompt and friendly, quickly loading us up with coffee. Always a good start to brunch. Unfortunately, I can’t say that the rest of the food lived up to my expectations on this visit.
I ordered the red flannel hash, which is billed as somewhat of a house specialty on the restaurant’s website.
The hash is made up of chunks of sirloin, potatoes, beets, and onions in a rich sauce. It’s topped with three poached eggs and a hefty slice of homemade bread (I opted for the onion-dill bread). Although I liked the flavors of the hash well enough, the sauce was a little oily, and some of the chunks of meat were grizzly. Out of my three poached eggs, one was completely solid and overdone, while the other two were barely cooked enough. The most redeeming part of the plate was the bread, which was nicely fresh and soft underneath the crisp and buttered surface. The dill and onion flavors were perfectly balanced and didn’t overwhelm.
We also ordered the huevos rancheros plate with refried beans, eggs, salsa, and sour cream over a tortilla.
This is one of my favorite dishes to order. I love brunch, and I love Tex-Mex, so it’s hard to disappoint me. But a lot of elements here were just off. The refried beans beneath the eggs were strangely pale and didn’t have much taste. The salsa had a really unique flavor that neither of us particularly enjoyed – kind of sour and tart. And the mound of sour cream was unnecessarily large and swamped the rest of the dish.
I wish I had more positive news to report back from Jake Moon, but aside from the house-made bread that accompanied my hash, most of the meal was pretty disappointing. A lot of the execution was inconsistent, even within the eggs on one plate. Maybe this was just a an off day for the kitchen, or maybe the quality has gone downhill since my last visit. Here’s to hoping that they can pull it together and not just coast on being the only game in town – because sooner or later, there’s bound to be some competition.