The Old Chatham Country Store & Cafe is a hidden gem of small town charm in the northern reaches of Columbia County. Nestled in the little hamlet of Old Chatham (not the Village of Chatham, which is more to the east), it’s just far enough from the bustle of the core Capital District for some peace and quiet. The building is half old-timey grocery store and half sit-down cafe, primarily serving simple breakfast and lunch fare. The kitchen also serves order ahead to-go dinners on the weekends, typically a roast chicken entree on Saturdays and a rotating single option on Sundays, ranging from beef short ribs to mango-papaya salmon.
The grocery section of the building was a little sparse on a recent visit, but it still had a collection of pantry staples and some locally produced or house-made specialties, such as cheese from a farm in Stephentown and house salsa and chips. There was also a selection of pre-packaged frozen dinners made by the restaurant and a delectable selection of baked goods.
I was curious to try some of the lunch items, which can be ordered from a small but comprehensive menu of cold cut sandwiches, salads, burgers, and a few other hot dishes. I settled on a chicken quesadilla and a crab cake sandwich to go.
The chicken quesadilla was fairly basic but still enjoyable. A thin tortilla shell encased an adequate portion of cheese and chicken, but without much else in the way of flair. The homemade salsa was the highlight of this plate – mild but piquant and acidic with hearty chunks of tomato.
The crab cake sandwich was a thick, fried slab of minced crab meat, which we found to be on the salty side (or perhaps that was just from the generous coating of remoulade sauce). Thankfully it was not overly weighed down with breadcrumbs, as some regional crab cakes tend to be. The sandwich ate a little heavy, but the shoestring french fries were crispy, fast-casual perfection, even after surviving the car ride home in a stifling stryofoam container.
Most of this food was perfectly fine for a quick lunch but not particularly life altering, except for my fortunate choice of baked goods. I happened by some chunks of carrot cake in the cooler, labeled something along the lines of “best carrot cake ever” – and who could resist such a tempting name?
The carrot cake was exceptionally decadent and rich, with a thick coating of cream cheese frosting and a very dense and moist crumb. It was packed full of nuts and raisins and big meaty shreds of carrot. I would buy a whole tray of this cake if I thought I could get away with it health-wise.
I’d be likely to return to the Old Chatham Country Store & Cafe for some more baked goods or some of the specialty items like the house-made chips and salsa, but the cafe food probably wasn’t enough to prompt a visit on its own accord. Weekend dinners (which I haven’t tried yet – I’ve only seen in tantalizing pictures on the Cafe’s Facebook page), are likely only a good option if you live in the immediate vicinity. But if you’re looking for a drive through the country, a stop at this quaint local treasure is worth it just to enjoy the ambiance, check out some of the local art on display, and browse through the local grocery items for sale.