Beef with Beef

In 2010, one of the most detrimental noncritical occurrences to shake up a city lifestyle food scene was defined by the closing of Clark’s Ale House location at the corner of S. Clinton and Jefferson streets. The location was prime for the holidays, and it offered such a different atmosphere compared to several places in the Downtown arena due to having a distraction-free atmosphere.

It was a place of habit, too, and it was a year-round preference. After Saturdays of working at The M.O.S.T., a handful of us would head over and occupy outdoor seating. During the winter, it was just as cozy. The two-floor pub had floor-to-ceiling windows, which gave the feel of being in a snow globe at times.

The signature roast beef sandwich was simply dynamic: beef, cheddar, onions, horseradish and/or mustard between halves of an onion roll. The horseradish was as distinct as the beef. (Sometimes they sold turkey.)

Then what? It’s hard to dislike the Landmark Theatre and its gaining the extra space. There was a void, which was seasoned with a couple instances of teasing a comeback — but no.

LakeHouse Pub roast beef sandwich | Photo by Christopher Malone
LakeHouse Pub roast beef sandwich | Photo by Christopher Malone

The LakeHouse Pub opened up in 2012. However, the Skaneateles pub was on average 30 min. (20.35 mi.) away from Downtown Syracuse. It rose in the wake of Morris’s Grill, and it offered a roast beef sandwich as well (because no one else offered the fare in this western suburb and tourist favorite). Central New York needed a reason and a beef to believe in (aside the standard burger) after two years of denial.

I was unsure of the Skaneateles take on the roast beef sammy. What the hell are these… hard… seeds? Fruits? Such a nuisance they are: They stick to fingers and hands and clothing, and they would fly in different directions and sometimes struck people in the eye (presumably). This kimmelweck roll was no Di Lauro’s onion roll.

At the time of opening, the western beef was good. The horseradish was potently greater, and it’s still lives up to its notoriety today. Eating enough of it in one setting would make eyes water so much they threaten to slip out of their sockets.

Four years later, two after LakeHouse’s unveiling, Clark’s exhibited a rebirth at the corner of E. Washington and  S. Salina. Aside the signature dish, the key old promises returned — no television, no music, a weekly trivia night, beef and barley soup, turkey, cheese plates and the old “ring-on-a-string” game. What was new: larger beer selection, smaller mugs, peanuts to throw on the floor and larger real estate.

As the saying goes: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Don’t even change anything. Just leave whatever as is, and any attempted manipulation will be combated with a swat of a ruler. If Clark’s wrist were to be slapped numerous times: Why not retract, retreat and revert to exhibiting good behavior by obeying and keeping things grand?

The onion roll was replaced with the ‘weck, and there were other sammy aspects that reappeared later than off-the-bat, i.e. the red onions. It was OK. The kimmelweck roll worked well. The horseradish and cheddar were on point, and continue to be.

But then the roll was changed again.

The LakeHouse Pub kimmelweck roll is buttered and toasted. It has this distinct and light crunch to it. With every beef comes a side of au jus, and the satisfaction — aside the taste, of course — is as great as dunking an Oreo into milk. Carbs were never so beautifully paired with roast beef.

Neither the onion or ‘weck were toasted to golden perfection at Clark’s, but the halves did their jobs well. It wasn’t long ago when the noticeable change was apparent and pointed out by fellow Collectivists.

Clark's Ale House roast beef sandwich | Photo by Christopher Malone
Clark’s Ale House roast beef on ‘weck. } Photo by Christopher Malone

What we have now is just a plain roll.

It soaks up the juices better, it was stated. No one wants a soggy roll, and luckily it doesn’t get too soggy. Having that extra au jus spilling onto the plate made the Clark’s experience that much more enjoyable.

When something is held so high, and — after a period of prolonged uncertainty of reopening — then it’s changed dramatically.

What makes The Blarney Stone‘s burger so appealing is its simplicity, but the American staple has always been that way at the particular venue. Ergo, when a staple is apparent, the design should not be fazed out.

In terms of taste and the masticating experience, LakeHouse Pub has surpassed the Downtown Syracuse meal and claimed the figurative CNY crown.

It’s impossible to compare atmospheres since the Skaneateles joint is sporting event friendly, but Clark’s takes the cake when it comes to encouraging an atmosphere for raw communication. It’s a place to take a date to, because of the guarantee of being able to hear the words coming out of the other’s mouth.

Aside LakeHouse’s games on television, Clark’s boasts actual games and you can bring in your own.  Both offer trivia nights, which is important and almost a prerequisite for any CNY pub at this point. (Along with a great craft beer list, it’s certain hipsters will frequent a watering hole and make it clean and popular as they are the Scrubbing Bubbles of society.)

The most excellent news: No one is willing to let these places go under. They have their own community niche, and each place would feel different without them.

As it stands geographically: I have a 20-minute drive to either location. It’s essentially a coin toss. If it were sammy alone, I’d venture westward. For seating and a friends night out: It has to be Clark’s.

It’s clear: Aside needing a roast beef fix, there are plenty of other factors to come into play. And if I had to choose between the two of them, it’d be…

3 thoughts on “Beef with Beef

  1. If we were comparing service I would make the 30 minute drive back to Syracuse over Skaneateles any day. I’m not sure why but we always have the WORST staff there. I asked to get the first round of drinks for our entire table last time I was there and the waitress actually said NO, she couldn’t do that… As she walked away our entire table of 6 all gasped together “WTF?”

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