The Menus of Madison County: Nola’s

Jen Lauro

During my parents’ visit a few weekends back, we made the ritualistic trip to Target in New Hartford. Realizing we were hungry and it was lunchtime midway through the drive, my parents became nervous because we hadn’t exactly been driving through towns bursting with delicious eateries. As I was resigning myself to the fact that lunch was probably going to consist of some reheated pizza courtesy of the Sangertown Food Court, we happened to pass through Clinton, home of Hamilton College. We parked the car, and thankfully we found Nola’s (7 West Park Row, Clinton, NY 13323).

Nola’s bears a refined décor: exposed brick walls, dark hardwood floors, simple wooden tables and chairs and visible wooden ceiling beams. Accented with soft (and flattering) hanging lights, black and white photos and trim in robin’s egg blue, I was beginning to think that perhaps I chose the wrong school in central New York if this was the sandwich place at which our rivals got to eat (I had yet to see the sorry student population).

Despite my already high expectations, I was not disappointed when I opened the menu. With classics such as a Reuben, turkey club and tuna melt (along with a build-your-own deli sandwich section) supplemented with more creative sandwiches (including some very good looking vegetarian options), this lunch menu would satisfy any discerning appetite.

When it came time to order, my dad chose to start with Nola’s homemade soup of the day: seafood bisque that was velvety and flavorful with just the right amount of kick to cut its creaminess. He followed up strong with the Muffaletta, a sandwich that would have won the approval of Vito Corleone himself: cappicola ham, hard salami and provolone cheese on a ciabatta annointed with roasted red pepper and sun dried tomato tapenade. My father’s silence showed his delight.

My mom decided on the falafel “burger,” which was essentially a giant piece of falafel on a Kaiser roll with lettuce, tomato and yogurt sauce – somewhat reminiscent of Greek tzatziki sauce (a perfect combination of Greek yogurt, lemon juice, garlic and cucumbers). The golden brown, crispy outside gave way to a soft center, making the small bite I was rationed utterly delicious. Both sandwiches came with homemade potato chips, perfectly crunchy and seasoned.

Maybe it was the Central New York air, but, like the Buffalo Bills, I choked under pressure and decided to go for a salad. I chose the apple walnut salad, which is self-explanatory: romaine lettuce, granny smith apples and walnuts tossed with bits of blue cheese and homemade buttermilk honey dressing. I generally don’t do well with sweet salads, but I thought the apples would provide enough tartness. I was wrong. The portion was enormous, and the sweet creamy dressing was poured on thick. I was sick of it after about five bites, wishing it was the side salad to a tuna sandwich.

Later on, curiosity led me to Nola’s menu while I was perusing its website, and I am tempted to make the trip back. Sumptuous dishes such as cabernet mushroom and goat cheese polenta, beet latkes and veal and mushroom lasagna seem like a sure-fire cure for the bored palate. Nola’s also offers a catering menu that has me thinking about a potential graduation party, as well as a decently sized wine list.

Go to Nola’s for unique salads and sandwiches and a lovely atmosphere, but steer clear of the apple walnut salad if sweet and creamy isn’t your thing. Despite my poor performance on the ordering front, Nola’s is definitely a recommended pit stop after some serious Target shopping.

Contact Jen Lauro at [email protected]