A new restaurant in these parts is kind of a big deal, so when I heard that The Huddle on Main (135 W. Main Street) in Waterville had opened its doors, I grabbed two friends and we made our way down for dinner last Friday night. The Huddle on Main offers its diners friendly service but, as is the case with most new establishments, still needs to fine-tune parts of its menu and figure out what kind of restaurant it’s trying to be.
Looking for a way to celebrate the end of an arduous week, three of us made the journey to The Huddle last Friday night for some exciting eats. We were ushered to our table by the friendly hostess and, minutes later, had submitted drink orders and began to peruse the menu.
Why is central New York so fascinated with “chicken riggies”? How come “rigatoni” must be shortened? I’ve been at this place for four years now, and I’ve yet to encounter an answer to this burning question of mine. I should’ve asked our waiter, because The Huddle boasts “classic” entrees that seem to be on every menu in central New York, no matter what type of restaurant it is. The usual chicken (or shrimp or steak) riggies, shrimp (or chicken) scampi and veal (or chicken) Parmesan made appearances on the menu, as well as many seafood selections, chicken and steak.
We placed our orders, and our waiter brought out some amuse-bouches, small complimentary hors d’oeuvres that, expected in fine dining establishments, were a surprise to see at the Huddle. The amuse-bouches we received were a slice of vinegar-spiked cucumber, topped with ham salad that almost had the consistency of pâté. This smoky, salty bite did amuse my mouth, and we geared up for the rest of our meal.
We were feeling hungry on this particular night, and so decided to split an order of fried calamari. This dish is so ever-present that I’ve found it can easily fall short. Not so at the Huddle: tentacles and rings were delicately fried in an exceptionally flavorful batter, served with some zesty marinara sauce. Tender and sweet, we gobbled these down.
While ordering our entrees, our waiter informed us that they came with either a house or Caesar salad. Though we ended up being charged for these salads in the final bill, our three Caesar salads were tangy and enjoyable. Served with a house-made dressing, Romano cheese, large croutons, bits of egg and whole white anchovies, these salads are excellent for anyone who doesn’t get squeamish around those little fish filets.
After the amuse-bouche, calamari and tasty but unnecessary Caesar salad, we were all considerably full. Fortunately for our stomachs, the pace with which our food was brought out had subsided and, after consuming a palate-cleansing intermezzo (a somewhat baffling combination of melon, cucumber and white cheese dipped in sweet balsamic vinegar), we had a nice fifteen-minute respite before our much anticipated entrees arrived at the table.
My dining companions chose to go with some of the classic entrees offered by the Huddle: shrimp scampi and chicken marsala. Both dishes arrived on clean glass plates on top of pasta; diced sun dried tomatoes and parsley leant each a pop of color. Edible flower petals decorated the rim. Each of my dining companions commented on the intense, bright flavors in their dishes, but at this point a bit of enthusiasm had been lost after our four preceding courses.
I chose the New York strip as my main course. Grilled to my liking and topped with caramelized onions, a variety of roasted peppers, Portobello mushrooms and a rich brown sauce (I had to ask for mine to be served without the additional topping of provolone cheese – why cheese would be served on top of a New York strip is a question that burns within me almost as fervently as the origins of chicken “riggies”), I could finish about half of this 14 ounce behemoth. This steak was well seasoned and flavorful and, with an artistic design of balsamic vinegar surrounding the border of my platter-sized plate, almost too pretty to eat. I just wish I had eaten about a quarter of my foregoing appetizers so I could have enjoyed this meat more thoroughly.
I have hope for The Huddle. Everything we ate was flavorful and really quite beautiful, but I remain unconvinced that the amuse-bouche and intermezzo can live under the same roof as the chicken “riggie.”
Contact Jen Lauro at [email protected]