By B.A. Nilsson
Route 9, Clifton Park, 373-9800.
Serving Tue-Sun 11-9. AE, D, MC, V.
to Calvin Trillin, whose book American Fried is subtitled
Adventures of a Happy Eater, one of the most elusive
culinary treasures is good barbecue, which is why he remains
loyal to his hometown of Kansas City. Years earlier, an entrepreneur
of saturnine disposition carried a barbecue recipe from Mississippi
to Kansas City, one that involved slowly smoking the meat
over hickory, and included a powerful sauce.
barbecue has been having an efflorescence. It’s not the kind
of thing the true believers in the restaurant business merely
add to a menu: It typically requires a place to itself. Usually
with smoke constantly issuing from large, sooty ovens somewhere
in the rear.
To the purist, barbecue requires smoke. At Syracuse’s Dinosaur
Bar-B-Que, the mothership of barbecue in the Northeast, the
ribs get 14 hours of smoking over very low heat. But many
restaurants, Giffy’s included, grill the meats, which imparts
a different flavor and texture.
Giffy’s Bar-B-Q occupies a handsome space just north of Northway
exit 9 on Route 9. It once was a summers-only stand with an
outdoor picnic area; when a nearby flower shop burned down,
Randy Gifford acquired it and had a new, rustic-looking building
built that includes an enclosed dining area and allows year-round
operation. Gifford once worked for the popular Oneonta-based
Brooks Bar-B-Q, and has also put in time at a number of local
At the core of Giffy’s menu are the two items that figured
(and still dominate) Giffy’s catering operation: chicken and
ribs. The restaurant adds sirloin, and you can get swordfish,
and salads, but the barbecue (or Bar-B-Q, as the menu styles
it) items are presented as the specialties.
My family and I visited on a recent weeknight, impressed with
the amount of business the place was doing—especially because
what I sampled showed very mixed results. I ordered the combo
dinner ($16), which gives you a half chicken and what’s termed
half a slab of ribs. The chicken was a bodacious slab of bird
with a nice balance of juiciness and flavor. But the ribs
were chewy and practically tasteless, helped little by the
drizzle of sauce on top. Adding extra sauce, which is provided,
couldn’t make up for this lack of flavor—the sauce is awfully
sweet, which is a distraction.
Two side dishes are included, which you select from an array
of popular choices. I sampled cole slaw and baked beans, both
of which were standard deli fare.
It’s a busy place, and I suspect this conspired to create
another problem I encountered. An order of 10 Bar-B-Q chicken
wings ($7) featured impressively plump pieces, but they weren’t
barbecued—they were deep fried. All that was barbecue-ish
about them was the sauce. And the insides of a couple of especially
large wing drumsticks (or drummettes) were raw. Whether they
hit the fryolator while partially frozen or simply weren’t
cooked long enough hardly matters: raw chicken can be a horrifyingly
rich source of bad bacteria, and they need to reach an internal
temperature of at least 170 degrees.
Although service was fast and friendly, our waitress showed
no inkling of the danger the restaurant had presented, nor
was there any response from the kitchen other than to send
us another, cooked-through order. They should have at least
apologized, if not given us dinner for free. The menu bios
boast of a lot of training and business experience, so I’m
going to give the benefit of the doubt and guess that this
one slipped through the cracks.
We also sampled a serving of Bryah’s Super French Fries ($5),
which were not-too-crisp waffle fries topped with meat sauce
and melted cheese, the last being the heated cheese-in-a-can
that’s popular when pumped over ballpark nachos.
My wife’s Caesar salad ($4.49) sported a bed of romaine lettuce,
large croutons and shredded parmesan cheese, topped with a
lot of rather salty dressing. She did enjoy the black-bean
burger ($3.59), a commercially prepared item that offers a
good alternative to meat with a pleasing spread of flavor.
Many other sandwiches are available, with items like shredded
beef or pork, pulled chicken meat, grilled chicken breast
or chicken salad. And hamburgers and hot dogs, of course,
with a variety of sauces, all priced from $1.29 to $5. You
can enhance your sandwich for a buck or so extra, adding a
choice of two side dishes.
Order a large soda ($1.50) and it will be refilled as often
as you require. And there’s a Sunday special of chicken and
I worry that even as the popularity of barbecue spreads through
the Northeast, the concept will change and weaken. Chili con
carne, once a flavorful meat dish, turned into a weak ground-beef-and-kidney-bean
stew. Barbecue threatens to become merely grilled pork topped
with a sweet ketchup sauce. There’s so much more potential.
Dinner for three, with tax and tip and a couple of sodas,
going overseas this month? Enjoy April in Paris at
Jack’s Oyster House (42 State St., Albany) at 7 PM
on Tuesday (April 16), when chef Dale Miller and wine consultant
Dennis Murphy will present a five-course meal with appropriate
French wine from Michel Picard. Start with a smoked chicken
appetizer paired with a Chardonnay; pan-seared escolar served
with a blood orange Pouilly beurre blanc and a 1999
Pouilly Fuisse, then a main course of grilled rack of spring
lamb with a caramelized shallot demi-glaze paired with a Pinot
Noir. Cheese and dessert—and the suitable wines—will follow.
It’s $65 per person (tax and tip included), and you can reserve
space by calling 465-8854. . . . Ten of the area’s leading
chefs will compete for prizes at Cuisine Magic 2002,
the annual festival sponsored by the Eddy Visiting Nurse Association,
from 6 to 10 PM on April 28 at the Empire State Plaza in Albany.
Various food courses, such as soup and entrée, will be represented,
as well as a New York State product (this year it’s cheese).
Guests are invited to sample the selections during the black-tie
event. Tickets are $100 per person and may be reserved by
calling 274-0190. . . . Remember to pass your scraps to Metroland.
restaurant reviews are based on one unannounced visit;
your experience may differ.
Food Rating Key: *****
An exciting, fulfilling experience; the food and service are
everything they set out to be. Brillat-Savarin would be proud.
Way up there with really good food, definitely worth your
dining dollar. Julia Child would be proud. ***
Average, with hints of excitement. Your mother would be pleased.
A dining-out bogey; food probably isn’t the first priority.
Colonel Sanders would be disappointed. *
K-rations posing as comestibles. Your dog would be disgusted.