Ukrainian food comes to the latest incarnation of Camillus’ Green Gate Inn
Even in the best of times the restaurant business is fraught with challenges, but the recession has hit food emporiums especially hard. How do you make your establishment stand out from the crowd? Natalia and Philippe Meyer hope they have come up with a solution.
The couple opened the Green Gate Inn in 2007, featuring French cuisine and anticipating success, since they both have firsthand experience preparing French food. Philippe and Natalia met in Philippe’s hometown, Strasbourg, France, where they both worked in local bistros. But classic French fare didn’t resonate well for many Camillus residents, who leaned more toward familiar American and Italian dishes.
The Meyers evaluated other possibilities, but couldn’t come up with what was needed in order to maintain a profitable operation in the historic venue, and closed the restaurant. To add to their situation, Philippe had to return to the family home in Strasbourg to care for his ailing father Fast-forward to 2009. The couple’s financial situation improved, Philippe’s father was on the mend, and the Meyers reopened the Green Gate Inn, 2 Genesee St., Camillus. Today, a pared-down operation is in place, including a reduction in staff and a new expansive menu that has been tweaked to reflect the tastes of its clientele.
A big change is that they no longer serve lunch. “I do 90 percent of the cooking myself,” says Natalia Meyer. Philippe tends bar.
Guests may dine in the attractive, 50-seat dining room or in the pub that can accommodate 60, plus 25 at the bar. In the summer the deck holds 30. A pool table has recently been installed adjacent to the pub area as an additional attraction.
This building was home to the Munro family in 1939, and is cited today as a historic site in Camillus. It has been used as an inn over the years, most recently called Victor’s Inn. Along with the restaurant, the inn’s four charming, Victorian-adorned rooms on the upper level start at a mere $59 per night.
Now for the new special menu at the Green Gate Inn. Natalia, who is completely Ukrainian, came up with an idea to feature her native food on Wednesdays. Her mother, Maria Revutesky, who lives in Auburn, works with her to prepare traditional dishes from scratch, and word of mouth has resulted in success. The printed menu also offers Cyrillic alphabet spelling, which has attracted members of the Ukrainian community anxious to savor traditional foods of their homeland.
Many items are comparable to Polish dishes, as well. While the two other local restaurants offering similar items remain popular- -Eva’s European Sweets, 1305 Milton Ave., Solvay, and the Welcome Inn, 501 Tully St.- -dining in an especially charming setting and the ability to sip on a cocktail or wine with your meal add appeal here.
Five dishes emphasize Central European comfort food at reasonable prices. Chicken, Vegetables and Halushky combines potatoes, cabbage, onions, celery and carrots, topped with chicken dumplings. Vidbyvni is the name given to the egg-washed and fried pork or chicken cutlet, coupled with fried potatoes and tomato salad. Varenyky, the familiar pierogi, comes with an assortment of fillings, fried onions and sour cream. Holubsti (golabki) stuffs pockets of cabbage with meat and rice, served with sour cream. Deruny is the name for six made-toorder potato pancakes, served with sour cream.
On the regular menu, French dishes that proved to be popular the first time around, like crepes, remain while German fare has made its way onto the list. Thursday is sauerbraten day, while Green Gate schnitzel and Jaeger Schnitzel appear on the main menu as well.
The pasta lover has not been forgotten, even though the nine items on the menu are somewhat of a departure from what you would find at an Italian trattoria. Spicy Cajun pasta tosses fettuccine, sautéed chicken breast, red peppers, mushrooms, tomatoes and garlic with a spicy Cajun-fortified sauce. Familiar spaghetti Alfredo is infused with a bit of blue cheese coupled with roasted red peppers, bacon bits and sautéed garlic shrimp over bow-tie pasta. Go healthy vegetarian with the Green Gate’s whole wheat pasta tossed with red peppers, mushrooms, spinach, artichoke hearts, tomatoes and a light basil pesto.
Fridays is typically the night when friends get together for fun and food, and Natalia Meyer capitalizes on the event with items for the crowd. A tempting list of appetizers features a heaping pile of nachos, thin-crust garlic pizza, and a nod to Canada’s poutine, which sees melted cheese curds and brown gravy over a plate of french fries. And don’t forget Friday night’s haddock dinners.
“We are also adding a number of other items,” says Philippe. The bar offers six draft and 18 bottled beers, a listing of red, white and blush wines, classic cocktails and 24 (!) martinis, some which sound like dessert. Try blueberry pie, chocolate raspberry hazelnut or coconut kamikaze rum. The non-imbiber may choose from a selection of tea, coffee, hot chocolate or soft drinks.
Saturday is Tapas Night. While not strictly culled from a Spanish menu, there is a tempting list of Buffalo chicken wing dip with pub chips for $8, pan-seared bacon-wrapped jumbo scallops for $10 and $7 cabbage rolls from the Ukrainian menu.
Run through the menu with its daily specials, and you come up with an embarrassment of riches. We haven’t even touched on the three seafood and five poultry entrees, plus the Delmonico rib-eye steak. Add 15 crepes, nine salads, 14 sandwiches and six desserts, many of them sweet crepes Philippe, Natalia and her mother have created a daunting task of offering something for everyone. The dizzying array of culinary selections may seem a lot to handle, but the trio has been up to the challenge so far.
The Green Gate Inn’s bar is open Tuesdays through Saturdays starting at 3 p.m., with happy hour lasting until 6 p.m. Dinner is served Tuesdays through Saturdays starting at 4:30 p.m. There is a limited menu on Mondays. For details, call 320-4260 or www.greengatepub.com.
Serf’s up: Tasty and earthy Eastern European cuisine has found its way to Camillus’ Green Gate Inn, courtesy of co-owners Philippe and Natalia Meyer (above, right). Among the dishes on the menu (from facing page): holubsti (cabbage rolls), potato pierogies with onions, kielbasa and kapusta and, a complete digression, Oreo cookie dessert crepe.