August 09, 2006
A NoFo Steakhouse To Savor
The place has been around for an astonishing 45 years. And there's a good reason that Cliff's Elbow Room in Jamesport has attracted diners for decades.
It's the steak, silly!
Yes, it's clear the restaurant is devoted to its primary purpose: serving up endless plates of the Elbow Room's famous marinated porterhouses, shell steaks and filet mignons. The recipe has been copied but never duplicated, according to owner Cliff Saunders. "We'll never reveal it!" he exclaimed.
Of course, there's plenty more good stuff on the menu as a recent visit to the restaurant proved. The meal began after our group settled at a table in the small building off Rt. 25 and ordered a round of the recommended Chilean red wine. As we sipped the heady merlot-like carmenère, our eyes fixated on the specials board. There it was: a favorite, clams casino.
Chef Mark Gray does this starter right, with lots of chopped garlic and a generous portion of hickory bacon that infuses a smoky quality into the tender bivalves. With a quick squeeze of the accompanying lemon, we were hooked! We also sampled "you peel 'em" shrimp, a bargain at $8.95 for a half pound, served with a side of spicy cocktail sauce. Raw oysters and clams by the dozen are also available.
For those less inclined to go to the raw side, there are snack starters to choose from such as mozzarella sticks, fried calamari, chicken wings and breaded mushrooms.
Now let's talk about what devotees of the Elbow Room travel across counties for with forks in hand: The dark and sweet marinade that renders each piece of beef juicy and perfectly cooked. It's true. The nearly crunchy crust of the large charcoal-broiled shell steak we ordered gave way to its tender medium-rare interior. Paired with a steamed 1 1/4 pound lobster, we realized that a summer meal doesn't get any better than this!
Our group also tried one of Gray's entrée specials, an herbed rack of lamb dish that was fragrant, savory and well-suited to the rustic and currant-like quality of the Chilean carmenère. An ear of corn and baked sweet potato completed the plate.
Sides are steakhouse staples. For those on a low-carb diet (what could be more low-carb than a steak and a martini?), there's homemade creamed spinach, mashed cauliflower and a side of green beans.
Other recommendations, but on the seafood side: bay scallops, fried soft shell crabs and broiled flounder. Try the Elbow Room's fried seafood platter, but bring a big appetite. Soft shell crabs, scallops, flounder shrimp and baked clams will crowd your plate.
The restaurant's desserts are equally good. Nothing fancy though, which is sort of like a metaphor for the place itself. We devoured a slice of chocolate cream pie and a modest dish of vanilla ice cream with sprinkles was the perfect finish for the little one in our group
After 45 years, Cliff still has 'em coming back for more. You only need remember four words: partake of the steak!
CLIFF'S ELBOW ROOM
1549 Main Rd., Jamesport,
Bar seating available. No reservations. Open for dinner daily; closed for lunch Wednesdays.