Skaneateles restaurant blends elegance, rustic colonial comfort and great food
By Jacob Pucci
The Sherwood Inn has been serving diners and travelers in Skaneateles since 1807, earning a fair bit of Central New York prominence along the way. But make no mistake, this is not a restaurant content on resting on its laurels.
The restaurant housed in the big blue inn along the shore of the equally blue Skaneateles Lake looks the part of an establishment more than two centuries old. The dining room’s low, coffered ceilings and framed paintings, each lit from an overhead light, give the restaurant an elegant touch authentic to its colonial style.
The first thing we encountered upon arriving for dinner on a blustery winter night was the welcoming scent of burning firewood from the fireplace in the main lobby, one of four wood-burning fireplaces in the inn.
After warming our hands by the fire for a minute or two, we were seated in the dining room, close to a second fireplace. The dining room was only about one quarter full on this Sunday evening — which I attribute to the cold, snowy weather — but we could hear a bit more rambunctiousness coming from the inn’s tavern, where live music was entertaining the crowds.
The Sherwood Inn is not the kind of place where the dinner menu changes daily or weekly. A few menu items change seasonally, but this is a menu built on consistency and tradition. As for the inn’s famous dishes, like Yankee pot roast and scrod Christopher, don’t expect those to ever leave the menu.
Dinner started with a dish of clams casino ($14). Served a half-dozen to an order, the Sherwood Inn’s version manages to avoid all the pitfalls all too often found in this New England classic.
The stuffing is not too bready, while punctuating flavors of bacon, red pepper and garlic complemented the briny clam. The broth left in the shell after eating the clam was a small sip of perfection and well worth soaking up with a small piece of bread.
For our entrees, we went for the duck breast ($28) and that evening’s special, surf and turf ($34). The duck, cooked to the desired medium-rare, was tender and capped with unctuously fatty skin. It was served over a bed of shaved Brussels sprouts, carrots, red onion, butternut squash and duck confit. The vegetables in this hot slaw retained a bite of their natural crispness, while the duck confit, with a similar texture to that of the vegetables, proved that if one kind of duck is good, then two kinds are even better.
The chunky apple chutney that topped the duck was a comforting and classic accompaniment. Put together, this dish perfectly encapsulates the transition from fall to winter, a welcome thought in sub-zero temperatures.
Surf and turf — in this case, a grilled filet mignon topped with poached lobster in a lemon butter sauce — is a dish that always works on paper, because if steak and lobster are great on their own — and they are — then why wouldn’t they be good together? A grilled steak with a lobster tail on the side tastes good because steak and lobster, but the Sherwood Inn was bold enough to incorporate both elements into a single, well-crafted dish.
An ample portion of lobster claw meat, which is generally sweeter and more tender than the more-popular tail meat, topped the grilled filet, which was cooked on the rare side of medium-rare — my ideal doneness.
Filets are revered for their tenderness and this beef did not require the steak knife it was served with. It was as tender as the butter served alongside my baked potato.
The steak was mild enough in flavor as to not overwhelm the lobster, which too was nicely cooked and not the faintest bit rubbery.
At first, lemon butter sauce doesn’t seem to be a natural pairing with a steak, but when the sauce, lobster and steak are combined in a single bite, it all made sense. The bright lemon and parsley sauce also played well with the grilled asparagus served alongside.
Dinner ended with a shared slice of homemade white chocolate cherry cheesecake (all desserts $7). With its golden-brown top and pieces of white chocolate and cherries inside the cake, this cheesecake was clearly house-made and certainly delicious.
The Sherwood Inn provided attentive service and a great meal in a white table cloth restaurant that expertly blends elegance and rustic colonial comfort. Even in the winter, when the blowing snow makes the picturesque view of the lake across the road a bit harder to see, the Sherwood Inn is worth a trip.
The Sherwood Inn
Sunday through Thursday,
11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Friday and Saturday,
11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.