About 40 years ago I used to stuff myself on steamed clams and BBQ chicken at a restaurant in Varna called The Stables. I still frequent the site at 1159 Dryden Rd. that has the same footprint and owners, only it’s now called The Antlers. The interior has changed a bit and now features a fieldstone fireplace, used in winter to create a warm ambience which complements the forest green and brown wood walls, floors, tables and chairs.
I can’t find either the clams or the BBQ chicken on the menu anymore, however the food offerings have expanded quite a bit over the years. The prices, too, have risen in keeping with current inflationary trends. For example, a short time ago, the 22-ounce Porterhouse Steak was $ 32.95 and is now $ 43.95; Scallops Au Gratin were $ 24.95 and are now $ 29.95. Some items haven’t risen as much, and a few stayed the same. Beef products seem to be feeling the hit the most. However the most dramatic change at The Antlers is the end of the extensive use of discount coupons in the newspapers which always made me uncomfortable, as I thought if I didn’t have one, I was paying too much.
The Antlers offers a few daily specials: Wednesday is prime rib; Thursday is various burgers; and a two for the price of one Bloody Mary at Sunday brunch.
I have always found the food well cooked and tasty. I often order Roast Duckling ($ 29.95). There are many opportunities to have tasty ducklings at lower prices, however this one is a complete half and served with a homemade marsala stuffing. One of the sides that has been offered for a very long time is garlic mashed potatoes. They have a fine texture, however I never taste the garlic. Maybe the cooks are trying to appeal to the lowest common denominator and don’t want to offend anyone?
One time, I ordered Baked Scrod ($ 23.95). You may know that there is no fish called Scrod. It’s a marketing term used to describe cod under 2.5 pounds or, if spelled with an “h,” is a young haddock. At The Antlers, Scrod is billed as an Atlantic haddock. It’s served with a pleasant white sauce and an herbed, crumbly cracker topping. The fish was beautifully cooked – I had no trouble eating it, easily separating the layers with a fork.
I like to try a variety of meat, poultry and seafood when I review a restaurant so one evening I ordered Baby Back Pork Ribs from the Antlers Classic portion of the menu. I asked for a full rack ($ 32.95) and took half home in a sealable dish. The full rack included four separate sections of three ribs each. They were prepared well done, which meant the BBQ sauce was totally integrated into the meat. The dish was meaty and tasty. I enjoyed the consistency of the garlic mashed potatoes and again, I couldn’t discern any garlic flavor. The other side was green beans which were fresh and plentiful, however [I found] the cook’s idea of al dente was too chewy for me.
To round out the four entrées in four visits I selected Glazed Salmon ($ 24.95) from the Seafood section. I ordered it because it was listed as “wild caught” and I never knowingly order farm-raised or Atlantic salmon. It easily fell apart into layers when I cut into it with a fork and the honey / bourbon glaze complemented the fish perfectly.
There are six dessert options and if you’ve never tried New England Indian Pudding, this is the only restaurant I know of that serves it. It’s cornmeal based and baked with molasses, cinnamon and ginger, served warm with a small scoop of vanilla ice cream.
The wine list ($ 8- $ 9 / glass, $ 24- $ 37 / bottle) is complete. It’s a good example of how a relatively small selection can cover all the major grape varieties and countries of origin. Vintages are not listed but most of us don’t care, and it gives the wine buyer, and the distributor, more flexibility.
The Antlers has offered reliable, steady-as-you-go, quality food, expertly prepared and served by an efficient and friendly staff for many years. Have dinner there, and I think the reasons for its popularity will be evident.
The bridge, on Freese Road connecting Hanshaw Road and Route 366 (the Antlers is on Route 366), has been closed for some time. Best to check before you set out.
They have their own off street parking area.