Oswego restaurant offers feel-good food for every season
By Christopher Malone
Bistro 197 has your number. It knows you’re hungry. It knows what you want and will serve it to you.
Well, not really.
The brains behind the operation aren’t mind readers. They’re taking the time to intricately craft all their menus, so the patron has the difficult task of making the decisions.
From craft beer to craft cocktails and appealing appetizers to enticing entrees, there’s a lot the downtown Oswego eatery has to offer.
The restaurant has a clean, open atmosphere boasting rustic and industrial characteristics. The music isn’t overwhelming. There’s a darkened, mood-lit barroom area and a brighter section to the restaurant; both offer great streetside views. Plus, some nights, Bistro 197 does offer live music, usually regional singer-songwriters playing originals and covers.
I started with the Bistro’s fire gin and tonic ($12), an exciting take on the standard cocktail with Bombay, chiles and Luxardo Cherry. The beautifully subtle heat doesn’t overpower the refreshing aspect of the gin and Fever-Tree tonic.
My 1-year-old dinner date enjoyed some water. It was clearly lip-smacking refreshing to her. So was the apple cheddar galette ($13). The appetizer falls under Bistro 197’s “To share or not to share” section.
For many reasons, my daughter chose the latter; she ate most of the sweet, dessert-like crusty cake. The thought of fresh, crisp apples with the cheese and a honey-thyme crumble sold itself.
The Oswego restaurant flexed its mussels special ($16) with a Thai-inspired batch of the shellfish. The perfectly shareable and appropriately priced crock boasted a subtle curry sauce coating the non-gritty mussels. The toddler kept asking for more despite my taking the majority of them.
Seeing and saying “pumpkin purses” ($24) is just too fun to say and not getting them sounds even sillier. The pumpkin pasta-wrapped cheese sat in a bed of maple sausage, pieces of pumpkin and pepitas (pumpkin seeds). It’s one of the most autumn dishes served with a sense of comfort and satisfaction.
Where people crave “pumpkin spice” whatever, maple and pumpkin actually exist and have been around for years. The subtle sweetness comes right out and pairs well with the seasonal squash. The sausage was absolutely fresh, too. Simply taking a bite and noticing the flavor really said it all. The maple, also pairing well with the meat, boasted a melt-in-your-mouth quality; it’s something to savor, not devour.
Another special of the day was the bass ($32). Going along with the theme of the water dwellers and meat we’ve enjoyed this meal, it’s fresh. Bass is typically not a fishy-fish. The mild aroma and flavor isn’t going to cause anyone to recoil. The seared and seasoned bass didn’t take much to fall right apart when cutting into it.
It fell into a bed of sweet potato gnocchi and parsnips. The fish dish, also dressed in season, didn’t give patrons an excuse to accuse the kitchen staff of foodie treason.
To top the experience off: crème brûlée ($10).
The easily shareable (if you really want to) dessert’s crust cracked perfectly at the slight touch of the spoon. It gave way for an incredibly rich and creamy custard beneath.
Before tip, the bill came to $115.56.
Bistro 197 was nothing short of accommodating and showcasing its culinary and hospitality abilities. They even gave my toddler paper and crayons, which we both partook in. There is also a children’s menu but Avery really enjoyed the “adult” food we shared.
Well, the kid kind of shared.
197 W. First St., Oswego, NY 13126
Wednesday – Saturday: noon – 3 p.m.
Tuesday – Saturday: 5 – 9 p.m.
Tuesday – Saturday: noon – close
Sunday and Monday.