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Making a Splash at the Waterfront

Brewerton restaurant — The Waterfront Tavern — aims for comfort

By Christopher Malone

It’s difficult to miss The Waterfront Tavern while coming over the Route 11 bridge in Brewerton, whether you’re coming from Onondaga County or the meaty part of Oswego County. It’s the perk of having a spot on the water — eyes seem to automatically dart to the water.

The turkey and cranberry croissant sandwich: The buttery, flaky pastry didn’t disappoint as a replacement for bread.

Waterside restaurants are also great year-round. Nature is, well, naturally adaptable no matter how humid or frigid the temperature gets. But the atmosphere inside is equally accommodating. The Waterfront Tavern boasts a tiki-themed deck but the eatery has a fishing shack vibe. 

It’s not run down, but with all the wood walls and furnishings, the décor and the view of the river from the bar, it’s a cozy (not “cramped-cozy”) atmosphere. There’s a distinct musty smell but it’s not off-putting. It’s actually kind of charming. Plus, the occasional creak with a step just adds to it all.

I sat down and ordered a craft beer ($7.50) from the tap while opting to take the meal to go, due to time constraints. The entire meal took just long enough for me to almost finish the beer, which I accidentally spilled. The pint glass holding my beer at the Waterfront had a magnetic chip at the bottom, which closed a hole at the bottom. It’s great marketing tactic for the bar but bad for people like me, whose finger grazed the bottom, creating a gap on accident. Out came the butt of the beer.

The food traveled well for the 20-minute commute. The coconut shrimp with the raspberry pepper sauce ($11.99) kicked the meal off. The crispy shrimp, not jumbo, were cooked very well with nicely singed coconut flakes. The medium-thick raspberry pepper sauce was very good. It had the right amount of heat, just noticeable enough with my heat tolerance.

Instead of opting for another appetizer, the fish tacos ($15.99) sounded pretty, um, appetizing. Three soft taco shells are filled with chunks of haddock, pico de gallo and coleslaw. The ingredients tasted fresh and the haddock was plentiful. Although these aren’t the most aesthetically attractive tacos, their taste makes up for it. 

Fish tacos appetizer: three soft taco shells filled with chunks of haddock, pico de gallo and coleslaw. The ingredients tasted fresh and the haddock was plentiful.

The only downside was the lack of pico. One of the tacos had the fresh salsa, another had a trace amount and the third did not. Given this “Goldilocks paradox” the pico truly added to the taco. The two without it lacked the pizazz.

The turkey and cranberry croissant sandwich ($13.99) caught my attention due to the croissant. The buttery, flaky pastry didn’t disappoint as a replacement for bread. I preferred it with the turkey, cranberries, walnuts, lettuce and cranberry mayo.

For the price of the sandwich, getting a few slices of deli turkey instead of thick meaty pieces was a little deterring. It’s easy to rationalize prices of sandwiches considering its components. A time of inflation or not, the sandwich was on the pricier side for what was presented. But aside from that, the croissant and the cranberry mayo were redeeming qualities.

The sandwich also comes with a handful of house-made chips, which were also great. Some of the seasoned chips tasted a little too salty, but were very good.

Staying with the potatoes, the French fries are also crispy and delicious. Along with coleslaw, which was the same basic coleslaw found on the fish tacos, the fries came with the walleye dinner ($19.99). I was going to opt for another entrée, but this special caught my eye. 

The lightly breaded and not insanely fried walleye was a rewarding spontaneous decision. The batter easily fell off the skin, exposing the white meaty fish. It was a flavorful (and almost buttery) comparison to the typical fried haddock or cod found at Central New York restaurants. 

A note to diners using credit cards, The Waterfront Tavern does blatantly say they tack on a 3.75% upcharge to cover that cost. With everything considered and before tip, the bill came to $75. 

As stated earlier, I’m sticking to designating the Waterfront Tavern as a cozy bar. The camp-like atmosphere is comfortable to me. The staff was friendly. I shared some laughs with a couple of the guys at the bar while enjoying a beer and waiting for food. 

Although the food isn’t that of a five-star restaurant (it never says it is), the food did the trick. And I’m not one to complain about hanging out at a spot for a beer and a bite with a side of human interaction.