Left at the Fork

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Saltsman’s Hotel, Ephratah NY

REVIEW

If it’s spring, it’s milkweed time in Ephratah! Would you like to sample one of the more esoteric American regional specialties? Then head to Saltsman’s Hotel in late May or early June to try some verdant milkweed.

Hot, fresh corn fritters with syrup are included with your meal!

All full meals come with a square-meals-worthy onion casserole.

A yellow-painted hotel (although boarders are no longer taken), situated at an upstate New York crossroads seemingly in the middle of nowhere, Saltsman’s is said to be the oldest continuously operating restaurant in the state. We have relatives in their late 90s who recall dining there as children! Opened in 1813 as Apollo Hall, a coach stop hostelry and ballroom, it became Saltsman’s in 1889 and stayed in the family until 1979, when the Subiks purchased the restaurant.

Creamed potatoes are also part of the dinner spread.

Creamed potatoes are also part of the dinner spread.

As you step into Saltsman’s you enter a painted pressed-tin-lined parlor with player-piano, and a guest register opened to a page bearing FDR’s signature. Fascinating items of historical interest are scattered throughout the hotel. We especially enjoyed perusing the invitations to the 19th-century balls that were held here.

Our favorite entree at Saltman's is the crisp-crusted fried chicken.

Our favorite entrée at Saltman’s is the crisp-crusted fried chicken.

Like Ephrata in Pennsylvania, Ephratah in New York is located in an Amish region. Saltsman’s is not, however, an Amish restaurant, and yet the country cooking Saltsman’s is famous for fits in well with the generous, hearty spirit of Amish cooking. There’s a pretty straightforward selection of American fare to choose from, and we especially enjoy the locally favored, lightly breaded, crackle-crusted fried chicken and the sweet sliced ham.

Tammie preps some just-picked milkweed for Sunday lunch.

Tammie preps some just-picked milkweed for Sunday lunch.

But it’s for the extras that we recommend a meal at Saltsman’s (and those extras can be your entire meal if you so choose). Included are slaw, corn fritters with syrup, terrific creamed potatoes (not mashed, but diced potatoes in a creamy sauce), a baked onion casserole, bread, and vegetables. And in season, there’s the famous milkweed, harvested from the fields of nearby farmers (who are only too happy to have it removed) by Tammie Subik.

One of many rooms at the restaurant

One of many rooms at the restaurant

Milkweed is edible only when harvested young, and the resulting dish resembles a bright green chlorophyll-charged creamed spinach, though in flavor it more closely resembles (to us, at least) a combination of asparagus and peas. What a unique springtime treat! Late summer, the Subiks serve another locally treasured, brief-of-season, specialty: elderberry pie (made from locally picked fruit). We’ve yet to try it, but we’d bet, like the milkweed, it’s worth the trip.

There are historical items for you to inspect in the parlor while waiting for a table.

There are historical items for you to inspect in the parlor while waiting for a table.

Saltsman’s Hotel opens Easter weekend and closes around Halloween, and is closed Monday and Tuesday. The seasons for milkweed and elderberries are brief and variable so if you’re planning a special trip for either of those specialties we suggest calling ahead so as not to be disappointed.

A closeup of the pressed tin in the parlor

A closeup of the pressed tin in the parlor

Junction of Routes 67 and 10
Ephratah NY 13339
518-993-4412
Saltsman’s Hotel’s Website 
An early July day outside the Hotel, alive with wildflowers

An early July day outside the Hotel, alive with wildflowers

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BEST THING TO EAT: Milkweed

Saltsman's has been open ever since it was built in 1813 as Apollo Hall.

Saltsman’s has been open ever since it was built in 1813 as Apollo Hall.

2 Comments

  1. But what does milkweed taste like? Is it bitter? Do you add a condiment or eat it plain (like collards)?

    • Bruce Bilmes and Susan Boyle

      October 21, 2015 at 1:18 pm

      Not at all bitter, at least not the way Tammie prepares it. I think the key is to pick young leaves. You just eat the stuff like creamed spinach. Very green tasting – we think the flavor is a green pea/asparagus combo.

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