Batter up

Jeanne Sligar serves a Chinese chicken salad and a Cobb salad.

Jeanne Sligar serves a Chinese chicken salad and a Cobb salad.

Photo/Allison Young

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Tucked away in plain sight, Clary’s is the kind of family-owned place where everybody knows your name. Over the past 60 years, this horseshoe-shaped brick building has been home to a drive-in burger shop, beauty salon, liquor store, sports bar, Irish pub and now a very comfortable bar and grill.

The bar itself is well-stocked with a handful of brews on tap and a pretty impressive selection of spirits. Although there were a few TVs tuned to sports programming, the combination of tasteful decor, fresh flowers at every table, and a sound system purring “soft sounds of the ’70s” made for a nice break from the more common cacophony of sports bars.

With my sandwich, I enjoyed a cup of housemade vegetable and meatball soup, reminiscent in both seasoning and composition to Mexican albondigas. Clary’s signature cheesesteak wouldn’t pass muster in Philly, but it’s a damn good sandwich on its own merits. A grilled Italian roll is loaded with nicely seasoned roast beef, grilled onion, chopped jalapeño and a blend of four cheeses—shredded and melted on top—served with a choice of side and a cup of au jus ($11.50). In other words, a French dip gone deliciously fabulous.

A side of fresh onion rings was shared by the table, and although the serving was ample for the price ($5.50) they suffered a bit from being over-battered. Though crunchy on the outside, the excess of batter made for a cakey interior that was a bit off-putting.

An order of Icelandic cod fish and chips—with a side of coleslaw—suffered even more from an over-abundance of batter. The four large pieces of deep-fried seafood weren’t crispy at all, making the experience much like eating a fish-filled doughnut ($11.50). The tartar sauce was quite sweet and lacking in dill or lemon flavors. Though artfully presented in a lettuce-leaf bowl and obviously made fresh, the slaw was just kind of average and forgettable. The saving grace of the dish was a heaping portion of very thin, fresh-cut fries. Though they could have been a tad crisper, the inside was fluffy and the flavor was very good. They quickly disappeared.

Having heard good things about Clary’s burgers, we chose to try a patty melt paired with another pile of those yummy fries ($10.50). The best thing about the sandwich was the most important to get right: the half-pound hamburger patty was perfectly seasoned and cooked to order. They say they grind Angus chuck and make their patties in-house, and I’m inclined to believe it. The rye bread could have been a little more toasty, but plenty of grilled onion and melted Swiss cheese hit the spot in this decent rendition of an American classic.

From the brunch offerings was selected a French benedict, featuring a big ol’ slab of French toast topped with slices of thick-cut Canadian bacon, poached eggs, and Clary’s “Bene sauce” ($11.50). The sauce was definitely not Hollandaise—with a color and consistency more like country gravy—but the flavor was plenty appetizing. You could definitely taste the nutmeg and cinnamon of the toast, which worked better with that sauce than I’d have guessed. Thin-sliced home fries—topped with chopped scallion—and a big wedge of blood orange on the side completed the dish. I skipped my usual dash of Tabasco and mixed the home fries with the bene sauce to good effect.

While chatting with the very friendly hostess, we learned that the establishment has recently undergone a change in ownership. Despite the couple of issues that made our meal less-than-perfect, we really enjoyed our visit and would definitely recommend the place to friends. I think with just a bit of batter practice on the deep-fried items, this cozy joint could become one of my favorite haunts.