September 2009 Issue
Restaurant Pullout: The Caroline
The contrast between inside and outside is immediate, and nice. Outside, you’re in the pleasingly old-timey square of downtown Troy, with its fountain, traffic rotary and ornate 19th-century storefronts. Once you step inside the front door of The Caroline, however, you’re greeted by cool, sleekly modern decor that is sophisticated and inviting: jagged stone walls, blond wood tables, eye-catching abstract paintings and a comfy-looking lounge that seems to say, “Step in, have a seat.”
The Caroline is fairly new to Troy, filling a roomy space that was previously home to the popular Taggart’s restaurant. The Caroline presents itself as, and feels, more upscale, while at the same time keeping a distinct family feeling. The place is named after the young daughter of owners Steve Smith and Melanie Elsass-Smith, and their Web site is adorned not just with a photo of the smiling namesake, but also with candid shots of the Smiths’ employees, from chef Damian Bumgarner to the dutiful bartenders, wait staff and kitchen staff.
But what’s wrong giving a little credit where due? Fact is, Team Caroline put on a fine, flavorful evening. Our visit was marked by good food and attentive, intelligent service.
We were there on a Wednesday evening and found the place busy. Owner Smith, who was working the door, advised getting reservations on weekend nights, which he said can get a bit crowded.
The Caroline advertises “Classic American Fare,” and the plates it marks as signature dishes lean toward steaks and chops. We tried the Chicago Cut — a 16-ounce, bone-in ribeye covered with garlic-horseradish sauce and accompanied by Lyonnaise potatoes. It vied for our attention with the Caroline House Steak, a 10-ounce sirloin with tangled onion rings and garlic butter.
Also nicely done was the Tilapia Almondine, light, flaky and delicious. It wasn’t our only seafood of the evening, as The Caroline’s appetizer menu is heavy on ocean fare. The signature Ahi Tuna was done to perfection and presented prettily on the plate with wasabi.
The surprise flavor of the evening was a maple vinaigrette on the salad, something we hadn’t encountered before but enjoyed. The Dutch Apple ice cream for dessert is homemade, and the Triple Chocolate Cake was utterly sinful. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
Sneaking a peek at the lunch menu, we spied an open-faced Reuben with dressing on the side, and a grilled salmon sandwich topped with red pepper sauce.
Hmm ... sounds like we might also consider lunch.