Essy’s Carriage House, North Arlington

I finally made it back into Essy’s Carriage House today after probably close to twenty years.

Nearing the 1 PM lunch hour, there were about five other tables in the restaurant, and mine was the only one that didn’t contain at least one person over the age of 70 – this is a restaurant that aims at senior citizens, treats them well, and shows them respect.

I was almost stunned at how expensive the lunch menu was – aside from a small appetizer section, there were some sandwiches in the mid-to-upper teens, and then, half the menu was entrees ranging from the low-to-upper $20s, with a few cracking the $30 barrier (keep in mind, this is an old, somewhat decrepit, Arlington institution, and not a particularly high-rent space – I suspect they own the land.

Not wanting a sandwich, and repeatedly seeing the promotion of their lump crab on their menu, I was torn between the Crab Cakes ($28) and the Crab Imperial ($29), and asking the Mâitre d’ for his opinion, and having been told both were good, I went with the Crab Imperial. Since it was lunchtime, I didn’t feel the need to get anything else, other than a glass of Diet Coke, which came in an ice-filled pint glass, and was not refilled throughout the entire meal – I don’t know if refills are free or not, but I do know the gentleman running the floor was very polite and cordial.

The Crab Imperial arrived, and consisted of a rather classic version of this dish – which I adore – baked and serve in a scallop shell, alongside of an ice-cream scoop of mashed potatoes, and precisely 14, frozen, green beans, saved by a light marinade of white onion and something which glistened a bit.

The Imperial was covered by a thin coating of something yellow which vaguely resembled Hollandaise Sauce, but I’m not entirely sure that’s what it was. It was made with 100% lump crab meat (although I don’t know from where) that had, at the minimum, tiny specks of red and green pepper, a bit of mayonnaise and possibly egg stirred in, and maybe some lemon juice among other things. It was a solid, honorable rendition of Crab Imperial that probably had a comparable amount of crab to two small-ish Crab Cakes.

It would be mildly jerk-ish off me to mention that the scoop of mashed potatoes tasted like it was made with margarine, especially considering there were about a half-dozen foil-wrapped pats of butter that came with my little basket of sliced baguette. The entree also came with a very typical, very old-school green salad with vinaigrette dressing in a little tub on the side which I used for dipping. I normally don’t eat salads such as this, but this force me to do it.

That’s about all there was – there was nothing special about this, and there was also nothing wrong with this (mashed potatoes being a nit-pick, as I suspect many people wouldn’t even notice the margarine-like flavors).

I wish I had more to offer, but that was my lunch, and when the bill came, the total, including tax, was $32, so the Diet Coke was perhaps included with the meal. Incidentally, Essy’s Carriage House is open on Christmas Day, and has the Crab Imperial for exactly $10 more – probably due to increased demand – they’re serving until 10 PM.

In the Dining Guide, I had Essy’s ranked way too low in North Arlington, and I wonder if that’s the reason it was nominated for a review (was it?) – I subsequently raised it a number of slots, and while it will never win any awards, it’s a solid restaurant which caters to senior citizens, and is really beyond any bare-knuckled type of criticism. I’m glad I went, and enjoyed my lunch while not having any sort of culinary epiphany.

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