In 2012, businessman Keith Holmes bought a fading landmark roadhouse just off man-made Lake Mohawk in Sparta. Ripping out tattered carpet and tossing musty taxidermied animals that had lined the walls for decades, he turned Arthur’s St. Moritz into a big, bustling new St. Moritz Grill & Bar, with an outdoor biergarten on the lake.
To run the kitchen, Holmes brought in old friend and colleague Joel Cain, an experienced chef with stints in Florida and Ohio. Together, they have made St. Moritz notable for warm, capable service and good food at reasonable prices. Yes, we had to ask for bread on our first visit, but overall, that was a hiccup.
The menu is broad and aimed to please. There’s a kids’ menu and many gluten-free options. A reliable starter is Prince Edward Island mussels with vegetables. We enjoyed them in a gingery broth with lemongrass, chili flakes and coconut milk. Recently, the preparation changed to a light garlic-cream sauce with slivers of crispy brown garlic and slices of grilled bread to sop up sauce.
One of the most popular starters is the artichoke and spinach dip flavored with pepper jack cheese. Adding a scoop of lump crabmeat was well worth the $3 surcharge. In the same crowd-pleasing category is tender-crunchy calamari fried with peppers, jalapeños, carrots and dried tomatoes, served with lemon aioli and spicy chipotle sauce.
The signature Stove Pipe chopped salad packs mixed chopped greens with bacon, tomato, blue cheese, chickpeas and more into a stack melded with white balsamic vinaigrette. “I would have to leave town if I took it off the menu,” says Cain.
An unusual kalette salad last summer was not so successful. Its roasted kale and brussels sprouts were unpleasantly chewy, and the sliced oranges, pine nuts and goat cheese did not play well together. It’s been replaced for winter by a roasted root-vegetable salad with bacon and blue cheese on Bibb lettuce that works well.
Small plates are a sweet spot. Last summer, there were Thai scallops on stir-fried vegetables with cashews in a sweet-spicy red curry sauce. Shrimp and grits is, like the Stove Pipe salad, a dish Cain would be nuts to remove. It’s cheesy, flecked with andouille sausage, scallions and tomato. A small plate of two lollipop lamb chops was notable for its blue-cheese mashed potatoes and apple gastrique. The chops themselves were tender, but overly fatty.
The signature entrée at St. Moritz—the menu proclaims it “Our #1 Seller!”—is chicken schnitzel. A pounded breast, breaded and fried, it is served with mashed potatoes, vegetable and a simple but satisfying lemon and white-wine sauce. The grilled, 10-ounce pork chop—brined 24 hours for tenderness, Cain says—is another reliable staple. Last summer, in a style suited to the season, it was served with a sweet-and-spicy barbecue sauce and potato croquettes. This season the preparation is Bavarian style, with a sherry cream sauce showered with crispy frizzled onions and more of those crisp-skinned, creamy potato croquettes.
The novelty prize goes to the jumbo scallops with white-chocolate sauce. “Yes, you read it correctly,” says the menu, acknowledging the counterintuitive combo. The four large sautéed scallops nest in a bowl of orzo, spinach and sweet potato. They are glazed with a dill-and-caper butter sauce swirled with white chocolate and balanced with just enough salt. It works.
For dessert, go conservative with classic crème brûlée or over the top with Banana Volcano Krunch, which turns out to be bananas Foster in crispy phyllo with coconut ice cream. An apple crisp was heavy on cinnamon and light on the essential streusel crust.Click here to leave a comment
Price Details:Appetizers, $7.99–$9.99; salads, $4.99–$8.50; entrées, $16.99-$29.99; desserts, $4.25–$6.99.
Ambience:Rustic lakeside charm.
Service:Friendly and attentive.
Wine list:Full bar, craft beers, 18 wines by the glass.