"We had a guy really weirded out by his Reuben sandwich," says Ben Eichenberger, chef-partner at Blue Collar Bistro. "It wasn't that pink color, because it didn't have any sodium nitrate in it. It's going to take a little bit to get people used to the house-cured stuff."
The restaurant opened at 82 Margaret Street in Plattsburgh on May 28. According to Eichenberger, "In the local Plattsburgh area, as far as I know, we're the only [restaurant] committed to doing everything from scratch."
Using the freshest local ingredients is also part of the business model. Co-owner Cindy Snow, a senior compliance analyst at Fletcher Allen Health Care, started Blue Collar Bistro last summer as a pop-up eatery at the Plattsburgh Farmers' and Crafters' Market. Snow is part of the Plattsburgh dynasty that opened the city's first "fancy restaurant," the Wharf Restaurant, and she'd kept one foot in the food business while starting her primary career.
When market organizers asked Snow to serve lunch, she agreed. "I thought maybe I'd do 30 or 40 lunches a day," she recalls. "That's not what happened. It exploded — 150 lunches in three hours." With equipment inherited from various family members, Snow saw opening a full-time restaurant as her obvious next step.
Even the ketchup is homemade at Blue Collar Bistro. Breads come from Klinger's Bread Company in South Burlington, while burgers are made from Vermont sirloin. They range from a patty with pimento cheese, tomato and bacon jam to a banh mi-style chicken-and-pork burger with curry aioli.
Fledging Crow Vegetables and Pray's family Farms, both in Keeseville, N.Y., provide much of the restaurant's produce. Eichenberger says staffers' gardens will also be instrumental in supplying "tomatoes and things like that."
Blue Collar's local focus isn't the only unusual aspect of its cuisine. Uncommon dishes include "roll-your-own Asian sloppy Joes" with lettuce wraps, rich cassoulet and a long-marinated, garlic-roasted half chicken. The restaurant is open for lunch and dinner Tuesdays through Sundays. On the weekend, there's breakfast, too, with pastries from baker Jenny Scotto di Carlo, including fruit-laden Israeli stained-glass bread.