The Valley Table, 75, Sept/Nov 2016

Page 98


Make that to go We’ve known and enjoyed the company of John Vargo since our first issue. The

ex-Army cook, ex-head chef at Gadaleto’s Seafood Restaurant in New Paltz, host and early supporter of The Valley Table’s “Farmer & Chef” dinners, developer of the successful Mountain Man hot sauces, devoted family man, angler and lover of old Jeeps has always been quick with a laugh and good conversation. Vargo and family pulled up stakes and left the Hudson Valley over a decade ago, resettling in the North Country (the fishing’s a lot better up there, he chided), where he opened up his own quirky little restaurant. It’s perfectly legitimate to say that the Eat ’n Meet Grill, his quasi-takeout joint in Saranac Lake, attained legendary status among culinary insiders nationwide. His locally sourced, high-quality dishes, ample portions and modest prices developed a devoted local following—it was almost impossible to resist his famous Reuben sandwich (the best this side of the City, it’s been said) or his equally famous personal meatloaf (he’s counted making more than 10,000 of them). Many of the out-of-towners who made the trek to the blue building adjoining the skeletal remnants of an Olympic-era miniature golf course included the rich and the famous, their interest no doubt piqued by over-the-top mentions and reviews in National Geographic Adventure, Ottawa magazine, Urbanspoon, Huffington Post and elsewhere. We visited our not-quite 51-year-old friend earlier this summer, partly to catch up and partly to bid farewell to the Eat ’n Meet Grill, which is now closed and for sale. Business was just fine, thank you, and Vargo plans to stay active as a restaurant consultant, adviser, staff trainer, substitute chef—you name it—but he wants to fish more, get some land and build a legacy for his grandchildren to enjoy. He’s also got something new up his entrepreneurial sleeve that has to do with the ubiquitous yellow perch, caught by the thousands through the ice over the long Adirondack winter. What a long, strange trip, indeed, to which we add: John Vargo, salud. —JN







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