Few business owners will look back fondly on the novel coronavirus pandemic, but Skoog’s Pub & Grill in Utica is notable for nimbly adapting to embrace health protocols.
Long a mainstay in Utica’s tourist-friendly Mill Street, Skoog’s boasted a standard interior – the typical long bar with televisions, a jukebox and other staples – until infection controls prompted ownership to rethink its service area and make creative improvements.
Skoog’s acquired a neighboring property and expanded, so diners can choose between the bar and an airy dining room. During favorable weather, patrons also can dine outside.
The village of Utica cordoned off Mill Street during warm-weather months to create a kind of dining pavilion. This enabled restaurants to serve patrons when indoor dining was either restricted or fully off-limits because of COVID-19.
Outdoor dining proved to be a big hit in Utica – the village board extended it several years – and now is a feature of the Skoog’s experience. A portable host stand is stationed at the door for indoor and outdoor dining, and there are tables with umbrellas in the proximate portion of Mill Street.
The menu is favorite pub fare – fried chicken, burgers, tortellini – with weekly specials including tacos (Tuesday), wings (Wednesday) and ribs (Thursday and Saturday). The wings are offered breaded or unbreaded, with a wide choice of sauces including the house-made kamikaze and a showcased flavor of the month.
Burger fans will note the Hearty Skoog Burger features a three-quarter-pound, specially seasoned patty that is fresh and never frozen. The pasta offerings highlight the homemade meat sauce as a special favorite.
The Mystery Diner ordered the Friday fish plate, which consists of deep-fried blue gill, fries and slaw, accompanied by lemonade. The meal was generously portioned and enough to split. My dining companion, however, opted for the cod. Both entrees came with a good-sized green salad and choice of dressing.
The menu notes the house dressing is the homemade creamy garlic.
The service during our visit was fine.
Skoog’s provides outdoor music from a loudspeaker mounted on the west wall; do know that the volume is relatively high near it, if you’re looking for a more quiet spot to converse.
Hours of operations are 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday and Monday; 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 5 to 9 p.m. Wednesday; and 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
For a sweet flourish to cap a meal, Skoog’s offers a dessert selection of tempting cheesecakes.
• The Mystery Diner is an employee at Shaw Media. The diner’s identity is not revealed to the restaurant staff before or during the meal. The Mystery Diner visits a different restaurant and then reports on the experience. If the Mystery Diner cannot recommend the establishment, we will not publish a story.
IF YOU GO
WHAT: Skoog’s Pub & Grill
WHERE: 155 Mill St., Utica