Eight years ago, Downtown City Tavern founder, Craig Merrell, set out to open a restaurant both “simple and sophisticated.”
Craig essentially wished to create a downtown eatery where he would want to hang out– a place with excellent chicken wings, burgers, wood-fired pizza, and a great selection of craft beer and cocktails.
“I loved downtown Glens Falls, and I believed it,” said Craig, a Queensbury resident. “I knew it was going places.”
Craig toured multiple properties in Glens Falls, but didn’t feel many of them matched his vision.
That changed on a day Craig was parked in the Elm Street parking lot. He faced the building that was previously the Orange Cat Café (and the longtime Boston Candy Kitchen before that).
“I wondered, what if an entrance was on the side of the building facing the parking lot?” said Craig.
With a home for his vision, one of downtown’s favorite restaurants and bars began.
Craig describes himself as a man who enjoys a good challenge.
He had owned marinas in the Lake George area, and at one point, operated a seasonal lakeside restaurant at the marina. But that was the extent of his culinary background.
“As a businessman, I enjoy overseeing 1000 moving parts at a time, but I’m smart enough to know what I don’t know,” said Craig.
Craig consulted with high profile chef and restaurateur, David Britton, to carry out the culinary vision of DTCT. Previously the executive chef/owner of Springwater Bistro in Saratoga Springs, and a TV cook supporting Robert Irving on Food Network’s “Dinner: Impossible” series, Britton had restaurant experience and knowledge from all over the world.
Together, Craig and David conceptualized the Tavern, with a plan that included extensive renovations to the building. A large, wood-fired stone hearth pizza oven was an integral part of the plan, inserted by crane through the roof of the structure.
The tavern was a welcome addition to Glens Falls, and in time, Craig had hopes to grow his portfolio of restaurants in Glens Falls. This vision became reality once Journey Kerchner-Pirrone was added to the Downtown Hospitality Management team.
A Queensbury High School graduate, Journey had traveled the world before returning to his hometown, his sights set on opening a restaurant or bar. Journey initially became part of the team at the now-closed Rare Earth Wine Bar. This experience put him in contact with many in Glens Falls’ restaurant scene, including Craig.
As Craig looked to open a sister restaurant – what became Downtown Social – Journey became an instrumental team member to lead Downtown Hospitality’s expansion.
Tavern Earns Trust
Prior to COVID, on any given day, patrons lined the bar or dined in DTCT’s cozy booths for lunch and dinner. When the pandemic hit in March, customers’ loyalty remained, and takeout orders rose substantially.
“We rarely close,” Craig said of his decision to keep the tavern running. “Our wood-fired pizza oven hasn’t cooled off in eight years!”
Surely, pizzas have been a takeout staple for the community. Favorites include combinations like di Parma (Creamy cheese fondue, mozzarella, prosciutto, parmigiana reggiano, arugula, and a balsamic drizzle) Porky Fig (Creamy cheese fondue, fig jam, prosciutto, scallion, bacon, and parmigiana reggiano), and the Tough Guy (Crushed Tomato Sauce, Mozzarella, Salami, Pepperoni, and Sausage). All of DTCT’s pizzas can also be ordered with gluten-free cauliflower crusts.
The Tavern’s popular wood-fired wings can be served with more than a dozen creative sauces (customer favorites are Asian Chili, Balsamic Bleu, Green Goddess, and Caribbean Jerk).
Rounding out the menu is a large selection of appetizers, wood-fired flatbread benders, burgers, mac & cheese, and salads. Like their pizzas and wings, all dishes include a unique combination of flavorful ingredients, and options are available for the health-conscious customer, to the most indulgent.
And speaking of indulgent! Reviewers rave about DTCT’s boozy milkshakes! From Irish Mudslide (Coffee ice cream, Jameson, Baileys) to Orange Creamsicle (Vanilla ice cream, Skyy vanilla, Cointreau), these treats are regularly available, with new milkshake recipes added throughout the year.
Once restaurants could re-open, DTCT’s outside dining area reclaimed popularity, and the spacious booths indoors also enabled customers to feel safe with other diners. Over time, the tavern is seeing a steady flow of indoor business lunches and evening dinners once again, with takeout still going strong.
Grateful for Customers and Staff
When asked about DTCT’s success during the unusual past few months, Craig expressed gratitude.
“We couldn’t have got through this without the support of our customers,” said Craig. “We thank them for riding this wave with us.”
Craig also credits the team at DTCT, sharing that they’ve built a “great culture.”
“The team has really built a solid foundation at DTCT, and it shows in the positive experiences of the customers,” said Craig.
Here are just some of the positive reviews for the locale:
“My husband and I eat a plant-based diet (not always easy on vacation during this NYS Pandemic debacle). We stopped on our way to Lake George to grab food before it got too late and found this restaurant on Google. The meal exceeded my expectations! I had the Medusa with a salad, they were both delicious! They make their own Green Goddess dressing. It was awesome. I will make a point to stop there again.”
“This is the best pizza I know. I come to Glens Falls once or twice a year for ECHL Thunder Hockey and I never leave town without a supreme pizza.”
“I must say that any place where you can order a shake with dinner, and alcoholic shakes to boot gets a A++++ in my book! This is the quintessential hometown place that extends out to a fantastic wine menu, and a craft beer list of over 20 choices from all over the country. This is a MUST TRY if you are in the Lake George area. Their menu has a great mix of traditional choices with a chef-inspired twist on many. Two thumbs up, and kudos to the great staff.”
Special thanks to NBT Bank for supporting this story.
Regional Exec Marc Monahan said, “NBT understands the challenges small business owners are facing to manage these difficult times, and we gladly support our local restaurants, customers, and communities.”