When I found out that the snack bar at the Verona Park boathouse serves Middle Eastern food, I was intrigued, and decided to give it a try. When the manager/chef taking my order told me she was from Egypt, and my expectations soared.
I bypassed the traditional fast-food snacky menu of burgers, dogs, fries, and sandwiches, focusing on large photos of Middle Eastern fare. The Boathouse Cafe menu offers lots of choices – platters ($14-15) and sandwiches ($6-7) of pita with gyro, kebabs, and falafel. There are smallish sides of baba ganoush, houmous and tabouli ($6-10) and fattoush – a tomato/cucumber/onion salad enhanced with mint, garlic and lemon juice ($8). We decided on a falafel pita wrap ($6.50) and the chicken kebab platter ($14). After a bit of a wait, a friendly waiter delivered our meals lakeside.
The food looked pretty good and portions were more than adequate. Despite the lovely setting – under umbrellas on the deck of the slate-roofed boathouse – lunch was a big disappointment.
Both dishes arrived lukewarm, at best. The falafel was dry, mealy, and bland. Missing were the pickles, tahini sauce, and marinated cabbage that my favorite falafel joints in Montclair serve. Rice was the only star on the the kebab platter. A mountain of yellow saffron rice, perfectly cooked, accompanied eight very tough chunks of lemony chicken, which tasted like they’d been in the fridge too long. The “salad” included with the platter was more of a garnish, consisting of 3 paper thin slices of tomato and cucumber and a soft leaf of iceberg lettuce. I went back to the counter to ask for a yogurt sauce, but what I got was a sweet dill mayo-based sauce. With our two bottled drinks, the bill came to $26.96 – way too much for a mediocre lunch.
I don’t plan on going back for another meal at The Boathouse, but there are some refreshments I’d try after a walk or bike ride around the gorgeous lake. Try the soft frozen lemonade, Italian ice, or Gifford’s ice cream in flavors like Wicked Good Chocolate, Maine Camp Coffee, and Mississippi Mud. Cups are $3, $4.50, and $6.00.
The Boathouse Cafe’s summer hours are 10:30 – 7 p.m. Monday-Friday, 10:30 a.m. – 10 p.m. weekends. They serve breakfast sandwiches and bagels in the morning, and have several row boats and peddle boats for rent.