By Maureen Werther
Dunning Street Station Bar & Grill, located at 2853 Route 9 in Malta, celebrated its grand opening June 29th with a well-attended ribbon-cutting ceremony sponsored by the Chamber of Southern Saratoga County.
Owners Bob McKenna and Scott Ringwood, who is also the chef, hope to continue the tradition of great food and drink that people have long associated with the iconic silver and blue Fodoro dining car. Ringwood is also co-owner, with McKenna, of the Lake Ridge Restaurant in Round Lake.
“Over the years, Scott and I have always talked about fun places and food that we’ve enjoyed in a casual setting,” said McKenna.
Gradually, the conversations became more serious and the partners began formulating a plan for another restaurant that would offer quality food and service like Lake Ridge, but in a more relaxed setting and with a more casual menu.
They began searching for a location and started looking into the “silver magnet out there on Route 9, just waiting to be restored to its former glamor and cool,” said McKenna.
As they delved deeper into the history of the property, they discovered that Route 9 was originally known as “Dunning Street,” named after the founder of Malta, Michael Dunning. Just like that, McKenna and Ringwood had the name for the new restaurant.
The Station, as it is referred to by owners and staff, follows in the footsteps of some well-known eateries at this location. The first business opened there in the early 1950s, when Constantinos (Gus) Dardas bought the house that was situated on the property at the time. He turned it into the Malta Ridge Diner.
In 1953, Dardas tore down the house and replaced it with the silver and blue dining car that was made in New Jersey and shipped to Malta in two separate sections. The diner was well-known and popular, known for serving eggs and coffee from 6 a.m. until midnight, and for home-cooked turkey and roast beef dinners.
During the 1970s, the diner was chosen as the setting for a well-known film, "My Old Man," starring Warren Oates and Kristy McNichols
In the 1980s, after Gus retired, Malta Ridge Diner was re-born. It became Sam's Italian Restaurant and was frequented by locals, tourists and many celebrities from the horseracing world and the film industry. It even had valet parking.
After several years, the restaurant closed. Sophie Dardas was the next tenant, reopening it as the Malta Ridge Diner once again, until 1995 when Sophie and Joseph Parker changed the diner to Chez Sophie Bistro.
In 2001, after Sophie Parker died, she left the restaurant to her son, Paul. He ran it with his wife, Cheryl, until 2009. When the couple decided to move to France, the restaurant changed hands once again and became known as Bloomers. That was short-lived and the restaurant was closed down after a year.
It was then scooped up by Joe Zappone and Pat Fiore, owners of the very popular downtown Albany nightspot, Quintessence. They christened their new location Quintessence American Grille, but it closed after three years.
By the time McKenna and Ringwood began looking into it, the diner was badly in need of renovations and repair, they said. It is now completely restored to its original "retro" glamor, with gleaming chrome and stainless steel and huge windows that give it a light, open and airy feel. There is additional seating in the rear of the diner, in what was formerly office and storage space, offering a more private space for larger parties.
The polished hardwood floors compliment the casual bistro tables and the decent-sized bar area that boasts 16 draught brews and a large assortment of spirits and wines.
The Station's menu offers a wide assortment of appetizers, small plates, burgers, and salads. While it offers a fair amount of perennial "pub" favorites, Ringwood has also taken liberties with more standard fare and created some eclectic combinations of his own.
The Station opens seven days a week, from 3 p.m. to midnight, offering late lunch, mid-afternoon fare and casual dinners.
For more information, call 587-2000.