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Cajun dishes add to the options at Field House Restaurant

| Thursday, May 17, 2012, 12:30 a.m.
(clockwise from bottom) Surf n Turf (New York strip steak with crab cake), chicken marsala, house salad, and fried shrimp at the Field House in Jefferson Township on Thursday May 10, 2012.
Erica Hilliard  |  Valley News Dispatch
(clockwise from bottom) Surf n Turf (New York strip steak with crab cake), chicken marsala, house salad, and fried shrimp at the Field House in Jefferson Township on Thursday May 10, 2012. Erica Hilliard | Valley News Dispatch

When Jay Thrower's wife asked him to find a way to spend more time at home in the mid-1990s, Thrower, a career salesman at the time, looked in the area, but found few options that satisfied his criteria.

He decided to do the next best thing: In 1996, he purchased the restaurant property along North Pike Road in Jefferson Township, and set out to establish the Field House Restaurant and Banquet Room as a reliable source of casual dining and comfort food.

The building, in existence since 1948, had undergone several transformations. Before Thrower took over, it was The Pike. Numerous iterations took a toll on the property, according to Thrower, who had the roof, bar and kitchen redone. But Thrower believed he could draw a steady crowd back to the destination.

"They used to park the whole way up Fisher Road ..., so it's always been kind of a hot spot in the area," he says.

Today, enough cars show up to keep Thrower, 51, confident as he makes new additions to the restaurant, including the recently finished outdoor patio.

"It just seemed like when we got a crowd (outside), it got a little bit crowded," he says. "So, I decided to put a deck on, and it just got bigger as we started building it."

Atmosphere

The Field House opened its new stone patio two weekends ago, in conjunction with a Cinco de Mayo celebration. The new area, complete with three fire pits and multiple tables, complements the existing outdoor bar and sand-volleyball court, which serve as bookends to the patio.

"We're hoping to do a little bit more with the nightlife, a little bit more casual entertainment on the weekend," says Thrower, who plans to bring in musicians on weekends.

In the absence of music, patrons can watch sand-volleyball action on almost any given night of the week, Thrower says. The Field House hosts leagues for high-school girls and adults.

The volleyball court was installed two years ago. Last year, lights were added.

"It's entertainment for people," Thrower says. "It's something to do. Instead of bringing a band in, I bring in a volleyball court."

Those who choose to stay inside to dine can expect warmth to come not from sand and sun but from wood. The Field House has a bar and banquet area, and both make use of earthy aesthetics. There's a wood floor on the bar side. A stone wall separates the bar from the banquet room, which features wood-paneled walls.

The design of the place encourages a calm, relaxed atmosphere that Thrower considers ideal for his 25- to 55-year-old crowd.

Menu

Three chefs have worked at the Field House since 1996, but the menu has only changed slightly through the years.

A wide selection of sandwiches and wraps is available. Heartier entrees such as New York strip steak ($17.95), surf and turf ($20.95), chicken marsala ($12.95) and barbecue ribs ($17.95) give patrons enough food to fill their stomachs and to-go containers.

When Karl Schmidtt, 52, arrived as a replacement for Tim Logan about a year ago, he added a few items that are rare finds in the Alle-Kiski Valley.

One of those dishes is the Cajun crayfish appetizer ($6.95), which includes a star-shaped arrangement of fried tortilla points with a heaping helping of reddish-orange crayfish meat that tastes salty and mildly spicy.

Schmidtt, who says he enjoys working with seafood, also offers crab-stuffed mushrooms ($6.95), a blackened-shrimp appetizer that includes bleu cheese and hot sauce ($7.95), and quesadillas that can include chicken, crab, crayfish or steak ($7.95 for chicken; $8.95 for the rest).

His seafood tortellini alfredo ($15.95) is a creamy collection of shrimp, crab, scallops and cheese-filled pasta.

For the land lovers, there's a stuffed banana-pepper appetizer ($6.95) that replaces the standard beef filling with a mixture of seasoned ground pork, veal and Italian cheese. Other intriguing options include a fried pretzel stuffed with jalapeno cheese ($3.95) and potato skins ($4.95).

Schmidtt developed an appreciation for Cajun food when he worked at Hotel Saxonburg, where he cooked for more than 20 years. His enthusiasm for the style shows elsewhere in the menu, too. There's a Cajun salad with blackened chicken ($8.95) that can include steak, shrimp or crayfish for $2 more, and there's a pasta dish ($8.95) that mixes ham, peppers, onion and tomatoes in a white wine sauce with Cajun seasoning.

"I try to keep people coming here, so that maybe they'll find something different that they haven't seen before," Schmidtt says.

Also, almost every salad dressing is made in-house.

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