I have been waiting probably a year for someone trustworthy to guinea pig this place out for me before I took the dive. Yeah, "people" said it was "good", and on occasion it is busy as the dickens. But fearful it was one of those places conveniently located and frequented only for that, I wanted a reliable pre-prandial recommendation. But a 7:45 showtime for Rock of Ages at Clearview Chelsesa necessitated a nearby eating establishment, so I finally bit the bullet and got a table.
Highpoint's prior incarnation was a miserable trap called Porter's, and unfortunately the room hasn't changed much in order to completely shake off the bad energy of its predecessor. There are some cute little tchotchke around that provide pleasant visual distraction, and the service is chipper. And more importantly, the ownership has changed, so while it's still a casual American neighborhood joint, it's not that scummy neighbor you just wish would move away (like the guy who owns the neglected address on the adjacent corner).
The menu here is approachable and simple: there are your classic standbys and some slightly tweaked specials that keep things interesting. There are a lot of "apostrophed" items on the menu, which indicate these latter options, like the vegetarian "risotto" actually made of couscous, and the watermelon "steak": a grilled slab of the fruit that offers one of the several vegetarian plates. A dollhouse grocery cart wheeled in wedges of crisped, spiced flatbread, better on its own than with it's small tub of mediocre hummous. They gracefully split the farmer's salad for us to share, which I was glad to have done: it was a little ho-hum, so a half-sized portion was ample.
Entrees gained momentum. Fish 'n Chips of flaky Atlantic cod came in a silver casserole it shared with some truly great, skin-on fries. A trio of accompaniments- ketchup, tartar sauce and a kicky malt vinegar- come so you can choose your own adventure. The market fish, roasted whole, was a sizable red snapper (easily enough for two) which showed up atop a bed of mild melted leeks and a tussle of frisee, both complemented by a spritz of the chargrilled lemon leaning at its side. While not for want of more food, but for sating a comfort-food yen, we ordered a three-for-fifteen bucks trio of sides. Garlic spinach was a standard but tasty rendition, the mac 'n cheese less so (the pasta and lackluster sauce didn't quite coalesce), but the sauteed mushrooms (annoyingly dubbed 'shrooms, but at least not in quotes) were excellent- hinting of garlic and heaped in abundance. Of these, the more the better, and they were the most copious portion.
Bellies at capacity and showtime pending, we skipped desserts. Which is unfortunate, because while a warm apple tart is probably a no-brainer, I was avidly curious to see what would arrive as The Caramel Experiment. Highpoint, right around the corner as it is, is good enough for a return visit though, so perhaps upon a subsequent visit I'll get to find out. Regardless, the highpoint of the evening was definitely Highpoint... and NOT Rock of Ages. Glad to have a solid, pleasant meal before that catastrophe of a movie, who's only redeeming quality was a stellar performance by Tom Cruise. Rock of Ages took Americana and contaminated it. Highpoint takes the same inspiration to a better place.
216 7th Avenue