Note: This post has been updated on 2/28/2023 to reflect updated information on local dining.
If you’re considering Clarkson but aren’t from the North Country, chances are you don’t know a whole lot about the area that surrounds the University. I come from a town that is known for its incredible restaurants, so I was definitely interested in seeing what food options were available in Potsdam and the surrounding areas when I was considering Clarkson. I have not been disappointed!
Despite its small town feel, Potsdam has a number of restaurants (over 40!) — and good ones at that. I’m here to help you navigate the food scene based on what you’re looking for.
Best for Brunch — Jake’s on the Water, 5726 NY-56
Overlooking Hannawa Pond, Jake’s is a great place to enjoy a nice Sunday brunch and take in the lovely scenery of the North Country. The menu changes by season, so you can always count on fresh, local ingredients that fit the way you’re feeling.
Best Pre- and Post-Hockey Game Spot — Eben’s Hearth, 115 Maple St.
Located just across the street from Clarkson’s main entrance, Eben’s serves up big beers, wings, burgers and sandwiches named after local legends. It’s often taken over by Golden Knights fans during weekend hockey games.
Best for Date Night — Mama Lucia, 1 Constitution St.
Enjoy some delicious Italian cuisine paired with quiet seating that makes for a perfect date night (that won’t break the bank). Dishes come individually or family-style for sharing. Plus, it’s in a renovated train station, so that’s pretty cool too.
Best View — Cactus Grill and Cantina, 11 Raymond St.
Aside from the fact that the Cantina has great Tex-Mex and margaritas, it also offers outdoor patio seating overlooking the Raquette River AND a rooftop dining area overlooking all of Potsdam! Bonus: Down on the first floor, Geeks Who Drink trivia night happens every Wednesday!
Best Happy Hour* — Maxfield’s, 15 Market St.
Perhaps Potsdam’s “classiest” establishment, Maxfield’s is known for hosting Friday evening happy hour events with complimentary eats like carved roast beef and bruschetta. Local musicians are also often featured at the restaurant. *21 and over for happy hour
Best for New York Style Slices — Little Italy, 30 Market St.
If you’re craving pizza but could do without all the crust, check out Little Italy, which serves New York style pizza (thin crust) in a variety of options. My personal fave is the buffalo chicken. And of course, they’re open late, late night just for college students.
Best Burgers — Saint Larry’s Bar & Grill, 6 Elm St.
While they’ve got some great apps (think buffalo chicken dip and poutine!), entrees and sandwiches, the burgers at Saint Larry’s are where it’s at. Check out “The Porker,” topped with pulled pork, Dinosaur BBQ sauce, fried onions and cheddar!
Best Vegan/Vegetarian – Foster the Plant Cafe, 55 Market St.
If you’re looking for vegan and vegetarian options, or just looking for a healthy, plant-based meal, check out Foster the Plant. They’ve got breakfast served all day, wraps, smoothie bowls, salads, snacks and sides, as well as a large variety of drinks like Pitaya Lemonade, Barrel + Brine Kombucha, Glen Edith Cold Brew Coffee, Moment Botanical Water, Harney & Sons organic drinks, and Bear’s Fruit Organic Kombucha.
Best Unique Treats – Sweet Margaret Dessert & Bubble Tea Shop, 2a Market St.
Get the fix for your sweet tooth at Sweet Margaret! Daily selections of delectable macarons, cookies and mille crepe cakes are reason enough to stop by. But, the savory breads, pastries and buns are just as good! They often also offer lunch specials including sushi rolls! Oh, and don’t forget to grab a bubble tea or shaved ice!
Best Sports Bar — ½ Ton’s Bar & Grill, 141 ½ Market St.
Whether you are looking for a quick snack, some of the best wings in town (try the tiger wings) or a full sit down meal, all while watching your favorite team, ½ Ton’s is the place to go. It’s considered a “local” hang out, but that doesn’t stop the Clarkson crowd from enjoying it.
Best International Cuisine — Thai Cuisine, 29 Maple St.
For the full experience, enjoy a quiet sit down meal at Thai Cuisine, perfect for lunch and dinner. With the huge menu of Thai options, your taste buds will think they have traveled across the world! They also offer quick takeout if you can’t stay.
Best Memorable Food Item — Sergi’s Italian Restaurant, 10 Market St.
Sergi’s has been a family establishment in the North Country for over 50 years, and one of the most memorable food items in Potsdam for college students is definitely their deep-fried pizza rolls. Picture this: a pizza folded in half then fried and served with your favorite sauce. Hopefully you’re not calorie counting the day you encounter it!
Best Locally Sourced Food — 1844 House, 6885 US-11
Want to impress your family while they’re visiting? Then the 1844 House is the place for you. Located just outside the village toward Canton, this quaint, country-chic spot has the perfect atmosphere.
Best Gluten Free — 3 Bears Gluten Free Bakery & Café, 51 Market St.
Okay, technically they’re the ONLY gluten-free restaurant, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t great in their own right! Nothing in the restaurant contains gluten, so even the most allergic will be able to enjoy this café. I recommend trying their famous cupcakes for dessert — even gluten lovers can’t resist.
Best Place to Study Off-Campus — Jernabi Coffeehouse, 11 Maple St.
Jernabi Coffee is a great place for getting away from campus and relaxing with the laid-back, coffeehouse vibe. With a vast menu and many tables, this is a go-to study spot for those looking to spend some time off-campus.
Best Indoor Scenery — Park Bros Coffee, 9 Market St.
If you want to feel like you’ve walked through the doors of a hip and trendy NYC coffee shop, then Park Bros. will be your favorite spot, complete with jazz streaming from the speakers. Try one of their daily made scones to dunk in your coffee or tea, or better yet, feast on one of their yummy sandwiches on one of many flavors of homemade, fresh daily bagels.
Best Food Challenge — Village Diner, 22 Depot St.
Pancake lovers will appreciate the annual competition that takes place throughout the school year between the four local colleges to see how many students can complete the “Flapjack Attack,” in which participants must eat an entire pancake the size of two dinner plates! Those who finish get a T-shirt, bragging rights and the knowledge they are helping their college win. The Village Diner also offers great home cooked meals, daily homemade desserts, and now has an amazing dessert truck serving regular soft serve and “hard” (alcohol-infused) ice cream (with I.D.)!
Best “Fast” Food — Lee’s Hawaiian Grill, 3 Market St.
Lee’s Hawaiian Grill is a delicious option, especially when you don’t have a lot of time! It’s convenient ordering and pick up window right on Market Street make for a stress-free experience. Not to mention, the food is delicious! I recommend the BBQ chicken bowl for an inexpensive and filling bite!
Best New Restaurant — Royal India Grill, 38 Market St.
Potsdam’s newest restaurant, Royal India Grill, joined the scene in Spring 2021 with a beautiful new dining experience right in downtown Potsdam. This lunch and dinner spot boasts homemade, authentic Indian cuisine, including a lunch buffet, street-style appetizers, soups, salads, tandoori clay oven specials, biryanis, rice and vegetarian specialties, Indo-Chinese cuisine, and gluten-free options.
Best Hidden Gem — Barking Dog Saloon, 495 West Parishville Rd.
If you’re looking to find a place where the locals hang out that’s a little off the beaten path, head to Barking Dog. I love their soups, salads and sandwiches, and they also have a great selection of local brews* and wines*.
Best North Country Chain — Jreck Subs, 61 Market St.
A North Country tradition, Jrecks Subs is the favorite sub shop of many, both locals and college students. No one can quite put their finger on what makes this relatively small chain so unique. We just know we love it!
Best Organic Selections – Potsdam Food Co-op, 24 Elm St.
If you’re looking to shop for organic/local/specialty foods AND grab a bite to eat, head to the Potsdam Food Co-op, where they have a variety of grab and go items like wraps, salads, and baked goods. Their curried chickpea salad is heavenly!
*21 and over to enjoy craft brews and wine
When I was there in the ’60’s I couldn’t afford anything more than an occasional cheeseburger at the Vernon…
Many fond memories of the Vernon. I tended bar there part time. Ruth was a great manager
Thanks for sharing all the wonderful and testy Potsdam Food
Thanks for your kind comment. I learned a lot from your article. It makes it all worth while. Enjoy!