is the kind of place the chain restaurants study before launching
one of their kill-the-market rockets. It’s a what- people-want
place, meaning you won’t be stymied by haute cuisine,
and it’s the kind of place where you’ll be recognized after
a couple of visits. It’s what I wish I had in my neighborhood,
a fast retreat when I really don’t want to cook at home.
passes for fancy here are items like the Buffalo chicken pizza
($12 for an eight-cut, pictured), which was added to the menu
last year and takes its place as a favorite alongside many
other variations on pizza, the restaurant’s specialty. Like
mushrooms sprouting in a damp field, pizzas appeared as if
by magic on space-saving towers at many of the tables around
pasta, a fairly recent addition, along with crab cakes and
lobster ravioli. At the core of the menu, however, is a large
selection of sandwiches, hot and cold. A realm for which there’s
a good deal of competition. Why dine here?
it’s not part of a chain, and thus refreshingly lacks the
crap-laden walls and robotic servers. Real people, including
an owner who lives locally, work here and care about the restaurant’s
food is on a par with, and sometimes better than, what the
chains offer. Everything else being equal, I support local
enterprises. And this is a local enterprise with a history
that dates back to the 1930s, when only a small white house
marked the start of the route (9P) to Saratoga Lake, and the
adjoining beer garden was al fresco. The building has
been expanded over the decades to accommodate a variety of
business: diner and pizzeria among them. By 1981, it had been
known as the Starting Gate and the Unsinkable Molly Brown,
but when Tim and Barbara Squadere took over, they gave the
place its current moniker.
later it’s going strong, even as others have faded around
them. A strong personality is one of the key factors. Another
factor is the food, which was exactly as expected—and I suspect
it’s consistently so. Another, and more timely reason to visit
will be the Saratoga racetrack rush, the monthlong population
swell that injects a teeming throng of bettors into the town
and turns restaurant dining into endurance events. The Publik
House picks up a lot of business during track season, I was
told, but it’s still accessible.
we are, early on a pleasant Saturday evening, a trip to Saratoga
ahead, considering the Publik House menu, pondering a dining
strategy that will fill our tummies without clogging our arteries
or, in my case, rendering my trousers still tighter.
no lack of good (meaning “good”) food to consider: Salad selections
include the Caesar variants ($6-$9), with oddball (but tasty-sounding)
additions like salmon or shrimp available. The spinach-portobello
salad combo ($8) sent up a siren’s call, but I . . . I found
another spinach- containing starter, and figured, in a starry-eyed,
rumbly-stomach way that the spinach-artichoke dip ($6) would
still provide the vegetable’s vaunted nutritional punch.
an unremarkable brew, but who cares? Creamy and rich, warmed
so as to release more flavor, it traveled via crunchy tortilla
chips and got the meal off to a satisfying start. I would
only suggest that the accompanying chips be the top-of-the-bag
product: We got too many that had been crushed into smallness.
there, we figured, we could redeem our waistlines with sandwiches.
It’s part of my dieting by denial approach. Perhaps a “Dick
the Baker,” a grilled cheese with turkey, or “The Lawman,”
which combines grilled roast beef with provolone, mushrooms
and onions (these and many others are $7.25 each).
beckoned. We succumbed. Our entrée plates bore great, steamy
masses of melted toppings. And they sure were tasty.
I noted above; by the time it arrived, I was good for two
slices (and another one on the drive home, and another one
out of the fridge, cold, late that night).
a professed cheese-avoider, tucked into her eggplant rollatini
($12) with gusto, the outer mozzarella and the inner ricotta
notwithstanding. What a nice concept for an easy-to-enjoy
dish: soft but flavorful rolls of the vegetable oozing the
other ingredients, a layer of linguine beneath to prolong
actually was the more reasonable, because her hot meatball
sub ($7.50) was more about the meat than the cheese, and the
three hearty spheres were made from a mixture of meats.
room for Tammy’s desserts,” the menu insists, but with leftovers
boxes accumulating around us, we thought it wise to postpone
that pleasure for our next visit.