Job Well Done
Factory Eatery & Spirits
Prospect St., Ballston Spa, 885-0500. Serving breakfast Mon-Fri
8-11, Sat-Sun 8-1, lunch and dinner daily 11-midnight. MC,
pub fare with surprises
price range: $7 (many sandwiches) to $16 (grilled ribeye
swarmed in the up- stairs room when I saw it last week, adding
fancy finish work to the walls and bringing to life a long,
richly decorated bar. Hanging from the high ceiling are gear
shafts and steel plates and wide cylindrical pulleys, looking
like something out of a Terry Gilliam design.
date from when the building was a chocolate factory,” says
Gregg Thomas, who co-owns the Factory Eatery & Spirits
with Mary DeFilippo. Both have long roots in Ballston Spa,
and Thomas can talk learnedly about many aspects of the village’s
history. “That’s what was being produced here when the factory
closed, about 65 years ago. Before that it was a number of
things, but it started as a manufacturing center for flat-bottomed
Downstairs, amid a number of newly furbished office spaces,
is the rest of the restaurant, the section that’s been open
for about nine months. With high brick walls and exposed girders,
it maintains enough of the factory look to recall the city’s
palmy days even while giving an ironically cheerful look to
what must have been a soulless place of employment.
But the look is new, the look of a place that was gutted and
carefully restored. “I love fireplaces,” says Thomas, pointing
out that the fireplace dominating the dining room was placed
so that it’s visible from all seating areas—even the sports-bar
area, assuming that the patrons of which can wrench their
eyes from the TV sets that surround them.
The true personality of a restaurant is imparted at the door.
How you’re greeted speaks volumes about a place, something
the chain restaurants have nailed but which eludes many local
eateries. At the Factory, the greeting is swift and sincere.
You may be greeted by general manager Gregory Todd, whom you’ll
recognize by the accent that belies his origin in London,
and you’ll remain under his gaze as your meal continues. A
veteran of many, many restaurants in this and other countries,
Todd can’t overstress the importance of attentive service,
and it certainly shows as the floor staff takes over and ushers
you through your meal.
In our case, we made the acquaintance of Jane, a high-energy
server who guided us through our selections and made sure
we never lacked food or drink. Those free-refill sodas are
a privilege I heartily abuse. And you’re instantly served
a bowl of homemade Saratoga chips, saluting that city’s claim
as the inventor of the potato chip.
With four pages of foodstuffs to choose among, an indecisive
orderer like me ends up foundering. Fortunately, the appetizers
list—boasting familiar bar food like mozzarella sticks, coconut
shrimp, chicken fingers, Buffalo wings and the like, all in
the $7 to $8 range—included Swedish meatballs ($7).
I’ll confess that those meatballs are the chafing-dish item
guaranteed to make me groan when I arrive at a catered reception;
finding them on a restaurant menu, however, made them seem
unaccountably appealing. Then I learned that the day’s soup
was potato leek, that most perfect of fall-weather blends,
and the starters were set, my daughter and I trading them
(until she permanently claimed the soup).
Not that there was anything wrong with the meatballs—far from
it. But I suggest you order this when you don’t have more
food due to arrive. They’re rich, served in a rich sauce and
topped with melted cheese. Add a salad and you’ve got a meal.
The soup, whose summer sibling is chilled vichyssoise, had
a big presence of bacon as well as small chunks of potato,
making it a chowdery version of the classic potage parmentier.
It’s the best version of this I’ve tasted in a long time,
so kudos to Factory chef Bob Ketchem.
A factory theme informs the menu, where the starters are listed
as “1st Shift” and items sport monikers like “The Ironworks”
(burger with bacon and cheese) and desserts are listed as
“Overtime.” Entrées (or “2nd Shift”) include steak tips ($12),
fish and chips ($11) and honey-stung fried chicken ($10).
My barbecue-loving child ordered a half-rack of baby back
ribs ($12), and received a perfectly acceptable plate: tender
meat with a hint of smoke and a tangy topping of sauce. Todd
noted that the smoke flavor arrives with the partially cooked
meat, making him possibly the first totally honest restaurateur
I’ve ever quizzed about ingredients.
Jane proved a great help in choosing my meal. I was heading
Reuben-wards when she steered me toward another sandwich:
“The Gobbler” ($7), which is pretty much a turkey dinner on
toast. Then she let slip how much she liked the burgers, and
I was sold—not on “The Laborer” ($20), because that’s a five-pound
monstrosity of which three pounds is meat alone (“We put it
on the menu as a joke,” says Todd, “but we sell two or three
of them a month”). No, I contented myself with “The Bricklayer,”
an 8-ounce burger with sautéed onions, bacon and blue cheese,
served with pasta salad (which I chose instead of potatoes)
and the usual veggies. Nicely charbroiled, served medium-rare,
as I wished. Burgers can be bliss.
After a meatball apiece, we had packed up the remaining four;
even so, Lily couldn’t finish the half-rack and I only made
it through the Bricklayer because I had help from my kid.
Breakfast is a recently added option, expanded from weekends
only to everyday fare; dinner specials add a more formal touch
to the evenings. And there are sports- and holiday-themed
parties to attend. The Factory has made itself an indispensable
here for a list of recently reviewed restaurants.
(Thursday, Oct. 19) there will be a cigar soiree
at Park 54 (54 Clifton Country Road, Clifton
Park) in association with Park Lane Tobacconist.
$60 gets you drinks, dinner and cigars. For more
info, phone 688-1548 or check out www.park54restaurant
.com. . . . Tonight sees another cigar dinner,
this one at Carmine’s Restaurant (818 Central
Ave., Albany), where chef Carmine Sprio is designing
a menu to accompany a selection of CAO cigars
(you’ll get five!) Along with drinks and dinner
for $85 (inclusive). Call 690-2222 to see if there
are seats left. . . . The Gateways Inn and
Restaurant (51 Walker Street, Lenox, Mass.)
will host a Macallan Whisky cocktail reception
and four-course dinner at 7 PM Saturday (Oct 21).
Chef Rosemary Chiariello has created a four-course
menu that includes roasted-duck-breast salad,
lobster cappuccino and grilled beef tenderloin
in a peppered wine sauce. It’s $80 per person,
and you can reserve seats by calling (413) 637-2532.
. . . Girl Scouts, Hudson Valley Council, will
hold their fifth annual Cookie Cuisine event
from 6 to 9 PM Tuesday (Oct. 24) at the Italian
American Community Center, Washington Avenue Extension,
Albany. You’ll see Cookie Cuisine honorary chair
Carmine Sprio and a host of talented culinary
teams prepare gourmet entrees and desserts using
all of your favorite Girl Scout cookies, including
a brand new, top-secret cookie. Tickets are $35.
For reservations, call Sharon Smith at 489-8110,
ext. 105 or e-mail ssmith@ girlscouts hvgsc.org.
. . . Remember to pass your scraps to Metroland
(e-mail food@ banilsson.com).
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very much enjoyed eating dinner at Daniel's
at Ogdens. You review described my dining
experience perfectly. This wasn't the case
with Pancho's. I much prefer Garcia's or
Lake View Tavern for Mexican fare. I agree
that a restaurant can have an off night
so I'll give the second unit on Central
Avenue a try.
yes I miss the star ratings, bring it back.
Second, I haven't had a chance to visit
Poncho's yet, but I especially like reading
would travel to Amsterdam to this restaurant
- it's not that far away. People traveled
from all over to eat at Ferrandi's in Amsterdam.
From his background, I'm sure the chef's
sauce is excellent and that is the most
important aspect of an Italian restaurant.
Sometimes your reviewer wastes words on
the negative aspects of a restaurant. I'm
looking forward to trying this restaurant
- I look forward to Metroland every Thursday
especially for the restaurant review. And
by the way Ferrandi's closed its Amsterdam
location and is opening a new bistro on
Saratoga Lake - Should be up and running
in May. It will be called Saratoga Lake
Bistro. It should be great!
comments about the Indian / Pakistani restaurants
being as "standardized as McDonald's"
shows either that you have eaten at only
a few Indian / Pakistani restaurants or
that you have some prejudices to work out.
That the physical appearances are not what
you would consider fancy dancy has no bearing
on the food. And after all, that is what
the main focus of the reviews should be.
Not the physical appearances, which is what
most of your reviews concentrate on.
A restaurant like The Shalimar, down on
Central Avenue, may not look the greatest,
but the food is excellent there. And the
menu has lots of variety - beef, lamb, vegetarian,
chicken, and more..