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Photo: B.A. Nilsson

Pancakes!

By B.A. Nilsson

Last time I checked in with Kim Klopstock, nearly five years ago, she was running the restaurant at Saratoga’s polo grounds for two days a week during the summer. Best known for her catering company, the Lily and the Rose, Klopstock and crew turned out impressive entrées served by a lively staff.

She noted back then that she didn’t want to tie herself to a restaurant, and even though it can be argued that, with the opening of Fifty South, she has gone and done so, we’re still not talking your common-or-garden eatery.

The building Klopstock now occupies spent many years as Leo’s Diner, and the old sign now hangs inside on one of the dining room walls. The place is spacious enough to offer a roomy bar separate enough from the dining area as to disappear. The largest of the dining rooms is many-windowed and bright, a cheerful venue for breakfast or lunch.

Which is what’s offered during most of the restaurant’s hours. The menu invites you to be “a part of the family,” which, knowing Klopstock, not only is a sincere wish but also puts you amid the actual family members who help her at the restaurant. And it extends to the local farms and purveyors from whom she buys supplies.

First on the menu are preparations of eggs, which can be organic if you don’t mind paying a little extra. She’ll prepare them to order (two eggs are $4; with added meat, it’s $6.50), and you can turn it into a breakfast sandwich, add cheese, whatever. It’s flexible. Omelettes run about $8; the one listed as “KK’s Favorite” features caramelized onions, chevre, roasted red peppers and spinach. Or create your own, working from a pizza- topping-like list of items.

On the Healthy Morning Choices list you’ll find biodynamically farmed yogurt ($2.50), homemade granola ($2.50), real Irish oatmeal ($3) and fresh fruit ($4). You can balance that with one of the less-than-healthy bakery items, an array that changes daily.

Or go whole hog with something like pancakes. Pancakes! A rare AM event in my household, what with the constant hither-and-yon-ness of our scheduling, but I’ve served them often enough to establish a contrast with the buttermilk pancakes served at Fifty South ($5 for a stack of three).

These are solid, even crispy, cakes, with a texture that stands up to the syrup. Mine, by contrast, are very light (I fold in whipped egg whites) and easily drown when the syrup is added. I mention this only to note that the Fifty South serving took my daughter by surprise, and proves that one shouldn’t set one’s expectations too narrowly. At least I got to finish some of her cakes.

Besides, she’d also filled up on the side order of excellent sausage (add $2.50). As long as the restaurant is open, breakfast fare is available. At 11 AM, lunchier stuff kicks in.

Have a cup of soup ($3.50), add to it a salad ($6) or half sandwich ($8)—or get fancier with a Caesar salad ($7), a blackened-steak salad with gorgonzola cheese ($10), a poached pear salad with organic greens, chevre and more ($9) or a good old tuna salad on a bed of greens with your choice of homemade dressings ($10).

Daily lunch specials include Monday’s meatloaf, as a sandwich ($8.50) or meal ($9.50), Thursday’s turkey Reuben ($7.50), fish and chips on Friday ($9) and, of course, Sunday’s eggs Benedict ($8).

Handmade burgers are featured on the ongoing sandwich list, but they’re competing against house-roasted turkey ($7), hot- pepper-enhanced grilled chicken ($8) and the sandwich I settled on, a roast beef on a roll turned fancy with caramelized onions and Boursin cheese ($8.50), with a side of excellent Saratoga chips. (This pays tribute to the city where the potato chip originated.)

My quest for culinary heat is an unnecessary fetish, having less to do with food than it has with risible machismo. Still, the prospect of chicken wings given a triple-X rating suggested that sampling them might be a desirable intromission. The $8.50 plate lives up to its promise, bringing tears to my eyes and an unprecedented look of shock to my kid’s face as she bravely sampled one.

Fifty South’s evening offerings are available Wednesdays through Saturdays, using a tapas approach of smaller, shareable plates. Appetizers include clams, calamari, pot stickers, a cheese plate and an amazing crab cake, priced from $7 to $13; the larger small plates run from $12 to $14 and feature maple-glazed Tasmanian salmon, a Thai shrimp bowl, pan-seared duck breast, linguine topped with homemade pomodoro and pesto and plenty more, including daily specials.

Service during our visit was friendly if intermittent; although the food is cooked to order, it still took an unusually long time to emerge. But we were in no hurry and found the overall cheerfulness of the place to be totally convincing.

Click here for a list of recently reviewed restaurants.


TABLE SCRAPS

You can make a difference in the lives of those affected by HIV/AIDS by dining out tonight (Thursday). Dining Out for Life is an annual one-day fundraiser held in to 47 cities across North America to benefit locally based HIV/AIDS service organizations; participating restaurants donate a generous portion of proceeds from the day’s checks to their local AIDS charity. Local venues include Bayou Café, Beff’s, BFS, Cheesecake Machismo, DeJohn’s, Grandma’s Restaurant, Justin’s, Magnolias on the Park, Nicole’s Restaurant, Provence, Scratch Bakery Café, Milano, Brindisi’s, Hattie’s, Longfellows, Mexican Connection, Olde Bryan Inn, Tiznow, Ambition, Flavour Café and Tosca Grill. Call ahead and mention Dining Out for Life. . . . Remember to pass your scraps to Metroland (food at banilsson.com).



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