SARATOGA SPRINGS For a while, it seemed as if there weren’t very many good takeout places in Saratoga Springs. But that seems to have turned around, and the latest good grab-and-go spot is the Park Side Eatery.
The Park Side isn’t just for takeout; they have plenty of comfy booths where you can eat in. But the odd layout of the place would make calling in an order a lot simpler, as my mother and I discovered when we stopped for lunch. The setup had us wandering back and forth, from counter to counter, trying to collect everything we’d need from different parts of the room.
Our task was made no easier by the abundance of tasty-looking options. We narrowed things down from the sandwich menu, but then there was a whole case of salad options to contemplate — and jars of house-made pickles, and five kinds of house-made soup, and a massive variety of beverages, from sparkling coffee to Battenkill Creamery milk. And oh yes, the dessert cases, filled with cookies and cakes and topped with platters of house-made doughnuts.
We both decided to start with a cup of soup. I chose potato leek, which was smooth and a little thin but tasted good. My mom went with the creamy cauliflower, filled with bits of the vegetable as well as caramelized onion, which she loved.
Park Side Eatery
WHERE: 40 Phila St., Saratoga Springs, 907-4337; parksideeatery.com
HOURS: Monday through Thursday 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., Sunday 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
HOW MUCH: $42.58
MORE INFO: All major credit cards accepted; wheelchair-accessible; entrances on Phila Street and in the Spring Street parking lot between Putnam Street and Henry Street
I picked up a couple of selections from the pickle bar to share: The bread-and-butter pickles were good, though less sweet than I’m used to, and the cassia bud pickles were amazing. I wouldn’t have thought that the flavors of cinnamon and pickles would be good together, but they really, really are. And our sandwiches were served with a third kind of pickle, a kosher dill spear, nice and crisp.
I ordered a beef brisket sandwich, which came piled high on a brioche bun. I asked for it “naked,” with sauce on the side, so I first tried just the meat. It had a good crust to it and tasted decent, but the smoke flavor was lacking.
Then I tried the sauce by itself, and my first thought was “booze?” After a moment, I placed it: It’s a beer-based barbecue sauce. I don’t care for beer, but I figured it was worth a shot to throw some on the meat and see how the flavors worked together. That was a smart move: They actually tasted way better together than either of them tasted separately. I dumped the rest of the sauce on my sandwich, and I was a happy camper.
My mom ordered a pastrami Reuben, with house-cured pastrami along with the usual fixings, piled on Rock Hill Bakehouse rye bread. She loved it, though she noted that the meat had a sticky crust that made it hard to chew at times.
We got our choice of chopped or shredded coleslaw with our sandwiches. Mom got the chopped, which had a nice rough texture but a vinegary dressing that left her unimpressed. I got the shredded, which had a tasty, slightly sweet, creamy dressing, but was shredded so finely that it was very mushy.
And then, of course, there were the doughnuts.
Options included chocolate-frosted, chai, mocha, cinnamon sugar, chocolate orange, toasted coconut and maple bacon. Mom reached for a cinnamon sugar one, and she said it was really good. And I decided to be brave: I went for maple bacon.
Bag the bacon
I sniffed hesitantly, and then I wished I hadn’t; cold bacon is not what you want to smell when you take a whiff of a doughnut. But I took a bite of a spot that looked bacon-free, coated only in a maple glaze.
It was heaven, the best doughnut I’ve ever had, hands down.
It was a little light on maple flavor, but the sweetness level was perfect, and the flavor of the doughnut underneath was delicious. It wasn’t at all greasy, and the texture was cakey without being airy, slightly chewy without being too dense.
They should have skipped the bacon, though. I tried a few bacon-topped bites, but the flavor was so overpowering I couldn’t taste the rest of the delicious doughnut underneath.
The food at Park Side Eatery was pretty good. The layout could be better organized, and the prices seemed a little high: Our meal came to $42.58, including two bottled drinks and two doughnuts.
But then again, the emphasis is on good-quality and house-made foods and sometimes, quality can be pricey. I’ll definitely be back for the doughnuts, if nothing else.