$29 and Under: BrickYard does best at burgers and serious snacks

The BrickYard Tavern & Grill, on Milton Avenue in Ballston Spa presents a challenge to dieters, but

The BrickYard Tavern & Grill

WHERE: 70 Milton Ave., Ballston Spa. Phone 884-2570

WHEN: Kitchen open Monday to Thursday 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m., Friday and Saturday 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m., Sunday noon to 9 p.m.

HOW MUCH: $27.82, with tax and before tip.

MORE INFO: wwwthebrickyardtavern.com Children’s menu available. Credit cards: Master Card, Visa, American Express, Discover. Large parking lot in back

A research study concluded that people who wore a string tied snugly around the waist were less inclined to overeat. With that in mind, I pulled my newly-snug jeans out of the bottom drawer of my dresser. I was on my way to a lunch review during the holiday season, and I was going to need them.

The BrickYard Tavern & Grill, on Milton Avenue in Ballston Spa presents a challenge to dieters, but their burgers are to die for, as my sister JoAnn and I discovered. We met for lunch at noon, and the tables were soon filled. I can see why it’s popular. It’s comfortable and bright, with an inexpensive, casual menu that’s heavy on burgers, sandwiches and snacks.

There are lots of television screens around, which is great if you’re there to watch a game. The high wood table-and-chair combinations are fun, and we liked the sage and honey-mustard painted walls, the wood floor, tin-accented ceilings with fans and the exposed brick wall. You enter through a spacious courtyard that manages to be inviting even when it is covered in snow. Best of all is the wall of high windows that look out over busy Milton Avenue. It’s a lovely place.

The one server who worked the room for lunch kept up with things pretty well and was very nice to us even though we took forever to order and asked lots of questions. The menu says that they have the best burgers, so JoAnn ordered the Greco patty melt in paradise ($8.99). I ordered a cup of the day’s soup ($2.99) and the Buffalo chicken salad with grilled chicken ($8.99).

Had I come for dinner I would have chosen the shrimp scampi entree ($15.95), because it was the only thing on the menu that looked somewhat healthy. Red flags popped up all over in the descriptions: “belly buster,” “pile of pasta,” “rich creamy gravy,” and “cheese fries” — just so you know so you can plan before you go.

JoAnn sipped tea while I had the soup, a creamy roasted red pepper with chicken and mushrooms: tasty, with oversized sliced mushrooms and chicken in little bits, which is fine. It was served in the same kind of mug that JoAnn’s tea came in, and we both liked it very much.

If you’re going to put all your day’s calories in one meal, then it had better be good, and satisfying, and the Greco burger with fries scored on both counts. The sliced sandwich features a quarter pound of beef with bacon and a choice of cheese encased in grilled rye, and a family-sized pile of french fries.

JoAnn pulled half of the sandwich from the paper-lined plastic basket and held it up: pink in the middle, with a layer of orange melty cheese, bacon, thick browned crispy rye with caraway seeds showing. My mouth is watering just writing this. “It’s delicious,” she said, eyeing the grilled bread critically. “And not greasy at all.” Thumbs up for the burger.

My salad was not so satisfying. I chose grilled chicken over fried, an interpretation of Buffalo chicken salad that doesn’t work so well. In theory, it was a Buffalo chicken salad, but in reality, it was sauteed chicken slices that were challenging and hard to cut, over, in place of the mixed greens as promised on the menu, leaf lettuce sliced into long wide ribbons, with Buffalo sauce poured over. Both were equally difficult to cut given the shape of the wooden salad bowl. There were also thick slices of cucumber, small pieces of tomato and some finely chopped onion.

The BrickYard gets points for buttery and authentic wing sauce, with just a bit of a kick, but it shouldn’t be confused with salad dressing. There was no balsamic dressing, as it said on the menu, and there was no sign of the crumbled bleu cheese, which I had asked for on the side.

I must point out that a Buffalo chicken salad made with fried chicken strips can be very well done, and a fried version is available on the BrickYard menu. I don’t recommend saving calories by ordering the grilled chicken, just order the fried version and eat half.

And let me stop here and make a point: When I review a restaurant, I compare what they set out to do with what they actually do. Not every place is as stellar as Dale Miller (which I mistakenly omitted from my best of 2009 list), and the BrickYard does burgers and serious snacks well. They’re limited in their healthy choices, but it’s not a spa, it’s a pub-style restaurant. I just wish there were a few more healthy options.

So most of the salad remained uneaten, and I consoled myself by sharing JoAnn’s fries, which we both agreed were very tasty. “Nice and dry,” JoAnn judged, and very filling, I must add, as they kept me feeling full until dinner.

We enjoyed the relaxing and friendly atmosphere at the BrickYard, and, although there was an omission on the bill which was straightened out right away, the service was fine. I recommend the BrickYard’s burgers and fries, service and ambiance, but I pledge to go somewhere else for lunch until my jeans fit again.

Categories: Food, Life and Arts

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