BALLSTON LAKE — It’s business as usual for this time of year at Lakeside Farms, even though the circumstances are far from usual.
On a sunny, late-summer weekday I pulled into the last available parking space.
“It’s unbelievable how many people are here,” said my friend Sheryl, as we tried to distance ourselves from other customers in the store at Lakeside Farms.
They are doing the best they can: Signs tell you to wear a mask, the floor is marked off in 6-foot increments and the tables are sanitized between parties, but space was tight in the store even before restrictions. It doesn’t take more than a few groups waiting to place an order to spill over into the general merchandise checkout and the narrow aisles.
To help reduce crowding, you might want to send one person from your party to place the order and the rest can wait at one of the many tables inside or out.
Lakeside Farms has lots of outdoor dining space including a large, covered pavilion. The number of tables is halved, but that still leaves plenty of seating.
There’s lots to see at the store at Lakeside Farms, and while it’s not the best time right now for browsing, at least you can get something to eat and maybe bring home a fresh-baked pie.
It’s been a long time since I was there, and I forgot the protocol: Put in your order at the counter under the sign that says “sandwich orders taken” and pay, then hand off the big ticket at the kitchen window around the corner. Keep the stub — it has your number on it.
You might choose your beverage before you get into line, like the folks behind us did. There’s fountain soda and coffee right there, but you’d lose your place if you tried to get a drink from one of the coolers. Sheryl grabbed a Snapple iced tea for me while I was ordering. And speaking of planning ahead, it would be even better if you were to look at the menu on their website before you go. Lakeside has menus taped up at the counter, but they are mostly printed on regular-size paper and are hard to read unless you’re up close.
We didn’t even see if there was soup available. The website shows a soup of the day ($3.59 for 12 ounces).
Lakeside Farms serves breakfast and lunch, and at 11 a.m. we were there for the one hour they serve both.
You can get eggs with toast ($2.39 for two) but why, when there’s blueberry pancakes ($4.99 for a full order) and apple fritter French toast ($4.59)? I’d try the homemade sausage gravy over their own baking-powder biscuits with home fries next time ($5.99).
For lunch, you can get a sandwich made with Boar’s Head meat, a hamburger ($9.49) or a chef’s salad ($7.99).
Sheryl fixed her coffee as I handed in the tickets at the kitchen window and we set off to find a place to sit. The staff was having trouble keeping up, and we had to wait until someone came around to sanitize a table. It wasn’t long before the numbers on our tickets were called and it was time to pick up the food.
We took our tray and sat down in the butterfly section. Lakeside cannily treats the whole inside of the building as sales space, and we were surrounded by jigsaw puzzles, jars of jam and butterfly wall decor.
Sheryl loved her breakfast egg sandwich ($4.39) with cheese and bacon. The tasty roll was toasted and “the roll is really soft and fresh,” she said.
“Everything about it is great,” she added. She loved the coffee, and called it rich and smooth.
I had a ham sandwich on the same kind of soft and fresh hard roll with poppy seeds, layered with white American cheese, lettuce and tomato ($9.99). Sandwiches come with a pickle and bag of very good wavy potato chips. Points to Lakeside for using a red ripe tomato and a quarter-pound of meat on each sandwich.
Lakeside slices the meat really, really thin so it wrinkles and folds over itself, plumping up the sandwich. It was terrific, and they made it exactly the way I ordered it.
Sheryl bussed our tray and we headed to the produce area, where we bought fresh corn, nickel-sized blueberries and green beans. We’d managed to pick up a few other things as well.
Lakeside is very good at separating you from your money. Despite the fact that conditions were less than ideal for browsing, Sheryl and I each left with a big bag of produce and dry goods. We thought the produce looked very fresh.
Then we visited the Ye Old Farmhouse Gift Shoppe in the historic building next door for even more shopping. “This is so nice and normal,” said Sheryl, even though we were wearing masks. I spent more time thinking about whether to buy the black cat wall hanging than about the hand sanitizer we had to use at the door.
Lakeside Farms, cider mill, apple barn and gift shop are all busy, but they’ll be busier soon when the apples are ready. Take the recommended precautions and you can still have your trip to buy apples this year.
WHERE: 336 Schauber Road, Ballston Lake; (518) 399-8359; lakesidefarmscidermill.com
WHEN: 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. daily for breakfast, 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. daily for lunch
HOW MUCH: $19.71 for two drinks and sandwiches, plus a few bucks for the tip jar
MORE INFO: Credit cards: Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover. ADA compliant