When Chef Kevin Myers lost his wife Jennifer to breast cancer, he cooked up a plan to help other women who are fighting the disease. Exactly one year after her death, in September 2018, he opened Ribbon Café, a down-to-earth restaurant with a big heart.
Reminders of his mission are everywhere: from the restaurant logo, to her picture on a table near the door, to a colorful quilt that was raffled to raise money for a Rock City Falls woman dealing with late-stage disease. Myers donates money and hosts events to support Saratoga Hospital’s Mollie Wilmot Radiation Oncology Center, where Jennifer was a patient. From 3 to 7 p.m. Thursday, another of those events — with live music, vendors and raffles — will happen at the café.
“I brought as much of her spirit here as I could,” Myers explained in a local TV interview.
When I heard about the breakfast-and-lunch place I texted my buddy Jeanne. Not only are we breast cancer survivors, our friendship began at a support group meeting.
We felt comfortable from the moment we walked in. R&B music was playing in the background and Sonya, our server, was warm and welcoming. Lunchtime had just started and takeout customers were flitting in and out.
“It’s so homey and pleasant,” Jeanne said.
While there is a paper menu, it’s best to first check out the weekly specials on the big blackboard. Myers, a Scotia native and former executive chef at Gaffney’s in Saratoga Springs, loves to keep things interesting by changing up the usual ingredients in his omelets, panini, burgers, wraps, quesadillas and salads.
I couldn’t wait to try a bowl of his Southwest Shrimp and Corn Chowder, which has won four awards at Saratoga Chowderfest, including, in 2019, the coveted People’s Choice.
When the soup arrived, I was delighted to see a crispy wonton popper sitting on top. Filled with creamy crab, the popper literally melted in the mouth. The soup, which had a touch of heat, was as dense as pudding and rich and satisfying, with chunks of tender shrimp, potatoes, and corn and bacon crumbles. Ribbon gets $6 for a small bowl, or if you want to take it home, $12 a pint, $22 a quart.
My panini — gouda, apple and carmelized onion — was a blackboard special served in a red plastic basket lined with paper. I liked that everything inside was chopped small or sliced thin to meld the flavors. Cooked in apple cider, the onions were soft and sweet, and there were dabs of mustard and some kind of fruit jam tucked inside too. There could have been a bit more gouda, to make it more “melty,” but it was perfectly grilled. My side, a tiny paper cup of coleslaw, was pretty run-of-the-mill. Next time I’ll order the homemade potato chips.
Jeanne opted for the Southwest Chicken Panini but asked for it without cherry peppers. Her sandwich, a mix of grilled chicken, cheddar, cilantro pesto, chipotle aioli and tomato, was also nicely grilled.
She raved about her side of macaroni salad, which was made with small pasta shells instead of the usual elbows.
“It’s really good,” she said. “Homemade for sure. I taste mustard but something sweet.”
As for beverages, they serve water, iced tea, Snapple and other drinks, all in bottles. Jeanne, a coffee gal, gave the java a thumbs up. “It’s good diner coffee,” she said.
Ribbon Café makes its own desserts — pies, cookies, cupcakes and more — and recently, according to Facebook, apple-cider-donut bread pudding, but we forgot to ask what was available. On Sunday, they make cinnamon buns.
We did find out that quite a few of the regular customers are breast cancer survivors, including women in treatment. I hope to lunch here again with Jeanne, because she is and always will be, my “bosom buddy.”
WHERE: 11 Prospect St., Ballston Spa; 518-288-3040; ribboncafeny.com, Facebook, Instagram
WHEN: 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily
HOW MUCH: $31.98 without tax
MORE INFO: Takeout, outdoor seating, wheelchair ramp at entrance