TROY — Folks who write restaurant reviews are not usually short of hungry friends happy to lend their palates and opinions, but I was hard-pressed to find someone willing to give up a few hours during the holiday rush.
So I packed up my laptop and headed off for a solo lunch at Spill’n The Beans, a year-old coffee place in downtown Troy, intending to take advantage of their free Wi-Fi and pretending not to be a little bit lonely, when I saw my frequent companion Virginia climbing over a snowbank across the street from the restaurant with a list of errands in her hand and a limited amount of time.
Soon we were sitting together reading the menu and I made a secret pledge to be as selfless as my friend who had just dropped everything. She’s been to the Beans several times for breakfast, and enjoys the scrambled eggs and whole-grain toast.
At Spill’n The Beans, you can have breakfast, lunch or dinner, and though owner Nick Porsia found keeping late hours unprofitable, you can have an early dinner weeknights when they’re open until 5:30 p.m. On Friday and Saturday, they stay open until 8 p.m.
It’s not just a coffee place, I discovered: Breakfast is made to order, and lunch features sandwiches, soups, salads and daily specials. Coffee is the major player here, but the supporting cast is outstanding. There is a chef who makes the beautiful pastries and cookies, soups and quiches, and invents wonderful sandwiches.
Grafton Hills Coffee Roasters, an artisan micro coffee roaster, supplies the coffee, and they offer a wide variety of both brewed and retail products at the store. But let me tell you about the place; it’s gorgeous. It’s on the Third Street side of the historic Market Block, a series of buildings at the point of River and Third Streets, built in the mid-1800s and lovingly renovated by John Hedley. Spill’n The Beans is one of several tenants on the first floor.
“It was a big empty space,” said Porsia. There’s a tin ceiling way up high and an exposed brick wall behind the counter. The atmosphere is warm, soothing even, with a terra cotta color scheme, wood tables, and soft jazz. There’s comfy upholstered furniture if you don’t want to sit at a table.
You order at the counter and the food is brought to you when it’s ready. So there isn’t really table service, but the staff checked in to see that we had everything we needed. Servers wear neat uniforms.
“The service people are all well-trained,” said my friend Mary, a frequent visitor who had a few cents to put in. “And the food is wonderful,” she added. She also mentioned the whole-grain bread and recommends the chili.
We both ordered a quick lunch, panini sandwiches with side salads from the specials menu. Virginia had grilled pork tenderloin with sauteed onions and spinach and cheddar cheese ($8.99) on baguette slices, while I had the Tuscan chicken with sauteed spinach and cheddar ($9.99). Sandwiches come with a side of chips or a salad, and I unequivocally recommend the fresh salad of perfect baby greens with balsamic vinaigrette.
The panini sandwiches are big and you might plan on taking home a half, like we did. My sandwich was stuffed with slices of white meat chicken that were incredibly moist, even the next day. I liked the contrast of the slightly bitter sautéed spinach with the chicken and the melted cheddar. It was a wonderful sandwich. The salad is generous; it tastes good and it’s good for you.
Virginia enjoyed her sandwich as well, but noted that she didn’t taste a lot of pork flavor. Perhaps the added kick of the sautéed onion took over, but it didn’t detract from her enjoyment of it. Her salad was impeccable, like mine.
The sandwiches are crispy, not greasy, with criss-crossed grill lines, and they’re big. If I wasn’t having dinner, the sandwich would have probably held me for the rest of the day.
We packed our leftover halves into cute sandwich boxes and paid the tab, which came to $24.32 with a soda and coffee. I also picked up some freshly ground coffee for a gift, and it lent my car and house a wonderful fragrance.
Spill’n The Beans is open late on Troy Night Out, the last Friday of the month, and there’s live jazz. But don’t wait until then. Enjoy a delicious light meal in pleasant and relaxing surroundings. And take your friend — the one who will drop everything.
Spill’n The Beans Coffeehouse & Bistro
WHERE: 13 Third Street, Troy. Phone 268-1028.
WHEN: 7 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Mondays to Thursday, 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Fridays, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturdays, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sundays
HOW MUCH: $24.32
MORE INFO: Fully wheelchair accessible. Credit cards: MasterCard, Visa, American Express, Discover