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$29 & Under: Philly Pretzel Factory serves up a novel, cheap lunch

$29 & Under: Philly Pretzel Factory serves up a novel, cheap lunch

Pizza joints, watch out. There’s a new place in town where you can get a good, cheap lunch and the f

Pizza joints, watch out. There’s a new place in town where you can get a good, cheap lunch and the food’s delicious. Let me introduce to you the pretzel dog, a la Philly Pretzel Factory, near Borders in Clifton Park.

Philly Pretzel Factory

WHERE: 5 Southside Drive, Clifton Park. Phone 280-9500.

WHEN: 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday to Friday, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday.

HOW MUCH: $8.77

MORE INFO: Credit cards: MasterCard, Visa, American Express, Discover. Wheelchair accessible.

Some franchises made their Capital Region debut in that tidy little fast-food section consisting of two adjacent strip malls; now they’re joined by the Philly Pretzel Factory, which opened in November.

Shannon Melleady, who lives in Clifton Park, is owner/operator, and the Philly Pretzel Factory is truly a family business. Her husband and three children help out in the store.

I admit I was doubtful that a stand-alone pretzel store would attract much business, and besides, pretzels aren’t exactly a novelty. But my sister told me she stopped by and picked up a dog for lunch and some pretzels to go.

“I finished them in the car on the way home,” she said.

They were that good.

Limited seating

So she met me there and we had a pleasant lunch together. I must warn you, however, that there are only two seats, at a small counter overlooking the busy shopping center parking lot.

No problem for us — the other customers got their orders to go. Though the waiting area is small, behind the glass display cases is a kitchen filled with enormous pieces of pretzel-making machinery.

There’s an oven in the rear that can crank out a thousand pretzels an hour, and a conveyer-belt behemoth that makes the pretzels.

It’s a wholesale/retail operation, and Melleady also sells her pretzels to businesses and schools, as well as from the store.

Giant soda coolers dominate the waiting area. Philly Pretzel Factory doesn’t bother with the soda-making equipment — all their Coke products are ready to go. Menu boards hang from the ceiling. Choices are somewhat limited, but pretty much whatever you can do with a pretzel, the Factory does. They offer dogs, sausages and lots of dips for the various sizes and shapes of pretzels.

Buy in bulk

Their pretzels are loops, and you buy them in multiples. Three regular-sized pretzels, each a double loop, are two bucks. The dogs are also two bucks, or two for $3.50. You can get stubby rivets, about two inches long, by the box, and small pretzel loops. We sampled a new product, a cinnamon-sugar pretzel, as well.

We each got a dog and drink and ordered some pretzels and dips to share.

Boy, are those dogs good. Plump beef franks are wrapped up, along with some cheese, in just enough dough to do the job. We approve of this: the focus is on the dog, not the pretzel.

Careful, though — they want to slip out the other end when you bite into their crisp coat.

You purchase small plastic tubs of condiments such as mustard, cheese, cinnamon, and chocolate sauce. JoAnn dunked her dog in the honey mustard as she ate. The honey flavor was evident, and the mustard had just enough kick to it for her. Mustard comes yellow, sweet, hot, and spicy.

Hot and satisfying

Now for the pretzels. As part of a promotion, our three pretzels were free. They are hot. They have just enough salt. They are crispy outside and soft and warm within. They are very satisfying. I’d get them again. Perhaps I’d skip the cheese sauce next time, though. It has a nice flavor to it, but it was more sauce than cheese.

JoAnn compared Philly’s pretzels favorably to a competitor.

“The cinnamon is much better here. The other is too buttery, almost greasy,” she said.

I don’t know how they pack the cinnamon-sugar mixture onto the pretzels, but there’s plenty of it.

Good but messy

The cinnamon-sugar pretzel didn’t last long with two of us working on it. Have plenty of napkins handy, perhaps a dustpan — they’re a bit messy.

We ended up with a pretzel and a half left over. For $8.77, we had two sodas, two dogs, three plain pretzels, two dips, and a cinnamon-sugar pretzel, a very fair price. JoAnn also got a bonus — three pretzels deemed too old to sell were wrapped up free, along with advice on freezing and reheating them.

You can get party platters as well, with pretzels in flavors like you’d find on a bagel: sesame, poppy, garlic, and everything. They even come plain.

Sorry, pizza places, but the next time I’m looking for a quick, inexpensive lunch and I’m in the area, I’m headed for the Factory.

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