Hungry for some comfort food these days?
There will be more to choose from this summer if you have an appetite for inexpensive and simple foods.
Saratoga Springs has no shortage of high-end restaurants, but the slate of new eateries fills an under-served niche, said Robert Lizardo, co-owner with John Ball of The Backstretch at 38 Caroline St.
“I don’t know how much room there is for another $25-to-$30-an-entree restaurant,” Lizardo said. “Our concept was, you should be able to come in and have a beer and a bite to eat for $20.”
The new restaurant serves up comfort food: shepherd’s pie, a shrimp po’ boy, pasta and fish and chips. None of the entrees exceeds $12.
“They’re really simple items, but we try to do it really well,” Lizardo said.
They make their own bread and potato chips and batter their own fish.
In this economy, Saratoga Springs can use a few more eateries like that, he said.
Sabina’s Wood Fired Restaurant also specializes in lower-priced home cooking, and entrees like wood-fired pizza, pasta and wood-fired macaroni and cheese are priced between $10 and $16.
Appetizers feed one or two people, said chef/owner Joe DeVivo.
A Sunday dinner special includes a three-course meal for two for $20 total.
DeVivo started Maestro’s in 1997 and sold it a couple of years ago, and he opened Sabina’s in May on Union Avenue where Bruno’s used to be.
Other new restaurants in town include The Irish Times and Seven Horse Pub, both on Phila Street and both slated to open this summer, and El Mexicano on South Broadway, which will be patterned after the Kingsbury restaurant with the same name and will feature a live mariachi band.
Seven Horse Pub will specialize in down-home American dishes like ribs and pasta, and The Irish Times will feature cuisine of that heritage.
Both will offer a comfortable neighborhood pub atmosphere, the owners say.
These new eateries fill empty storefronts, which is a bright spot in the recession, said Andrew Brindisi, president of the Downtown Business Association.
“I think the good news is that the vacant properties are not going to be vacant,” he said.
New restaurants typically open now before the summer tourist season, Brindisi said.
“Usually at the end of the season, people figure out whether they want to do it another year or not,” he said.
Restaurants that won’t do it again this year include Springwater Bistro on Union Avenue, Lanci’s on Putnam Street and Lime on Caroline Street.
A sign at the former Lanci’s says a restaurant called 8 Tables is planned for the space.
Restaurants are known for their slim profit margins, and getting a loan to start a new restaurant is tough even during good economic times. These new restaurateurs either have great credit or their own capital.
“Credit is incredibly tight these days,” said Lizardo, a former investment banker making a career switch.
He and Ball had their own capital to put into The Backstretch Tap Room & Terrace, which they bought from the owners of It’s Confidential and opened in early April.
They also have an option to buy the building, and Lizardo said the lagging real estate market means they can get the property much cheaper than they could have during boom times.
Joe Mack bought the building at 43 Phila St. at auction in December. The former bistro had been vacant for some time, and Mack, a general contractor by trade, has been fixing it up since then to become Seven Horse Pub.
“There is a lot of history that comes with the building,” Mack said.
In addition to serving comfort food, he plans to give the pub character by hanging up caricatures of local notables that he found in the attic.
They were created by Greenwich Village artist Guy Wallick in the 1940s and 50s, Mack said.
At various times, the 1880s building has been a “foreign fruit” market, a blacksmith shop and a restaurant.
By December, Mack plans to open a dining area on the second floor in addition to the first-floor pub, which is expected to open in July.