The cramped and noisy coffee shop in the bank building where my father worked in Brooklyn had booths whose vinyl upholstery had been repaired with electrical tape, and a poky counter with a few stools. The smell of the fry vat lingered, but they delivered, and oh, the corned beef, peppery pastrami, and meatloaf sandwiches that came up to our office wrapped in white paper were heavenly.
I’m sure the coffee shop didn’t survive when the bank was turned into swanky condos and something is surely lost. Coffee shops have evolved, and none more so than the sleek, open, and sunny coffee cafe that is The Fortunate Cup on the west side of Saratoga.
The Fortunate Cup
WHERE: 120 West Ave., Saratoga Springs. 226-0800, fortunatecup.com
WHEN: 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday to Wednesday; 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday; 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday. Drive through opens half hour earlier
HOW MUCH: $21.52 for two meals and drinks, plus a few bucks for the tip jar
MORE INFO: Credit cards: Master Card, Visa, American Express, Discover. Wheelchair accessible. Parking in rear.
Along with the coffee, there’s community. The Fortunate Cup has a conference room available for rental, and they’re collecting food donations for a local community center for the holidays. Bring your knitting on the first and third Sundays of the month and sip and knit. Crocheters welcome. There’s free Wi-Fi, too.
I like the bright open floor plan; the front section has the counter and expansive windows facing West Avenue; there are comfortable chairs around a fireplace in the center and tables in the back. A convenient back entrance leads to the parking lot.
My sister JoAnn tipped me off to The Cup. She sometimes meets friends there for coffee. “It’s comfortable and they never rush us out,” she said. So we met one evening for a light dinner. The Fortunate Cup stays open until 7 p.m. weeknights and until 9 p.m. Thursday.
And as far as dinner goes, light is what you’re going to get. The focus is on breakfast and lunch, but JoAnn and I are both very calorie-conscious right now, so it was actually perfect. Prices are reasonable and the fare is light: panini sandwiches, wraps, salads and baked goods. You can get a turkey artichoke wrap for $4.99. The Southwest chicken panini (chicken, chipotle aioli, roasted red peppers and provolone), the Woodsman (roast beef, bacon, Muenster and garlic parmesan), and the Tuscan sun (more about that later) top out the menu at $6.79.
Any establishment that carries Boylan’s sodas gets a thumbs-up from me; I was delighted to find their diet root beer in the cooler.
JoAnn likes the dark roast coffee at The Cup. The coffee menu is extensive, with lattes, cappuccino and custom roasted coffees. You can get hot chocolate and cold drinks like frappes, smoothies and granitas. There’s loose tea and tea by the pot as well.
Put your order in at the counter and it will be delivered to your table. You can ogle the desserts in the cold case and shop for hand-made and locally made gifts while you’re waiting to order. I especially liked the handbags made from burlap coffee bags.
The staff at the restaurant provided especially good service. They made suggestions, had a thorough knowledge of the menu and were extra-pleasant.
I ordered the Tuscan panini ($6.79) and a cup of the day’s soup ($3.99), creamy mushroom. I liked the flavor of the soup and the thin slices of mushroom, but was glad to have something else to eat. It was tasty, just not terribly interesting.
The counter person said that the bread for the panini comes from a local bakery and is made fresh daily. I always wish my panini was slathered with butter before grilling even though that’s not the point. The ciabatta roll toasted up nicely, crisp and not too bready, but the composition of the Tuscan panini could have been better. The Fortunate Cup gets points for using good quality prosciutto and cheese, but the pink tomatoes were indifferent and, as JoAnn said, “Isn’t pesto green?” Perhaps the dark flecks in the sauce were dried basil, but it was just a white dressing to me. It did not help the ingredients cohere. Excellent chips, though.
JoAnn had the spinach salad ($6.28 with grilled chicken breast), a pile of fluffy baby spinach leaves, slices of pink tomato and tasty bacon bits. “I think they’re real bacon,” she said, poking them with the plastic fork. You get a choice of Paul Newman dressings, and she was pleased with the packet of low-fat honey mustard she chose. “It’s like a McDonald’s salad,” she said, upon further reflection. “But McDonald’s has a good salad.” Nothing wrong with that, especially at the price.
There was a variety of desserts, including cookies and muffins, but the bread pudding with tempting crumbs on top ($3.75) was homemade, so I brought one home for husband Eric. The cashier asked, “Do you need another container for whipped cream?” I had already checked: Eric wanted vanilla ice cream. “Be sure to heat it up first,” the cashier said.
“Good,” declared Eric later, after he had heated it in the microwave and topped it with ice cream. “Very good,” he said, reaching for more ice cream.
So seek out the homemade desserts and find your favorite hot beverage at The Fortunate Cup. Bring your knitting and pull a comfy chair up to the fireplace on a chilly night, check your email over a cup of tea or just drive through. Meet your friends for a cozy chat, and they won’t ever rush you out.