Waffles are Linnaea DiNallo’s specialty — sweet waffles, savory waffles and even mashed potato waffles.
The versatile pastries are served as a gourmet eat in New York City restaurants and food carts, and DiNallo has started a similar restaurant on Ballston Spa’s burgeoning Front Street business district.
Minus the waffles, Iron Roost’s lunch menu sounds like the norm: steak sandwiches, chicken salad, egg sandwiches and a grilled creation with portobello mushrooms, spinach and roasted red peppers. The exception is that when served on a plate, these sandwiches are contained in a crispy, savory waffle wedge, rather than bread or a wrap.
Iron Roost also features a sweet waffle menu, including waffles topped with bananas foster, lemon mascarpone and strawberries, and blueberries and whipped cream.
And, of course, it serves breakfast, dishing up waffles with eggs and maple syrup.
Some waffles are made as thin as a tortilla; others are concocted with polenta or mashed potatoes.
“What we did is just put our signature mark on it with the waffle,” DiNallo explained.
Anything can be made vegan or gluten free, as well, with gluten-free waffles made on a special iron that wheat never touches.
DiNallo, 34, was a graphic designer at marketing firm McMurry in Saratoga Springs before deciding to open her own restaurant. To be successful, she wanted a different sort of menu.
“There’s not a lot of it out there,” she said of waffle eateries.
There appear to be no others in the Capital Region devoted to waffles alone, though other places do whip up Belgian waffles for their menu or as a special. Max London’s in Saratoga Springs, for example, serves Belgian waffles on its weekend brunch menu, topped with whipped butter and local maple syrup.
In New York City, restaurants in recent years have made the waffle a fancy treat with gourmet toppings or capitalized on its comfort food potential by loading it up with fried chicken.
Other restaurants have specialized over the years in making other breakfast foods more elegant. Ravenous in Saratoga Springs has made a brisk business out of serving savory and sweet crepes for lunch, dinner and weekend brunch.
Before she opened Iron Roost, DiNallo tested all kinds of waffle recipes on friends and family for months, using eight or nine waffle irons at home.
DiNallo wanted to open a place in Ballston Spa, where she has lived for the last nine years, and she wanted something with a clear and crisp logo and identity, putting her graphic design skills to good use. The atmosphere at the restaurant, which has exposed brick on one wall and a painted-on chalkboard on another wall, was a priority as well.
“I make sure it’s the right materials, the right color, the right texture,” she said.
DiNallo was interested in the building at 36 Front St. two years before her April 2012 opening, when Mino’s Japanese restaurant got the space for a sushi bar. “I want to be part of the development of the downtown,” DiNallo said. “We’re here for the community.”
Since she opened, people have traveled to the restaurant from all over the area: Saratoga Springs, Niskayuna, Schenectady, Clifton Park and Albany, as well as the local Ballston area.
The restaurant is open from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday.
Looking forward, the business has room to grow and keep innovating, DiNallo said. She’s open for First Fridays in Ballston Spa, an evening event that showcases local arts and businesses, and she’s toying with the idea of getting a liquor license at some point, in order to serve alcohol with dinner.
Her salad dressings and sauces are homemade, and “people say, ‘When are you going to bottle the hot sauce?’ You know it’s good when people are like, ‘I want to buy this.’ ”
To read all the stories from the 2013 Outlook special report, click here.