In the 1800s, when ladies and gentlemen took horse-and-buggy rides through the streets of Saratoga Springs, there was a carriage factory on the corner of Union and Nelson avenues.
If you’ve been to the Saratoga Race Course, you know this old factory as a restaurant. It was the Springwater Inn, Springwater Bistro and then The Turf Tavern.
About two years ago, Bob and Mary Alice Lee, owners of The Wishing Well, one of Saratoga’s best-known, time-honored restaurants, remodeled and re-opened it as The Brook Tavern.
“This is nice,” said Hubby, as we slid into an old-fashioned wooden booth.
When it comes to atmosphere, The Brook Tavern is a Saratoga winner not only for its Victorian past but because there are so many choices for seating.
In a lounge near the bar, small candlelit tables are set against the windows. In the dining room, you can pick a table with splendid window views of Nelson Avenue, a more formal area with white tablecloths or the aforementioned booths.
On a recent Wednesday night, we were looking for a light meal.
The Brook Tavern
WHERE: 139 Union Ave., Saratoga Springs. 871-1473, thebrooktavern.com, Facebook
WHEN: 11:30 a.m.-10 p.m. daily, until 9 p.m. on Sunday
HOW MUCH: $39, not including drinks, tax and tip
MORE INFO: Parking lot, kid’s menu, takeout, major credit cards accepted.
“Would you like bread?” our server Moises inquired.
Just right bread
We were happy that we answered in the affirmative, as the crusty French bread was not just warm but lightly toasted, ready for dipping into Saratoga Olive Oil, bottles of which are stationed at each table.
“What a great menu,” Hubby said, eyeing the list of small plates, snacks (fried pickles, bacon & brussels sprouts), salads, burgers and tacos.
There’s even a daily “neighborhood meal.” Order it and the tavern makes a donation to a community organization.
“This month’s charity is Saratoga Children’s Theatre,” Moises told us.
Hubby’s opening act was a $5 cup of the soup du jour: shredded pork, white beans and spinach in a rich meat broth.
“It’s like pulled pork,” he said.
Several minutes later, I noticed his empty bowl.
“Hey, I wanted to taste it,” I said.
“It was luscious,” he replied.
My first plate was baby kale salad, $10, big enough to be a meal. Topped with shaved parmesan, tossed with pine nuts and capers, the simple salad was dressed in a perfect light lemon vinaigrette. My only quibble was that the greens could have been chopped a bit smaller.
I’d heard about the Brook Tavern Tacos, which rate their own corner on the menu, and there are three kinds: Ahi Tuna, BBQ Chicken and Steak & Bleu Cheese, $12.
Hubby went for the tuna, and I went for fish tacos, a special that was not on the menu.
Our taco plates arrived in tandem, and there were two big ones on each plate. His came with lime jalapeno cream, a nice touch; and mine were topped with slivers of pickled red onion.
I discovered fish tacos in the 1980s, when I lived in San Diego and traveled in the Baja, and I’m a ferocious but picky fan.
These tacos get high marks, as the fish was fresh and lightly crisped, and the soft tortillas bore attractive grill marks. The shredded cabbage was generous, so each bite of the tender innards had a crunchy counterpoint. A mini bed of mixed greens under the tacos was an unexpected bonus.
We were so satisfied that we turned down dessert.
And we must mention the men and women attired in red-and-blue striped neckties, white shirts and black pants. The service was excellent.
When it comes to upscale casual dining, The Brook Tavern is a sure bet.
Reach Gazette reporter Karen Bjornland at 395-3197 or [email protected]