SARATOGA SPRINGS — 13 North is the latest restaurant to occupy the building facing Route 9 at the Roosevelt Inn. It serves casual, American-style food and by that I mean tasty stuff and big, big portions.
It’s a casual, everyone-friendly atmosphere. I liked the wood and brick walls and metal tables and chairs, and recognized the dining rooms and bar setup from previous incarnations. It was a nice day but we passed up a table on the patio because of the wind.
We got a roomy booth by a window that had a wide sheet of brown paper instead of a tablecloth and a cup of new black crayons, which immediately created an impulse to scribble.
WHERE: 2955 State Route 9, Saratoga Springs, 944-4001, www.13northrestaurant.com
WHEN: Kitchen open 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily. There will be a late-night menu in place for summer.
HOW MUCH: $52.50 for food and one soda, before tax and tip
MORE INFO: Credit cards: Master Card, Visa, American Express, Discover, Diners Club. Children’s menu. Wheelchair accessible. Large parking lot.
A friendly, knowledgeable server greeted us and gave us menus right away, and someone brought puffy, oversized fresh-baked rolls along with plastic cups of homemade garlic and cinnamon butters. “The garlic butter has a nice bite to it,” said my friend Lisa. She liked the other, too. “It tastes like French toast.”
13 North touts simple American fare like sandwiches, burgers and salads. Entrees include two kinds of steak, roast turkey, pork chops, mac and cheese and popular Americanized dishes like chicken Parm. There are caloric landmines like gravy-, cheese- and bacon-topped fries, and Irish nachos, a combination of waffle fries topped with cheddar cheese and corned beef. There are salads like grilled chicken with apple, cranberries, walnuts and bleu cheese.
We shared a large fish quesadilla ($10), which uses breaded fried fish and puts it in more bread, in this case, the quesadilla, then adds cheddar cheese, which was lovely and melty. What was really good were the fresh chopped vegetables, red onion, green pepper and tomato, and the bright and fresh salsa using most of those very same ingredients. It’s a meal, or for more than two to share, and a good start.
Lisa ordered the baked mac and cheese topped with grilled tomato and bacon ($16). 13 North gets points for excellent crispy, smoky bacon, which was a nice, salty contrast to the mac, more creamy than cheesy. It’s a big bowlful, enough to serve two or more. The problem with ordering mac and cheese is that it’s all the same and gets tedious after a while, no matter how good.
Along with the mac and cheese the server recommended the country fried chicken ($18), which Lisa thought we should try, too. It’s a giant portion, three half boneless breasts dunked in very thick batter loaded with cracked black pepper and deep, deep fried. The meat responds by becoming juicy and tender. It looks like too much breading until you taste it, and then you can’t get enough. Lisa dragged crunchy chunks through her mac and cheese for a decadent treat. It’s not subtle: oversize serving, lots of breading, lots and lots of calories, which I’ll pay for.
On their Facebook page, the mashed potatoes look creamy and delicious. On my plate, they were having an off day, as was the nice assortment of hand-cut fresh vegetables. Today the potatoes were dry and a bit crumbly and the veggies were unevenly cut and overcooked. The excellent homemade gravy perked up the potatoes, though.
There’s a long list of homemade desserts and, in retrospect, the Fruity Pebbles cheesecake ($6) was not the best choice although it gets points for creativity. We shared a slice, part pink party cake and part fluffy cheesecake. There was cereal in the crust, which worked, and sprinkled over the top, which got soggy. We liked the cheesecake part a lot, and the globs of real, dense whipped cream.
We enjoyed our meal and very good service, and we both took home lots of leftovers. The tab came to $52.50 before tax and tip.
If you’re in the mood for big plates of traditional American food served in a friendly, casual setting, then 13 North is the place for you.