I’ll admit, sitting by Saratoga Lake on a gloomy day is not the way to see Lake Local at its best. The servers are zipped into hoodies, there’s no one at the dock, and not a soul at the bar — either one, inside or out. “We’d have a different attitude on a sunny day,” said my friend Patrice.
Some things are not affected by the weather, though, and could be improved. Our satisfactory meal, with a few tweaks, could be made much better.
A writer friend said once, at a noisy venue with too many disposable cups, “We’re not the intended audience.” Indeed, the same applies here. My niece Ann Marie recommended the place, no doubt after kayaking up to the dock and enjoying a meal at a sunny table. Or when the place is hopping, and the patio and covered porch are full and the band is playing, with moonlight on the water.
We visited for lunch, midweek, in hopes of avoiding track crowds. There were a few groups inside the light-filled dining room, and some stalwarts outside, protected from the rain and wind by clear plastic walls. Our table had a view across the lake that gave a new appreciation of its loveliness.
Lake Local is related to the Local Pub & Teahouse on Grand Avenue in Saratoga Springs, and though they present different aspects, both are lively with spirited contemporary menus. Lake Local, open from April through November, is in its third season.
Look at the menu: fish, beef, or pork tacos; snacky starters like soft pretzels (at $9 a bit of a stretch), hummus and Naan ($10), grilled corn with chipotle mayo, cilantro and lime ($9); salads like watermelon and goat cheese with cucumber and poppy seed dressing ($11); two all-beef artisan hot dogs ($12); and some favorites like fish and chips ($15) and fish fry sandwich ($13). Something for everyone, all good casual choices.
Lake Local gets points for its thoughtful though limited wine list. It includes a Provencal Rose, New Zealand Sauvignon blanc and Washington state Cabernet at reasonable prices by the glass. And like its sister restaurant, its beer menu is deep.
Patrice ordered the Local burger, which at $12 includes potato salad or chips, and upgraded with cheddar, mushrooms and onions ($1 each) and substituted a side salad for another $2. I got the Barbacoa beef tacos with pineapple mango salsa ($13).
Drinks ($2 each) came in plastic cups — diet cola for me, unsweetened iced tea for Patrice.
The burger came out first. It was handsome, overflowing with sautéed onions and mushrooms, with a wooden spear stuck into the brioche roll to hold everything together. Perhaps the add-ons provided excess moisture, because the roll became inadequate structurally and Patrice ate the whole thing with a fork and knife. It was delicious, she said, cooked medium as requested. The salad looked fresh, the house-made balsamic dressing very good.
“I think the paper kind of dissolved,” said Patrice, pushing the paper liner in the basket around with her fork and a bit dismayed to find some holes. The sauce plus the utensils was more than the liner could withstand.
After a slight hitch, my two Barbacoa tacos arrived along with Local fries ($2 more) and I dug in. Some of the fries were hot and crisp, they looked hand-cut and were beautifully browned. Some of them were cold and soft and crushed; once I was able to distinguish them I enjoyed the fresher ones.
You can’t go wrong with slow-cooked beef, and the spicy Barbacoa was cooked long until it shredded beautifully. It was hot enough to get my attention and spicy enough to keep my interest. The pineapple mango salsa was a sweet, crunchy contrast.
I squeezed fresh lime over my Mexican beef tacos, and along with fresh cilantro, it added up to a lot of flavor. Very good.
The tab for our meal, with two drinks, came to $38.52 before tax and tip.
We walked outside and admired the view across the lake, the brightly colored boats lined up along the docks and looked up at the cheerless sky.
Yes, we think it would all look different in the sunshine and perhaps, if arriving by kayak.
WHERE: 550 Union Avenue, Saratoga Springs, 886-1373, lakelocalsaratoga.com
WHEN: Kitchen open 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday to Thursday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday
HOW MUCH: $38.52 for food and drinks, before tax and tip
MORE INFO: Credit cards: MasterCard, Visa, American Express, Discover. Children’s menu. ADA compliant. Off-street parking.