SARATOGA SPRINGS — Longfellow’s Inn and Restaurant is a popular, attractive venue for weddings and other large gatherings. They turn out high-quality, crowd-pleasing food for events, and as my friend Lisa and I discovered, in their restaurant as well.
If you like a white-tablecloth restaurant with no surprises and a very traditional American menu, then Longfellow’s is for you. They do it well.
The restaurant is in a barn-like building, divided into open, staggered levels. It’s handsome, well-run and a little bit formal.
Lisa and I had been sized up by the hostesses and deemed fit to climb several sets of stairs to the topmost dining room, with its bird’s-eye view.
It was a little disconcerting, looking down on people’s heads and plates from our seats, but we forgot about it soon enough, as our extremely attentive, enthusiastic server got things underway pronto. Before we knew it, she’d jogged down and back up the stairs with drinks and menus and she kept up that pace throughout dinner.
The online menu looks different than the one we saw at the restaurant, but for what it’s worth, it lists starters that are seasonal and interesting, like watermelon Caprese salad ($12). Entrees are very traditional; from the land: beef grilled, roasted, braised and in salad, Cornish game hen; and sea: Mahi mahi and lobster, bourbon salmon, seared Ahi tuna, a fried seafood platter. Prices are about right for this kind of upscale establishment, eggplant roulade is $19, the most expensive is the beef tournadoes with shrimp, at $32. Salads not included.
There are meal-sized salads, and burgers. You’ll find wings ($12) on the bar menu.
In any case, we ordered from the paper specials menu while I sipped a glass of delicious Napa Valley Flint & Steel Sauvignon Blanc. Lisa ordered a prix fixe meal ($24 for three courses, available Sunday — Friday 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.) and I decided on the day’s special, the tour of Italy.
Lisa started with the day’s soup, a chicken-based chowder she called, “Amazing, and hearty,” with corn, carrot, tomato, celery and lots of chicken and noodles. “Tons of stuff,” she said, and “very flavorful.”
The house salad ($6) was fresh but the vegetables and croutons were too big to eat easily. The house white wine balsamic dressing is very good, with a nice kick of garlic.
Lisa dunked the cucumber slices in the dressing and gave it high marks as well.
The tour of Italy ($25) platter, with chicken, eggplant roulade and shrimp scampi all served over al dente spaghetti, provides a window into what’s going on in the kitchen. The shrimp were perfectly cooked and seasoned, with lots of garlic in a balanced sauce. Two rolls of breaded and fried eggplant were stuffed with ricotta cheese and marinara sauce, topped with melted, attractively blistered mozzarella cheese, all good, but the breadcrumbs tasted slightly sweet, which threw everything off.
Lisa agreed. “They need someone’s Italian mother in the kitchen,” she observed. Like hers, perhaps.
I had to agree, especially about the last component of the dish; the boneless grilled chicken breast, cooked very well with an Italian-style marinade, is a step further from Italy than even the Italian-American cooking we are used to. The garlic bread was made with what looked very much like a sliced dinner roll.
As an assessment of the kitchen, the tour of Italy was perfectly executed and reflected a desire to produce more crowd-friendly fare. Which is all okay, just so you know what you’re getting.
Lisa’s entree was more on the mark, roasted turkey with all the trimmings, something that would go over well with lots of people. The sliced white meat turkey was moist, the mashed potatoes smooth and garlicky and the stuffing dense and a bit crumbly. She loved the herb-scented gravy.
The sautéed yellow and green squash were a welcome reminder of summer, and the whole cranberry sauce rounded things out. We agreed the prix fix menu is very good deal for the price.
We shared her dessert, baked apple crisp with super-hot cooked, sweet apple slices that did quick work of melting the vanilla ice cream. There was lots of whipped cream and it was attractively finished with caramel sauce. It was plenty for two, especially after a big meal.
The tab for the food, before tax and tip came to $55.
You won’t find any challenges, or surprises, at Longfellow’s restaurant but you will find good food, and service, that will please most anyone.
Longfellow’s Hotel, Restaurant and Conference Center
WHERE: 500 Union Avenue, Saratoga Springs, 518-587-0108, www.longfellows.com/restaurant
WHEN: 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Monday to Thursday, 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday
HOW MUCH: $67.85 for food, with tax and tip
MORE INFO: Credit cards: Visa, Master Card, American Express, Discover. Children’s menu available. Reservations accepted. ADA compliant.