Before you scarf down that Next Door Kitchen and Bar egg roll, take a moment to consider its origins.
This isn’t some fryer-browned appetizer out of a box. It’s just about the farthest thing from it. Preparation begins weeks before it lands on a patron’s plate. It starts with homemade kimchi -- spicy pickled cabbage.
“The kimchi alone is like a month-long process, just to get that where it needs to be, fermenting it. And then we house-smoke the pork butts that go in it as well, so it’s a pretty cool dish,” said Christian Fignar, who owns the restaurant with business partner Matthew Hall.
Many of Next Door Kitchen’s specialties are weeks in the making. Often, they have roots in the restaurant’s garden, located about a block away. The 40-by-60-foot plot produces beets, squash, eggplant, herbs, a variety of greens and a bounty of other seasonal items that find their way into the creative concoctions the restaurant is known for.
Chef Jeffrey Strom’s ingenuity shines in every dish: crab and ricotta fritters with pineapple, sweet chili sauce and scallions; hand-rolled gnocchi with root vegetables, kale, walnut pesto and gorgonzola cream; braised lamb pappardelle with root vegetables, pine nuts, pecorino and mint. The list goes on, with a variety of selections that salute the seasons.
“He does a lot of unique pairings that really work, always striving to push the envelope,” said Hall.
Established in 2014, Next Door Kitchen is the second enterprise on the same street for Hall and Fignar. They also own Front Street Deli, a few doors down. That proximity lead to the restaurant’s name.
“We literally would run next door and borrow stuff,” explained Hall. “I would say, ‘I’m running next door real quick’ … and it kind of stuck.”
Housed in a vintage space on a Ballston Spa side street, Next Door Kitchen has an ambiance Hall described as “a comfortable, urban barn-type environment.” From reclaimed wood to hand-blown glass, much of the decor was locally sourced. Hall made all of the pendant lights from lamp parts found online and glass hand-cut by a friend.
The restaurant expanded in 2015 and now has two bars that each seat 24 patrons, and two dining rooms that each seat 40.
The owners take as much pride in what is created behind the bar as what comes out of the kitchen. All of the simple syrups and shrubs are made from scratch, and the ice that clinks in the drinks is hand-cut, to ensure it’s crystal clear.
PETER R. BARBER/GAZETTE PHOTOGRAPHER
The dining area at Next Door Kitchen & Bar on Front Street in Ballston Spa Tuesday, April 16, 2019.
“We try and match [Strom’s] food,” Hall said. “He’s really creative back there, so the cocktail program, we try to have as strong as our food program.”
Next Door Kitchen recently upped its offerings of bourbon, scotch and whiskey to about 100 varieties, adding a number of sought-after spirits, Hall said.
Cocktails, like the dinner menu, often contain pairings that are pleasant surprises. One case in point: the blackberry thyme martini, made with Bootlegger Vodka, blackberry and elderflower Pimm’s, blackberry thyme syrup and prosecco.
Hall said Next Door Kitchen is frequented by jockeys from Saratoga Race Course. Saratoga Springs socialite Marylou Whitney also dines there, and is known to order the fried chicken.
“That’s usually what she goes for, and she loves our pate,” he shared. “She’s just super, super nice and has been coming here since we opened.”
More from Dine 2019: Saratoga County
- Iron Roost serves up gourmet waffles in Ballston Spa
- Flatbread Social brings people together in Saratoga Springs
- Forno's Bistro offers Tuscan-inspired seasonal cuisine in Saratoga Springs
- Four Seasons is Saratoga Springs' go-to restaurant for vegetarian and vegan food
- Galway's Cock ‘n Bull still going strong after 43 years
Whitney’s not the only one who keeps coming back for more. Fignar listed the reasons why he believes the restaurant is so well liked:
“I think it’s just the unique ambiance, the food is always fresh, we like to support all the local farms around, and [patrons] know they’re going to get a good meal.”
Reach freelance writer Kelly de la Rocha at [email protected]