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The Frugal Forager: First-rate meal at Saratoga’s Comfort Kitchen is a steal

Sunday, July 28, 2013
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The Comfort Burger, shown at left with a side of tater tots, and a pulled pork sandwich, shown with a side of sweet potato chips, are on the menu at Comfort Kitchen in Saratoga Springs.
The Comfort Burger, shown at left with a side of tater tots, and a pulled pork sandwich, shown with a side of sweet potato chips, are on the menu at Comfort Kitchen in Saratoga Springs.

— Sometimes, you want a fancy meal. Sometimes, you want something quick and dirt cheap. And sometimes, you just want really good, unpretentious, delicious food. For those times, there’s Comfort Kitchen.

In the Saratoga Marketplace (formerly Downstreet Marketplace) in downtown Saratoga Springs, Comfort Kitchen keeps things simple. The menu consists primarily of comfort foods, with staples including cheeseburgers and macaroni and cheese, and the ingredients are sourced primarily from local farms. The menu changes based on what’s in season, and daily specials offer the opportunity for chef Rory Moran to try out new ideas or bring back old favorites from time to time.

We stopped in on a recent afternoon for lunch, relishing the air conditioning as we walked up to the counter to place our orders. Like the menu, the eatery itself is unfussy: Place your order and pay at the counter, take a seat at one of the wooden tables inside or out in the hallway, then wait for your food to be delivered to you. There’s a wide, open archway between the dining area and the kitchen, so if you’d like, you can take a seat and watch Moran and his staff at work while you wait.

Comfort Kitchen

WHERE: 454 Broadway (lower level of Saratoga Marketplace), Saratoga Springs, 587-1234; www.comforteats.com

WHEN: 11:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday, closed Sundays

HOW MUCH: $31.03

MORE INFO: Delivery available with some restrictions; all major credit cards accepted

Ready to dig in

The counter service was friendly and helpful, and after a few moments of contemplation, we settled on a Comfort Burger with bacon (he just had to gild the lily) and tater tots for my husband, a pulled-pork sandwich and sweet potato chips for me. Also on the menu that day was the Comfort Drumstick, an ice cream sandwich that won a regional ice cream sandwich contest run by local bloggers last summer; it looked tempting, but we decided to wait and see how much room we had left after the main course.

Business was hopping, so we had a bit of a wait for our food, though not an unreasonable one. Soon enough, we had our food and were ready to dig in.

The pulled pork sandwich, served on a large, slightly dry white roll (all the better to soak up the juices), was really, really good. This wasn’t your typical sticky-sweet meat on a bun; rather, the meat itself was moist but not oversauced, seasoned and smoky without being cloyingly so and, of course, very tender. On top of the pork was a small pile of house-made slaw, the primary components of which looked to be red cabbage and thin sticks of sliced apple. The slaw added a nice crunch to the sandwich as well as a sweet-and-sour flavor contrast. Also on the bun were house-made pickles, which looked like the bread-and-butter variety but had a lot more kick, a good dose of heat. Together, all of the components of the sandwich balanced beautifully, the flavors and textures working well in contrast with each other.

As for the sweet potato chips, they were satisfactory. The texture of some of the chips was a little bit chewy, but then again, it’s hard to get sweet potato slices perfectly crisp without burning them, thanks to their high sugar content. I’d rather have a few chewy chips than cinders.

Phenomenal burger

The real stars of this meal, though, were in my husband’s order. The base of the Comfort Burger is a secret blend of beef cuts, custom-ground for Comfort Kitchen at The Meat House in Wilton. The meat, perfectly cooked, juicy with a nice crust on the outside, was topped with American cheese, lettuce (what looked to be a spring mix) and house-made pickles on a soft potato-bread bun, and it was phenomenal. I insisted that my husband trade halves with me, so I could have some of his burger (and he did want to try the pulled pork), and as I slowly chewed this delicious burger, I realized that one thing usually found on a burger was missing: tomato. No tomato? No tomato on the menu listing, either — no tomatoes anywhere on the menu, actually. But wait . . . tomatoes aren’t quite in season yet, not quite perfectly ripe at most local farms. Ah. It all makes sense. If it’s not in season, not a high-quality ingredient, you’re not likely to find it here. And the burger was so good that the tomato totally wasn’t necessary.

But the burger wasn’t the only star here: The house-made tater tots are incredible. They’re little globes of soft potato bits, perfectly crisp on the outside and seasoned with sea salt and rosemary. Thinking of splitting an order? Bad plan: Once you taste these, you’ll definitely want your own. (I had all I could do to only swipe one or two from my husband’s order.)

A real treat

Everything was great, but we just had to try the Comfort Drumstick. Back to the counter I went, and a few minutes later, we were served two sizable ice cream sandwiches wrapped in paper. Each sandwich consisted of two pizzelle cookies, the insides coated with chocolate ganache, then filled with vanilla ice cream made from Battenkill Creamery dairy products. The sandwich was then dipped in ganache on one side and coated with honey-roasted salted peanuts. The cookies were tasty and shortbread-crisp, giving way easily when we bit into them so that the ice cream didn’t fall out the opposite end, and the delicious ice cream, rich chocolate and sweet-salty peanuts were an improvement on the old-school, mass-produced Drumstick cone for sure. Everything in the Comfort Drumstick was house-made, and it was amazing, worth every single calorie for sure.

The only thing I couldn’t understand after having eaten here was how they manage to serve such high-quality food at such reasonable prices. At $31.03 including tax, this meal was a steal. We’ll definitely be back.

 

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