SARATOGA SPRINGS Pizza at Spot Coffee. I was expecting a sandwich, maybe a salad in a plastic clamshell. But the coffee shop impressed me with its lively space, thoughtful menu and good food.
Spot Coffee in Saratoga Springs is on Railroad Place, at the corner of Division Street, the crossroads of an upscale, heavily residential, urban-style neighborhood. The atmosphere is hip and funky. Tony condos sprout wrought-iron balconies draped in annuals. Purebred dogs trot by with well-dressed owners at the other end of the leash.
You can relax at an umbrella table on the patio in front, near the fountain, inside the bright high-ceilinged shop at a counter or in the long, closed-off, glass-walled room that separates the restaurant and the street on one side of the building. It’s not quite inside, but not outside, and you can see and be seen at widely spaced wood tables or comfortable seating areas that are perfect for eating, visiting, chatting and drinking coffee.
Filling the ‘space’
So many restaurants, including Spot Coffee, long to fill what’s called the third space, the place between job and home in people’s lives. It’s a place where you can drop in and sit, think, read, eat or meet friends. Spot Coffee offers a comfortable, attractive venue for that purpose.
It’s not just about the coffee here, and the food is definitely not an afterthought. There is in-house roasted coffee, upscale beverages, fresh baked goods and signature light meals including breakfast sandwiches, well-thought-out sandwiches like chicken with pesto, sun-dried tomatoes and mozzarella grilled on focaccia ($8.95). Sandwiches come with chips or field greens on the side.
Then there’s the pizza.
We headed to the end of the long counter to put in our order. There were two bright, effervescent women ready to help us. Though we changed our order after the tab was run and offered to pay the [small] difference, we were told, “Don’t worry about it,” with a smile. This expansive, generous attitude was shared by all the employees we saw at Spot.
“How’s the pizza?” I asked of the women. “Delicious,” she replied. I ordered a Margherita pizza ($7.95), JoAnn ordered a spinach salad ($7.95). They call your name when your order is ready.
We paid and walked to the other end of the counter, where our food was already in progress. We made ourselves comfortable on some nearby stools and kept an eye on the proceedings.
“Where do you get the dough?” I asked the woman assembling the pizza. She jerked a thumb toward the kitchen. “Katie makes it here.” We took that as a good sign.
I heard my name and turned to see a picture-perfect pizza topped with fresh basil being placed next to the spinach salad. Now, here is the awkward part. You can pick up your food, your condiments, your cutlery, drinks and napkins and straws and head for a table, but I recommend multiple trips.
We settled down at the Railroad Place end of the glass room and dug in. JoAnn shared her spinach salad. The stems were somewhat leggy, but the spinach tasted fresh. We especially liked the sliced strawberries and blueberries in addition to the crumbled goat cheese and minced red onion. There was a half-filled container of assertive raspberry vinaigrette; you don’t need a lot. You get two pieces of focaccia, and it makes a satisfying meal for one.
The small pizza is big enough for two people to share. It’s puffy around the edges, with agreeable bits of burnt cheese stuck to the crust and a few air bubbles that give it an artisanal, hand-crafted look. They don’t stint on the sauce, which is loaded with tomato and onion, or the fresh basil. The cheese trailed hot strings as we put it on our plates. The bottom, covered with a dusty residue of flour that easily brushed off, was nice and brown.
Spot offers fancier pizzas, like the Mediterrano, with oven-roasted vegetables, mozzarella and goat cheeses, extra virgin olive oil and sun-dried tomatoes ($8.95). It was a pleasant, satisfying meal in an attractive place.
The tab with tax, tip and a soda came to $22.80. We like Spot Coffee and will go back again when Saratoga is not so crowded and parking is a little easier. Those of you on foot or in the neighborhood can head over there right now for a cappuccino or latte.
Or just go for the pizza.