As the sun sets on Saratoga Lake, the buzz on Broadway seems so far away.
I’m sunk into an Adirondack chair, a Brooklyn Summer Ale in hand, my bare toes stuck in the sand about 20 feet from the water. To steal a line from the Beach Boys, I’m feeling some darn good vibrations.
For three years, we knew this special place as Lake Local until, in the spring of 2018, the casual restaurant and bar was destroyed in a fire. This summer, after a $6.5 million construction project, Lake Local was reborn as the larger and more upscale 550 Waterfront, with 7,000 feet of indoor space, an outdoor patio and docks for boaters. The location is the same but everything else is dramatically different.
The new building is impressive, sleek and white, with wide-open glass “garage doors” that allow air to swirl inside over the tables, booths and bar, which as it happens, is the perfect setup to push away that nasty COVID-19. When the cold winds blow, the glass doors will close and the Waterfront will stay open.
Just after Labor Day, on a warm sunny evening, Hubby and I headed to the lake, hoping we wouldn’t have to wait too long for a table. In June and July, we heard that the waits were up to two hours long. At the parking lot checkpoint, a staffer said there was a 40-minute wait for a patio table (no wait for inside), and told us to take a seat on the beach and wait for a text.
Minutes after we settled into our beach chairs, a server was bringing us beer and our COVID-season required appetizer. Balancing drinks, a basket of tortilla chips and a guac/salsa combo dish on the arms of the chairs was a bit daunting, but somehow we managed. And exactly 40 minutes later, we were seated on the patio, where sturdy and attractive white tables and chairs are more than 6 feet apart, and everyone has a view of the water.
The staff is well-trained and organized. While our super server Ashley took care of us, other staffers delivered the food and waited on the Adirondack chair people.
Seafood rules the menu — fish and chips, lobster, shrimp, steamed clams and ahi tuna burgers — and we dove right in, although I was tempted to try the house-made veggie burger, a pineapple-poblano-chickpea creation.
Hubby, who is not normally effusive when it comes to food, went gaga over his Swordfish BLT, a specialty of the house that rose above the ordinary right down to its Boston lettuce and honey-chive mayo.
“What a combination. I never had bacon with swordfish. It’s great,” he said. “And I like the brioche roll.”
His side, a knob of potato salad, got thumbs-up, too.
As a former San Diegan, I’ve been a fish taco fiend since the 1980s, and I’ve sampled them across the land. The Waterfront’s fish tacos are good but not memorable. The baked haddock had no crunch and the red cabbage slaw was ho-hum. But I really loved the generous streams of creamy-tangy Sriracha mayo.
(For dessert, we ordered the locally made carrot cake to go. When we got home, we were sad because the nice slice was not topped with berries and whipped cream, as the menu promised.)
Back at the restaurant, as the lake slid into darkness, we lingered for a while to watch the colored lights of boats moving across the water.
Because I am seriously COVID-aware, we hope to return before the glass doors close. Next time, I’d like to share the Steamer Bucket: clams, mussels, shrimp, sausage and red potatoes with white wine, garlic butter and a baguette. Oh, but first we’ll have a beer on the beach.
WHERE: 550 Union Ave. (Route 9P), Saratoga Springs; (518) 886-8654; 550waterfront.com
WHEN: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday; 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 4 to 9 p.m. Monday. Open year-round, but check hours on Facebook as the seasons change.
HOW MUCH: $56.44 for food and Saratoga Water without beer, tax or tip
MORE INFO: First-come, first-serve, no reservations. Kids’ menu, wheelchair accessible.