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Breakfast at Bitter Sweet Cafe in Ballston Spa

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You ever build up a place so much that you’re doomed to have it let you down?

Of course you have.

I’ve been watching the delicious-looking food parade across Facebook courtesy of Bitter Sweet Cafe in Ballston Spa for a while.  Unfortunately, as a breakfast and lunch place, it’s hard for us to get up to Ballston Spa to give them a try.  I finally managed to put a visit together by coupling it with a trip up to Lake George to hit the outlets.

We got there somewhere in the 9:30-10 range and there were a few other occupied tables in the sparse dining room.  Sort of industrialish look, dark floor, a bunch of 2-4 seat tables, kitchen off to the side, limited wall decor in the form of oldish kitchen utensils bolted to them.  I’d say they were at about 20% capacity during our visit with one table of 4 ordering before us, others eating or eaten.  Despite that, it seemed to take forever for our food to come out.  I’m still not sure I understand how that works.  The menu is quite limited and, like most diner-type breakfast options, it’s mostly griddle-cooked stuff that most places churn out quickly.  I didn’t check my watch, but it had to have been a 15-20 minute wait.  I can’t even begin to comprehend how they could deal with a packed house.  Maybe they were short someone?  On the basis of just one experience, all I can say is ‘don’t go if you’re in a hurry’, but hope things go quicker than it did for us.

I had the Breakfast Bowl, basically an omelet in a bowl.  A layer of homefries at the bottom, then scrambled eggs mixed with large pieces of sausage that I chose as my meat, and cheese with bread on the side – I chose an english muffin.  At $8 it seemed a little pricey when set in front of me, but it was misleading, it was a good deal for the price, not too much food, but plenty to fill me up through an early dinner, despite walking around the outlets and then some shopping in Clifton Park.

The eggs were fine, cooked really well – neither runny/wet nor overcooked/rubbery.  Two eggs probably.  The sausage was really good, probably the 2nd best item on my plate.  I want to say 2 largish links worth.  The cheddar was fine, nothing special, helped tie everything together.  The best thing was the homefries, but I don’t say this with any great relish, because they looked like the same small dice homefries that you get a lot of places – aka frozen.  They were tasty, very uniform crispy shell.  If these are in fact made in-house, my apologies and compliments to the chef, because they were very nice and their skill at producing such a uniform product is to be respected.

Let’s talk about the english muffin, shall we?  Why not?  Have you ever had a floppy english muffin?  I’m not sure I have.  I’m not even sure I know how to make an english muffin floppy.  Steaming might do it.  It was clearly grilled, which was nice, and maybe lightly buttered – certainly not slathered.  It was warm.  Yeah, it was thin, but not crazy.  I just don’t know, it tasted OK, but super floppy.  Like ‘hard to keep the jelly on’ floppy.  Maybe it was covered on the grill, essentially steaming it?  The jelly was a couple of little Smuckers packets like every diner and IHOP has.  For some reason they were cold.  I’m pretty sure these don’t need to be refrigerated because they live on the tables at a lot of places and unopened jams and jellies don’t need refrigeration, so getting them cold was odd and it would have been nicer if they were room temp on the just-warm muffin.

I guess that’s all, really.  Everything tasted fine.  The prices weren’t super cheap, but I didn’t feel gouged. We were hungry and finished every scrap with a glass of juice and didn’t need food for many hours.  Prices seemed reasonable, with the exception of the juice, of course, but you have to see that coming.  A cup of soda at a restaurant is going to cost you more than a 12-pack at the supermarket and a glass of juice will cost as much as an entire bottle from Price Chopper.  It is what it is and we’ll continue to just get water most times.

The service seemed fine, it was the kitchen that was slow, almost comically so.  I’m glad we weren’t in a hurry.  Everything tasted OK-to-quite good, despite some quibbles.  From-scratch homefries seem doable for a place trying to push the ‘artisinal’ line they seem to be going for, but maybe you don’t want to mess with something good, homefries can go pretty wrong when all you do is put undercooked, underseasoned potatoes on a plate like some places do.

I don’t know, I’m not sure anyone will get much out of this review.  It was fine.  I’d like to try lunch sometime if I could finagle being in the area at the right time, but getting up there for breakfast from Schenectady County wasn’t worth the trip.

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