As always, I hope you’ll read the rest of the review, but your quickie: Puzzles Bakery & Cafe (515 State Street, downtown Schenectady) isn’t game changing (food-wise), but is well worth a visit.
Not wanting to run afoul of the law, we recently did our civic duty and went to see the new Star Wars movie (it was fine). Our schedule wasn’t going to allow for many options before the show, so I’m glad my wife remembered Puzzles, easy walking distance, even on a chilly night, from Bow Tie Cinema downtown. Coupled with free weekend parking at the Broadway garage, it all worked out as smooth as can be.No sense reiterating the story of Puzzles here, you either already know it or can read about it here: Our Story. From an eatery standpoint alone, moderately priced fresh bakery/cafe items like this right downtown is a real treat and a nice change. The space itself still has a clean, new feel to it. Rows of seating align along either side of a long central aisle as you come in and walk towards the counter to order. They could maybe have squeezed in a few more tables (not sure fire code-wise), but the more I think about it, it’s probably well laid out as is. They must do a great business at lunch time, probably with a lot of take away orders. The layout gives people room to line up to order and then stand aside and wait without crowding people eating there. It wasn’t at all busy when we were there. They also have a ‘community room’ that was being used for a birthday party when we were there.
The menu feels just about right for the place, to me. Bakery items, salads, sandwiches. A few bottled drinks or tea/coffee. I went with a panino, opting for the Chicken Bacon Ranch (“Grilled chicken, applewood smoked bacon, creamy ranch, white cheddar, caramelized onions, and a BBQ drizzle on warm sourdough bread”)…apparently forgetting that I had a BBQ Ranch Chicken Salad from Wendy’s for lunch. Oh well…more bacon and ranch (sorry, arteries). There are at least another half dozen sandwiches I would try before even getting to the other choices. If I’d taken more time I’d have probably tried the French Brie and Ham Croissant (“Smoked ham, creamy brie, and raspberry preserve melted on a warm croissant” – *drooling*). The options for a side went by a little fast for me to remember…I think maybe it came with carrots and hummus or you could upgrade for 50 cents or something to a bag of Deep River’s tasty chips, which I did. There may have been another option as well…or maybe the carrots and hummus were also an upgrade? Dang…something along those lines, just can’t recall.
We sat and our food was brought out after a few minutes. Tables are also bussed when you’re done, so just leave things on the table (we were confused about this). Everything was hot and fresh, service from ordering to delivery to bussing was friendly, despite closing time coming on.I was generally pleased with my sandwich’s flavor. Honestly I would have liked to see some stronger flavors, with a limited menu like this, I think they could jack it up a bit, I mostly got BBQ sauce as the dominant flavor. Then again, maybe I went a little safe, some of the other things might be better, I’m looking forward to finding out. I will quibble just the tiniest bit with the portion at $8.00. The sandwich size was fair for the price, especially given the location and the fact that you get a side. My problem was the relative emptiness of my sandwich. See below. There’s just not much chicken going on there. On the basis of just one order, though, I’m going to give a heavy dose of ‘benefit of the doubt’ because they may simply have been running low close to closing. We’ll see on another try what we get.I will say this, the bacon was fantastic. This was real deal bacon. Tasted freshly cooked, not any kind of precooked nonsense. I tasted it by itself and wouldn’t have been surprised if it came right out of my pan (ok, oven…I bake my bacon, now). Reasonable thickness, nice and fatty, just crisp enough. Great job with that bacon, Puzzles! The bacon alone bought some of that ‘benefit of the doubt’. They also do breakfast sandwiches…if the bacon’s like that, I bet they’re pretty good.
I’m not ready to rave about Puzzles, I have to eat there again a few times and try some more items, but I can definitely recommend you give them a try if you’re in the area and want something different than a sub or slice. Hmmm…they’re open 10-3 on Sunday…might have to pop in while downtown for the Greenmarket! You go east on State away from Proctors a few blocks, past Zen and the Citizens (Puzzles is on the same side as them, not the Proctor’s side of State) and you’re right there.
Now to get into the re-opened Bel Cibo for a panini face off.