Posted by Tegan O'Neill
Druthers, Saratoga Springs's newest brewery, was definitely the place to be on a recent Saturday night, with a crowd so dense that servers could barely squeeze through the expansive maze of tables. Such support for the Saratoga dining scene was exciting to see. The people around me clearly seemed out to have a good time; they were there to enjoy good company and good beer and, judging from the volume level, I am pretty sure they were. The food, however, was another story. Druthers, I've learned, is a brewery first and an eatery second.
The Smoked Sausage Chips ($7), which began this meal's tribute to cheese, meat and starch, was probably the strongest plate of food that came out of the Druthers kitchen. The potatoes were cut into thick pieces with a cheesy sauce, laden with chunks of sausage and lightly spiced with fennel. They actually tasted just as good as the menu implied they would.
The flavor profile of sour cream and onion chips swept me into a nostalgic mood, and there was also hint of spice (maybe curry, or chili, or paprika) that made what I was eating seem slightly exotic while still maintaining an air of pleasant comfort. Sadly, the portion was much too large for only two people to finish, and chips drenched with cheese are not the type of thing that you can really enjoy reheated.
The From the Smoker Mac and Cheese ($15) was another story. It was advertised as super creamy and cheesy, with hunks of pork and bacon to please meat lovers and just a dash of BBQ sauce on top to give the dish some flair. It had the potential to be show-stopping, but it was only average. It simply felt like an overly creamy version of the classic macaroni dish, which left me bitter and disappointed. There was not enough BBQ sauce, pulled pork or smoked bacon and, in general, not enough flavor complexity to sustain my interest past a few mouthfuls. For something so bland, the portion was unreasonably large.
Worst of all was the Bacon-Wrapped Meatloaf Sandwich ($13). Some might say that one should never have great hopes for meatloaf, but I beg to differ, having been lucky enough to experience a truly delicious meatloaf sandwich in the past. Reading the menu's description detailing beer braised mushrooms, smoky BBQ sauce, melted cheddar, and crispy onions on buttered sourdough, I knew I wanted it in front of me. What they called a meatloaf sandwich, though, tasted like a burnt hamburger. I was astonished that each time I went back for another bite, I tasted less and less. The bread, too, was disappointing and the fries reminded me too much of McDonalds for me to enjoy them. As if all that were not enough, the presentation on the plate was horrendous. Druthers' poor meatloaf sandwich really had nothing going for it.
What I learned from eating out at Druthers is that if you like food to take the center stage when you go out to eat, eating at this brewery is not a good idea. If you like to savor your food and if you like portions to be on the small side so that you are left tantalized, eating at this brewery is not a good idea. If you like to use an inside voice when you go out to eat, eating at this brewery is not a good idea. But if you know all of these things ahead of time, and accept them as given, by all means, go out to eat at Druthers and enjoy its pub food and extensive beer selection in all of its glory.
To read more of Tegan O'Neill's outings, visit her blog at http://tegan-and-sarah.blogspot.com/