Restaurant review

Front Street Social Club at Ballston Spa

Ballston Spa may have other charms, but those of an edible variety appear to be stuffed on Front Street. The short, sparkling road continues to fill with dining day and night, from brunch at Iron Roost or Whistling Kettle, to lunch at Two Birds Deli, to pints at Henry’s, or to dinner at the ever charming Next Door Kitchen & Bar. Almost all of my visits to this spa town end on Front Street, where the pretty historic facade of the Medbery Inn and Spa has been anchored to the street since 1804.

At the time, Ballston Spa was a resort town in the north of the state like Saratoga or Sharon Springs – de facto Baden-Badens to “take the waters” from underground mineral springs. And while The Medbery, an 11-room old-fashioned spa hotel, is still fed by Sans Souci’s sulphurous mineral spring, owner Jon Taisey has now leased space from chief artist James Fronk who built bespoke a cozy restaurant and bar. in a corner of the hotel once occupied by a purple and pink spa salon, while Fronk’s wife, Jessica, runs the Medbery Hotel spa.

This is how The Medbery finally joins the Front Street gastronomic scene with the arrival of the Front Street Social Club and its retro-nostalgic pastiche, its craft cocktails and its frothy pints drawn by the bartender Barry Whitaker, familiar with the old Bayou Cafés. from Albany and Glenville. With its 200-year-old pressed pewter ceilings and slightly younger pewter tile walls convincingly aged with brown and black paint, you might be fooled into thinking the place has been around for years. The moldings are slanted, the floors are slanted and the candles twinkle, creating a vintage ambience.

The rear bar shelves and custom bar were constructed with beams salvaged from the attic and encrusted with cuts from the basement, some burnt by hotel fire. Tiny coats of arms nestle in the high corners, chalkboards tell of local beers and seasonal cocktails, and one wall in the back dining room is completely covered in a Fronk original: a collage of history and rock. -n-roll.

The menu, however, has a solid range of American comfort food with curious Latin tweaks. Fronk credits his wife’s Mexican heritage, but the most obvious connection is that after many years of cooking at The Old Homestead, a Burnt Hills brother of The Olde Bryan Inn, Fronk took his fried tastes from the north. of State in Bellflower, California, south of Los Angeles, where he ran Fronk’s restaurant for a decade. Back in the upstate with his young family in tow – and two Fronk cooks imported from Los Angeles – the crew offers a sort of crazy West Coast version of fried fair food.

And that’s how a simple Mexican street corn is breaded and fried before being smothered in jalapeño-avocado cream, cojita, lime, and smoked chili powder. It’s an extreme makeover, so original, and that I admit to loving. Meanwhile, baja fish tacos dressed in heavy-duty batter are served with a tangy pico de gallo and pineapple coleslaw; a spicy sausage chili is thin but darker than stout; and beer-battered chicken strips in even crispier beer shells are meant to disappear in a trio of chipotle ranch, smoky barbecue, and garlic buffalo sauce.

Fronk’s seven-hour roast pulled pork appears in Tex-Mexified nachos, buried in gooey mac-n-cheese and filling out a sandwich enriched with kimchi coleslaw. Long-roasted marinated pork butts get their flavor from molasses and a dry rub. Cowboy caviar and sweet pineapple or sour kimchi coleslaw add a fresh flavor to otherwise standard greasy plates. I’m not going to tell you that I love all this fried food any more than I crave food just more than once a year. Plates crush any recommended daily calorie intake; hand-cut yam fries are sweetened with maple sea salt; and a Fronkenburger carrying a colossal breaded onion ring, sweet maple bacon, greasy cheese and a chipotle ranch absolutely gush with juice and oil.

But those around us sipping chocolate stouts and jalapeño and cranberry margaritas say they are content and tighten their bellies as they leave. From the first take, it’s clear that vintage tropes provide a sort of old-fashioned comfort for a mature crowd: a safe and cozy local pub, with nothing terribly hip and no cranky nooks and crannies for millennials with boutique tastes. . Like the healing springs below, the familiar clutch of beer, whiskey, and crunchy fried foods makes the Front Street Social Club a restorative destination of comfort and joy.

Dinner for two with two drinks will cost around $ 60 with tax and tip.

Susie Davidson Powell is a freelance British food writer from upstate New York. Follow her on Twitter, @SusieDP. To comment on this review, visit the Table Hopping blog,

Front Street Social Club

54 Front Street (at the Medbery Inn and Spa)

Spa Ballston

Telephone: 518-309-3245

The Web:

Hours: 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday, 4 p.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday, 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday; closed Monday and Tuesday. The weekend brunch will start at the end of December.

Price: Cheap.

Food: American fried comfort foods with a fresh Latin twist.

To drink: Full bar, seasonal cocktails, draft beer, wine.

Atmosphere: Cozy and vintage atmosphere, pub atmosphere.

Noise: 2

Good for: Dinner, drinks, romantic evening, small families, small groups, celebrations.

Noise level: 1- silent; 2 – comfortable / conversing; 3 – strong; 4 – disruptive.

Price range: cheap, moderate, quite expensive, very expensive

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