Chris’s Short Take: Seneca, An Introduction

When I signed on to cook at Druthers years ago, the kitchen wasn’t open. The bar wasn’t built. Hell, I painted the women’s room waiting for the stove to show up. And as I painted away in one corner, Chef Mike Spain sat painting in the other describing the restaurant of his dreams. “An open wood-fired grill in the center of things that we could do incredible things on, using locally sourced ingredients, and a menu to go with the seasons!” Well, ladies and gentlemen, I give you Seneca.

Mike is an interesting guy, who married an interesting gal, the former Michelle Zawadzki. Both are graduates of the elite Culinary Institute of America, and the veterans of many kitchens before this one. There’s a big difference in the kitchen this time though… this time it’s their kitchen.

My friend and I headed up to Saratoga on a chilly night just before Saratoga Chowderfest. The restaurant is right in the middle of town, just off the main street and around the corner from the parking garage that services most of downtown Saratoga Springs. A plain brick exterior belies the unique nature of the experience inside. Just a hint of smoke in the air when you walk in, flames shooting from the hearth, the pop of a cork from the bar and laughter from the boys on the line accompany you to your table.

My advice is to call for reservations now, it’s not going to be as easy once the racing crowd gets a taste of this.

Fried Chicken Deviled Eggs with Wood Fired Ranch Dressing and Chipotle Honey

For those of you following along at home, this menu is impossible to recreate without a wood-fired grill like this. The key to the dishes here is the subtly of the smoke flavor, (so easily overdone, but so well done here), and the freshness of the ingredients. These Beef Cheek Slap Noodles, with house-made Biang Biang noodles, Red Chile Sauce, Purple Radish, and Sesame Seeds prove that point.

Beef Cheek Slap Noodles

Michelle’s heritage is heard from on the current menu with Pierogis with Farmer’s Cheese and Potato covered in Carmelized Onions, Sour cream, and Fried Leeks.

Pierogis with Farmer’s Cheese and Potato

The kicker for me was the Crab and Poblano Fritters with Wood Fired Tomato Veloute, Creamed Spinach, and Buttermilk Fried Onions

Crab and Poblano Fritters

Saratoga is a tough town to start a restaurant in. When I was a kid running down to my grandfather’s editor office at the Saratogian I watched many of them come and go. But I have a feeling this one is here to stay,…for as long as Mike and Michelle want it to anyway. My advice is to call for reservations now, it’s not going to be as easy once the racing crowd gets a taste of this.

17 Division St
Saratoga Springs, NY 12866
(518) 430-2045

  1. Dave Render says

    Go figure. Chris Shaw as a food critic and chef – nice career move! I’m loving these articles!

  2. Chris Shaw says

    Thanks, Dave! I still play, but only in the living room! Thanks for reading, be well!

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