The sight of the owner scratching her nose and not bothering to even wipe her hands on a napkin, let alone wash her hands, should have told me everything I needed to know. But this may have been the most pleasant thing proprietor Lauren could have done or said. Since the website for Ravenous does not list her last name I called the number provided at several places to get that information. Lauren answered the phone promptly. My request for a last name for Francesco (her husband) and her resulted in her telling me she could not understand me and her hanging up on me. My accent seems to have been an issue. I guess voice-coaching is in the horizon for me.
As we entered Ravenous, where we had been before, we saw a few places empty. The server advised us that since we were only two, the communal table was not open to us. They would rather keep it open for a larger group. This was the welcome afforded us at Ravenous and instead of giving us a ravenous appetite for their fries and crepes, it took us to an exactly opposite place.
Sadly for the restaurant and for the patrons, the communal table only got empty as we sat at the kitchen counter and ate our fries (tasty) and the crepe (insipid). One would think a restaurant owner would know the hospitality business and etiquette quite well. It seems that the owners of Ravenous either do not care or cannot find to train their staff. There was NOTHING wrong with the staff. In fact it was the staff and their genuine warmth that was the highlight at least for me. Ravenous did attract all kinds of people into the restaurant while we were there. Mothers with young kids, a nun in a habit with a friend, a young couple perhaps on a date... and the table that the nuns sat on turned over twice. For lunch, that is not bad. But the communal table we were denied a seat on, got emptier and finally empty all the way as we finished our fries. Sad!
In being present at the restaurant, Lauren was absent. She was a blur. She was everywhere and yet nowhere. Owners and staff of a small establishment often make quick and deep connections with their patrons. That is the wonderful extra you get for visiting little "hole-in-the-wall" places that some may never discover. Not here. Lauren was doing business whilst the restaurant was running. Talking about service, delivery, recipes, storage and even dead flowers in vases as we tried to enjoy our experience. "Once the flowers are dead, remove them" was what I overheard Lauren tell the lady working the restaurant. Not what you want to hear when eating lunch, dinner or anything. Lauren is a lady on a mission and it seemed it was not about pleasing guests. She seemed busily preparing to leave the restaurant. She smiled at me just as we were almost done with our eating. This was when she noticed I was taking photos. What timing!
The cook making the crepes could not have been more interested and passionate about what he did. He seemed so deeply involved in the task at hand. It was wonderful to sit at the kitchen counter just to have seen this young man at work. Dedicated to the task he was entrusted. Perfectly working on the recipes given him. Surely someday soon, as he moves on, he will find a calling to do something more challenging, something where his creativity will match his dedication and exemplary work ethic. I hope I will recognize his face or name so I can eat there and celebrate this man.
The servers could not have been more polite and intuitive. They knew we had been slighted at the beginning and somehow decided that they would do their best to change our experience. And they did. Our glasses never went empty. Our gaze towards them always caught immediately with the right responses. They were professionals proud of their job and their work. I can see each of them doing even better someplace where the soul of the restaurant (provided by the owners and chefs) is all about hospitality and less about the accounting, chores etc. Not that the other is not important. It is very important. There is a time for everything and during service, at least I think that service ought to be given. And leadership from owners can make all the difference. If the owner only wants to turn tables, and maximize profit, surely money can be made in the short term but soon the experiences begin to add up and word-of-mouth takes over and businesses close.
Ravenous proudly states that it is Saratoga's only crepe restaurant. Sadly the crepes are their weakest link. Once seated where the owner wants the next customers seated, the servers provide excellent service. I must say the fries are quite good. Just as good as some of the best I have eaten anywhere. The dipping sauces are OK. Not special. Again, it is here that the dedication of the owners is illustrated. If they were more about experience, this little detail would be something they would invest in. Rather, they have glossed over it as they certainly have many other details that provide patrons with memorable experiences. The crepe we ordered was far from tasty. Rather sad in reality. Nothing the "cook" could have changed. It was the ingredients that were bad to begin with. If they had been better, the crepe could have been wonderful. My lunch-mate commented about how wonderful the crepes in Paris were. I remembered the wonderful street-side crepes from Tokyo. Our fries gave us the little joy we took back. And of course the employees too made all the effort and the right noises. Not sure I would go back. I am happy using Sheldon Farm potatoes and making my own fries. WIll have to learn to make crepes as artfully as the cook at Ravenous and with the fillings we will use in our own kitchen, I am sure we will give ourselves and those at our tables much better experiences to savor.
21 Phila Street
Saratoga Springs, NY 12866
PS: Could the below menu item be any bit more revealing about the thought process of the chef/owners? One clearly sees where they are coming from. Guess they think a name alone can match Indian flavors. Certainly the recipe is NOT Indian at all. Not sure when I had a curry in India that had chicken, apples, cauliflower, onions and raisins mixed in with "zesty" spices. Maybe I am not Indian after all. You can find other menu offerings by checking out this link.
A delicious Indian curry - chicken, apples, cauliflower, onions, raisins, and
zesty Indian spices-wrapped in a crepe. Includes salad.