By Susan E. Campbell
Downtown Saratoga will soon have a new restaurant owned and managed by husband-and-wife team Mike and Michelle Spain, two chefs who have been part of the Broadway culinary scene for years.
Named Seneca, the restaurant is taking over 17 Division St., a one-story brick structure that offers the warmth and intimacy that the Spains wanted for their open grill concept, according to Michelle Spain.
Her husband designed such a restaurant in culinary school, she said, and they had talked for years about having their own place. They even knew what they would name it.
“Mike’s mother always said that if she had two daughters she would name them Rachel and Seneca. She had one,” Michelle said, so using the second name is a nod to her mother-in-law.
“This opportunity appeared at a good time,” she said. “We wanted a downtown location and this building was quaint and small enough for a homey atmosphere.”
The building was constructed in the 1960s and always housed an insurance company. It has been completely gutted and features exposed bricks. The Spains hope to have renovations completed and equipment up and running for a mid-July opening.
They hired Sandra Fox, owner and founder of Sensory Six, to design the interior. Munter Construction was hired for the build-out and the Spains did some of the refurbishing on their own, she said.
Michelle is a 2012 graduate of the Culinary Institute of America and has been cooking since she was a 17-year-old in Richfield, Conn.
The chefs have worked together at four restaurants in three states — Connecticut, Maine and New York — most recently at Druthers in Saratoga Springs.
“The concept is based on an eight-foot long, wood-fired grill by Grillworks,” said Spain. “Everything is cooked over a live fire of wood and coals. There’s nothing like it in the area.”
The menu will feature open-fire grilled meats as well as vegetarian cuisine. Every day will feature something different based on the season and availability of fresh ingredients, she said. A new menu is prepared and printed daily.
“We will be working directly with the farmers to see what they have,” Spain said.
“The season is more than four times a year. Really, it is 52 weeks a year,” she said. “We will bring whatever ingredients are bright and fresh at the moment when they are at their best.”
Part of the kitchen visible to guests is the wood-fired pizza oven. There is also a bar that seats ten with not only beer on tap, but also wine.
“We have a great wine program with wines on draft,” said Spain. “This concept is not popular now, but is taking off.”
Both chefs will be working in the kitchen. They have a front-of-house manager and will employ 12-15 staff.
“Seneca will provide a casual atmosphere for snacks, wine or beer, and tasty, creative food without breaking the bank,” she said. “We are excited we can do this in Saratoga, a city rich in history and full of great restaurants.”
By Susan E. Campbell