The Bread Basket Bakery is literally ‘baking’ a difference in fighting food insecurity.
Lunchtime is busy in Saratoga, and no matter where you go or what you decide to eat – there’s a plethora of restaurants to pick from. This means mid-day on a relatively quiet Tuesday is no different than scrambling for a place to enjoy breakfast, lunch, dinner, or dessert during the busier weekend days: It might take a while to figure out the ‘where,’ but it’s always worth the wait-time.
Set in a charming little cottage-style brick building with bright blue roofing and inviting tables under umbrellas on their sunny patio, the Bread Basket Bakery seems like the perfect spot to grab a light lunch on my break from work.
I hadn’t been to the Bread Basket Bakery before. Still, with sandwich names like The Congress Park, Hathorn, Broadway, and The Carousel, it’s easy to feel the familiarity of our Spa City all around me when I look at their online menu. They also have two specialty salads –The Harvest salad and The Chicken Lias, as well as several paninis.
There are plenty of parking options in the area, and even though my search for a nearby lot with empty spaces takes a few extra minutes, the walk to my destination boasts streets lined with flowering trees and a welcoming view of our historic Congress Park.
Once inside the restaurant, I notice photos around the walls, but one immediately draws my attention. It’s a vertical frame with pictures of the Bread Basket Bakery’s journey to where and what it is today. The building itself, built in 1933, was once located on Broadway – the main downtown area of Saratoga. In 1978, it was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. A buyer from Buffalo moved the structure to this Spring Street location to avoid demolition during Saratoga’s Urban Renewal movement. I love historic architecture and was excited to learn that it’s one of the last remaining examples known as a “Pure Oil English Cottage Station” designed in 1927. For a time, it housed Kiley’s Gas Station, then the Great Bay Clam Company, then a branch of Citibank, and now it’s home to this delightful bakery, serving meals throughout the day.
The Bread Basket Bakery began in 1982 out of a home kitchen where then-owner Joan Tallman baked goods for friends and family before moving to this 65 Spring Street location in 1990. From the get-go, her restaurant quickly became a Saratoga staple. Lisa and Ed Mitzen purchased the Bread Basket Bakery from Joan in 2020. They have remained steadfast in offering patrons the same tasty recipes the Tallman family served for over four decades. Shortly prior to purchasing the bakery, the couple founded Business for Good in the Fall of 2020 (in the midst of COVID!). They strive to give back in hopes of moving the Greater Capital Region communities forward. All bakery and cake shop profits are donated to charities fighting food insecurity throughout the Capitol Region. With their acquisition of the Bread Basket Bakery, it became part of this philanthropic movement.
To adorn a ‘Business for Good’ badge, the Bread Basket Bakery must adhere to four standard Business for Good practices: a commitment to service, practice inclusivity and diversity, provide competitive wages and health care for full-time employees, and be community forward: donating some or all profits to local charities. The Bread Basket Bakery chose the latter; all profits are donated to charity.
Before the business’ grand re-opening, the bakery underwent a few changes, including new floors, updated display cases, and a fresh coat of paint. They also discovered beautiful windows that had been hidden behind drywall. Talk about a face-lift! The new owners also celebrated with a formal ribbon cutting in October of the same year. There the Mitzens presented a check for $25,000 to Capital Roots, a non-profit based in Troy, NY, which works to reduce the impact of poor nutrition on people in the region.
Not surprising to find out the Bread Basket Bakery donates all its artisan loaves at the end of each day. I discover a rotation of people come to pick them up, delivering bags of fresh, hearty loaves of bread to local food banks, senior centers, churches, and homeless shelters throughout the Capitol District. And even though Joan no longer owns the restaurant, she still visits and even picks up bread donations to deliver in and around Saratoga.
When I asked Chase how he sees Business for Good and what the foundation stands for, he quickly answers. “We feel strongly that people should have access to the same wonderful meals – no matter their financial status.” Chase smiles and tells me, “We love to say we’re baking a difference!”
Now, back to my dining experience at the Bread Basket Bakery.
At the display case, you can order breakfast all day, which is great because I have friends who love to eat savory morning meals every chance they get! For breakfast, the chefs serve up things like The Italian Wrap - stuffing a large wheat or white wrap with two fried eggs, sauteed arugula, sausage, roasted red peppers, and fresh mozzarella cheese. They also have avocado toast on the menu, one of my favorite breakfast choices. I’m happy to see the bakery offers gluten-free choices, so I can invite friends who have difficulty finding restaurants with gluten-free options on their menu the next time I visit. I’d be craving their Cinnamon French Toast – freshly baked cinnamon swirl bread with maple syrup and butter. Yum…
And, at this casual eatery, you order at the counter and then find your seat. But, with so much to choose from, I decided to step out of line. I needed a few minutes to figure out what I was in the mood for. The eatery smelled inviting, a mix of breakfast and lunchtime items mingled in the air. Eventually, I chose their Thoroughbred panini. It’s grilled chicken with fresh mozzarella cheese and roasted red peppers. The cashier rattles off a selection of bread, and I jump at my favorite – sourdough. When it comes to my table with chips and a pickle, the bread is grilled to a toasty brown, and the cheese oozes everywhere – just like I love it. The red peppers add a ton of flavor. Other people order the hot soup of the day: split pea and ham or spicy tortilla soup with melted cheddar cheese. They both look amazing.
I order a bottled juice drink with my lunch – coffee can wait a bit. When I’m ready, I order a steaming cup with a shot of lavender. There are many flavored shots to pick from; Butterscotch, brown sugar, cinnamon, and coconut are a few. I’d never heard of adding shots like this to hot coffee, but I think it’ll go nicely with the dessert I want to try: Tiramisu. Chase, one of the folks who work at the Bread Basket Bakery, has an easy time talking me into it. “This is a new dessert for us,” he says. “I haven’t tried it yet, but I hear it’s amazing.” I laugh and order my own. “I’ll let you know what I think,” I smile as I take it to my table. I’ve enjoyed this dessert several times, but The Bread Basket Bakery’s version is something else! You don’t know what you’re missing if you’ve never tried it.
I think it’s fun to learn about food and where it comes from: little facts and lore like these make my meal more interesting! Tiramisu is an Italian cake made with ladyfingers dipped in coffee. The mascarpone custard filling is light and creamy. There are notes of coffee, vanilla, and brandy with just a hint of chocolate. There is much dispute about the origins of tiramisu. According to the Accademia del Tiramisù (an organization devoted to ‘transmitting the culture of tiramisù’), Tiramisù was officially created in the Beccherie restaurant in Treviso in 1970. However, some believe this decadent dessert was baked in the 19th century in honor of the Count of Cavour to lift his spirits after encountering many obstacles while trying to unify Italy. Others tell us a sultry madam in the 1960s created the dessert and offered it as an aphrodisiac for her customers. In Italian, the name Tiramisu means “pick me up” or “cheer me up.” This menu choice does both.
If this sweet treat is too heavy, don’t fret: the bakery sells enormous cookies, dessert bars, and gourmet brownies – on this day, they were displaying mint chocolate frosted. There were cupcakes with thick frosting – some were decorated like Sesame Street characters. Specialties like bear claws, cinnamon buns, and more are available. I took home two Snickerdoodles – cookies that were so big they should last this sweet tooth a few days.
Saratoga Springs has a thing for ducks. Every year in the spring, you’ll see drivers slow down and stop their cars, waiting for the families with new ducklings to cross the road. No one beeps a horn to get them to hurry up. So, I smile when Chase says, “You wanna see something?” I follow him out the back door, and he points to a mother duck (also known as a hen). She’s made a depression in the dirt and is busy laying eggs. There will be babies soon, and Chase looks pleased he might be there to see their birth happen. “People who come in to eat always ask if the little guys are here yet. It’s fun to see everyone involved and interested in the ducks.” His little side story makes me think of community, neighborhoods, and genuine care for each other.
By the time I leave, it has warmed up quite a bit, and customers have filled the tables on the front patio. Several folks are dressed in work attire, while others are there with strollers and babies. There are so many babies! I hear one mother say, “Looks like a great mommy playdate,” to another woman carrying a little one outside. It’s always nice to listen to people chatting over coffee and their meals.
The next time I visit the Bread Basket Bakery, it will be for breakfast. It’s a restaurant I would highly recommend – the atmosphere is warm and welcoming, the food selection is more than ample, and the desserts are something to write home about.
Besides that, I left feeling like I did something meaningful, helping others fight hunger in the community and becoming a part of something larger than myself.