The limestone walls of the Olde Bryan Inn protect a story, a cuisine, and an attitude of American goodness and heroism that dates back to the Revolutionary War.
Beneath the rough timbers supporting the ceiling, diners sip from ale cups and cut into steaks from a menu that is a modern interpretation of Revolutionary fare, says longtime manager Robin Kelsey.
“We serve Revolutionary cuisine,” says Kelsey, a fixture in the 40-year-old restaurant for 25 years. “Our restaurant is named for Revolutionary War hero Alexander Bryan, and we keep his story and memory alive by preparing traditional cuisine, which we enhance with our personal touches.”
In this week’s Q&A with Boxerbrand blog Recipe for Success, Kelsey offers a glimpse of the popular Saratoga Springs, N.Y. restaurant, which has been in business for four decades.
Q: What’s your secret for success?
I would say it’s the employees and loyalty. Most of our staff has been here a long time. I’ve been here for 25 years. I started by waiting tables while I went to nursing school. And, I decided to stay in hospitality, and never left. We have a lot of employees who’ve been here 10 to 15 years. I think the reason is that we tend to hire people for their core being because you can train people to do anything, but you can’t train compassion or goodness. And those are the traits we look for.
Q: Please tell me a little about your historic building.
The building itself is the oldest in Saratoga. It has been an old tavern, a private home, a laundry, a private home again, and 40 years ago it was purchased and opened as the restaurant it is today. It sits on the historic High Rock Spring, which the Native Americans brought the sick to for its healing powers. And it was named for Revolutionary War hero Alexander Ryan.
*Alexander Ryan was a daring amateur secret agent who spied on the British and was able to tip off the Americans with information giving Americans the upper hand in the Battle of Saratoga, according to Saratoga City Historian Beatrice Sweeney.
Q: How does the restaurant compete for customers?
Our motto is, “Every guest, every time.” We try to make each individual happy and have worked hard to build up our regular clientele. Even though Saratoga is a popular summer destination for the horse racing, we work all year to put the personal touches on our menu, and to create the food that keeps people coming back.
Q: What is your most popular menu item?
Our gorgonzola steak—that’s very popular. Our hand cut NY strip is grilled and then encrusted with Gorgonzola cheese and a panko-horseradish blend, and finished with a hot Creole mustard sauce. We also offer a prime rib, which is well marbled and slow roasted. We have a traditional, old-fashioned turkey dinner, which is roasted daily. * The Olde Bryan Inn also serves country fried chicken, crab & shrimp Portobello, fish & chips, hearty fare, lighter salads, and gluten-free options.
Q: What has been the biggest obstacle?
There has been a changing world in terms of prices for services. Every distributor now has services charges, when they didn’t used to. So our challenge has been to keep our prices fair for our customers.
Q: What advice do you have for someone new to hospitality?
I would say that you’ve got to be flexible and learn to prioritize on the go. There is constant change in the restaurant business, and you have to be prepared for that. I think it’s also important to have a life outside of the business. I have two children, and they help me achieve a balance between work and life. — Olde Bryan Inn uses Boxerbrand’s Café line in its table presentation. Thank you!