There aren’t many restaurants that cater their menu around one item. It’s bold. It’s daring. And to many it might seem partially insane, but those people have never visited Iron Roost in Ballston Spa.
Fluffy waffes might not seem like they could put up a right next to heavier-weight competitors such as sirloin steaks, but there is more than meets the eye to these buttermilk-filled, light delicacies.
They can be drizzled in delicious syrups and sauces and topped with fruit or serve as bookends for meaty innards; in fact you many never want to use regular bread again.
“Iron Roost is really about a unique experience,” owner Linnaea DiNallo says. “It’s not just a place to eat, it’s a place to meet and it includes all the comforts of home. I’ve heard people say when they come in o the street that they feel like they’re transported to a different place. We want people to appreciate the warmth of the space, the friendliness, the welcoming feeling they get from our staff. And of course, the quality of our homemade food. For us, it’s about creating the full experience.”
The restaurant began when DiNallo had the desire to create something that no one else was doing. She describes it as a “from the ground up” concept. “When I knew I wanted to open a business, I knew I wanted it to be a restaurant,” DiNallo says. “And then once I decided on the one thing to focus the menu on, the one star item, the waffle, the ideas just started exploding from there.”
A wooden bookcase, full of various bindings, lines one of the walls of the establishment. On the top shelf rests a sign that reads: “Well-behaved women rarely make history.” Taking the traditional route is certainly not DiNallo’s style.
It wasn’t a tough decision for her to place the waffle in the spotlight. “I chose waffles because no one else was doing it,” DiNallo says. “We made it the star on every plate and offered it in a different form than people might expect. What people think of traditionally as a waffle—we’ve changed the rules. A savory waffle. A waffle sandwich. A cinnamon bun waffle. The waffle as we know it changed forever.”
The beauty of the small crispy batter cake is harnessed in its simplicity. “A waffle is a blank canvas, like pizza dough or pie crust or a sub roll,” DiNallo says. “You can pretty much create anything you want, and that’s really exciting.”
The cake-like culinary treat is a Belgian specialty; however, the first primitive waffles date back to the Neolithic Age when they emerged as a rustic hotcakes cooked atop heated stones (naturally these were not saturated in syrup or other fun toppings quite yet). As time passed they continued to evolve, and by the 13th century, irons were crafted that replicated the characteristic pattern of honeycombs. Finally in 1869, the first patent for the waffle in the United States was received by Cornelius Swarthout on August 24, which is now commemorated as National Waffle Day.
The name “Iron Roost” was based on practicality. “‘Iron’ stems from the waffle iron,” DiNallo explains. “‘Roost’ means to gather, sit, hang out, perch, relax. e two words together—‘Iron’ being more masculine, ‘Roost’ is more feminine—represent a balance, which is reflected in our space and our menu.”
It also adds an element of curiosity that beckons customers to cross the threshold. It doesn’t exactly spell out that this is a waffle house.
The Chinese philosophy of yin and yang describes how “seemingly opposite or contrary forces may actually be complementary, interconnected and interdependent in the natural world, and how they may give rise to each other as they interrelate to one another.”
You’ll find this to be true as soon as you stroll through the front door at 36 Front Street. The menu is complete with light and healthy items as well as ones that are decadent and indulgent. If you’re craving something sweet, the Bananas Foster—two massive waffles topped with sliced bananas, rich cinnamon-rum sauce and homemade whipped cream—or the Double Blueberry Doozy—waffles stacked and oozing with blueberry goodness and slathered in that whipped cream—won’t disappoint. Have a more savory palate? One of the sandwiches such as the Roost Chicken Salad, Garden Grill or even a grilled cheese could be right up your alley. Of course waffle wedges serve as the substitute for the usual sliced bread.
The space is reflected in that equilibrium as well. “There’s exposed brick, and then there’s fresh floral arrangements,” DiNallo says. "There are handmade decorative accents, and then there are solid, iron, brick and mortar accents.” It’s an eclectic mixture that one might expect in the West Village in New York City.
Being located in the heart of Ballston Spa, Iron Roost has spurred revitalization. Even the New York Times lauded back in July 2015 that the “always crowded café [has been] an early catalyst for the village’s revival.” For DiNallo, it’s always been home; this is where she grew up. “I’m a resident of Ballston Spa,” she says. “And a big question for me as a resident was ‘What are we missing? What would I love to have in this area?’ I love being a part of the revival of the downtown business district and really boosting Ballston Spa’s potential. There’s so much here: community, history, architecture and a hometown feel that can get lost in a modern setting or city.”
Business has been booming since the beginning. “We’ve been busy from week one onward and have continued to grow each year we’ve been in business, DiNallo says. “We started with two waffe irons and six staff members and now we’re at 10 waffe irons and 16 staff members.”
As an added bonus for those suffering from celiac disease or gluten intolerance, there are gluten-free options. “I feel that these days, it’s in high demand with all the allergies and preferences that exist,” DiNallo says. “You can’t go without it because there’s a big demand for it. Especially because our menu is based around an item that traditionally has gluten in it. If we want to be able to offer all of our products for people who have allergies, we had to develop a gluten-free option so they could enjoy it, too.”
There are certain staples that will never go extinct from the menu, but DiNallo and her team are constantly trying to stay ahead of the curve. “People become creatures of habit and we don’t want to totally switch up our menu,” she says. “At just five years in, we’ve really hit our stride and are looking to maintain and fine-tune and add within the walls we currently reside in.”
Customers will never cease to see new and exciting additions to tan- talize their taste buds, but the one constant is that everything is made from scratch and the heart. “We never want to fall into a rut, we’re always changing and evolving to keep it exciting for us and our customers—new menu items, new daily specials, celebrating special days and events like National Wa e Day, new furniture or additions to the space,” DiNallo says. “We’re consistently exploring and creating so that no matter if it’s ve years in or 25 years in, hopefully it’s still exciting for people to come and experience.”