Heading to Saratoga: Where to Eat and Drink
By Guest Author: Nancy Meyers
Part 1 of this series gave some tips on things to think about when selecting a location to stay in Saratoga. Click here to read that article.
Part 2 of this series offered some “Must See and Do’s” while you are visiting the Saratoga Springs area. Click here to read that article.
So now that you have found a place to stay, and have outlined a plan of things to see while traveling around Saratoga, where will you enjoy a meal with family or friends? In full disclosure, my husband and I do not have children, so if it’s family friendly places you are interested in, we can’t be of much help, except to acknowledge restaurants that appeared to have a lot of families in them. In addition, I am only offering commentary about restaurants or bars or lounges in which we have enjoyed a cocktail or eaten a meal. Reports from other friends about their experiences are not included. Finally, we usually rent a place within walking distance of downtown, so there are few restaurants that require a drive out of town. Here they are, in no particular order.
15 Church Street, Saratoga Springs. http://15churchrestaurant.com/.
We were fortunate to enjoy dinner at this relatively new restaurant on our 2015 stay in Saratoga Springs. The restaurant is cool, chic with interesting contrasts of natural burled wood table tops, leather chairs and muted grey walls. The restaurant is illuminated with prism adorned chandeliers. We enjoyed a a house version of a Parisian 75, and my husband enjoyed a Sazerac. Both cocktails were served in crystal glassware, matching the classiness of the entire restaurant. I enjoyed an appetizer of tuna tartare, while my husband enjoyed “Crispy Oysters”, a house specialty of Georgia oysters lightly breaded and deep fried and served on a bed of radishes and greens with a tangy vinegar based dressing. We then enjoyed our entrees, a brick pressed chicken and veal chop. Both were cooked to perfection, the meat juicy and tender. Our server offered suggestions for wine pairings, which were not always the most expensive offerings on the wine list. We eagerly anticipated our dinner at 15 Church and were not disappointed. The restaurant is small so be sure to check for in and outdoor options and make a reservation.
42 Ferry Street, Schuylerville. http://amigoscantina.net/
As we said, we always rent a place in Saratoga Springs so we can walk to the track and downtown. Other than a day excursion, the car stays parked in the driveway, especially for dinner. Since Amigo’s Cantina is a sponsor of this website, we were invited to have dinner recently, as we had never dined there before. As Neal had predicted, we absolutely enjoyed our dinner there. First, you have to admire a restaurant that is packed on a Sunday evening both inside and on the patio. The dress code is casual. As the name suggests, this is classic Mexican with some surprising twists. If the owner, Rob has a second to talk, ask him why he started the restaurant and his background in the food industry…..if you are thinking of a second career, he will inspire you to go for it. We ate at the bar which allowed us to gaze at the art behind it which mimics the statuary from an old Mexican church. I had a house margarita. It had the right blend of tequila and mix, so it wasn’t too sweet.
The restaurant’s chef has been there since its opening so you know the food will be consistent. And in this case it is consistently very good. We were advised to not overdo the chips and salsa to save room for dinner. That’s easier said than done as the salsa is chunky, fresh and like nothing you may buy out of a jar or make at home. I had the chimichanga with red sauce and rice, and a salad served in a tortilla cup. Get the salad if only to enjoy the cilantro dressing. It has a wonderful cool tangy taste to counter the rich, smoky and spicy meat in the chimichanga. My husband had a combo platter of a crispy tortilla chicken taco, a shredded beef enchilada and rice and beans. All of it was excellent. He washed it down with Clausthaller Dark Amber N.A., a favorite non-alcoholic beer when he is the DD. The beer and tequila offerings were varied. To close out the night we shared a piece of key lime pie. The filling was definitely more custard based than some recipes we have enjoyed and very good. In the end, if you want a very casual night away from the hub bub of Saratoga Springs this bright and cheerful restaurant should fit the bill for an enjoyable experience. Definitely worth putting the car in gear! Thank you Neal for arranging our visit.
745 Saratoga Road, Wilton, New York 1283. http://www.wishingwellrestaurant.com/
Located a few miles outside town, this is a racetracker’s dream. Lots of paintings and photos of past winners at Saratoga adorn the walls. We chose to dine there on Travers’ Saturday and were treated to an appearance by “The Coach”, D. Wayne Lukas. The piano player played “Call to the Post” when he entered the lounge. Dale Romans was sitting at a neighboring table. The food is straight forward American – think Prime Rib, grilled pork chop, assorted chicken and seafood offerings. Nothing particularly unique, but very good all the same. The bar is small relative to the restaurant, but very lively. If equine art and motif are something you want to enjoy while dining, this is the place.
It’s a place that has a well-earned legacy for a classiness to rival the horses and owners at Saratoga. Like the track season, it is only open during late summer. It’s located at the terminus of Lincoln Avenue and Frank Sullivan Place on the edge of the track near the paddock. Take a moment to consider the luxury cars in the valet lot, before entering under the awning. It is probably the priciest restaurant and lounge in town. That said, if you’re willing to spring for a top shelf cocktail, or want to impress a guest or client, Siro’s lounge is a nice spot at the end of the race day. Admittedly, it is a lot quieter than the other bars around town, but that’s what you would expect when there are no drink specials or discounts. Juxtaposed to the inside, there is an outside pavilion, which offers a more casual atmosphere and live music. We’ve met lots of interesting people in racing including some prominent owners, jockeys and media types. When you’re in Siro’s lounge there is an assumption that everyone loves the racing game on the same level, even if they don’t participate on the same level. We have never dined at the restaurant so I have limited my comments to the lounge.
As I’ve said to many, if I was permitted one last meal on earth, I would request a plate of Hattie’s fried chicken and cranberry coleslaw. The atmosphere of Hattie’s is created by entering through a screen door that has a patina reminiscent of an earlier time. The screen door serves its purpose – to slam shut to keep the flies out. There is a more modern side entrance to an outdoor bar, but if you want dinner, enter through the screen door and try not to gawk at the diners’ plates filled with fried chicken, ribs, catfish and other southern specialties sitting on tables covered with red and white checked oil cloth. If you are conscious of maintaining a delicate appearance while dining with a new date, this isn’t the place. You will find yourself picking up a drumstick or rib with your fingers or doing the same with an ear of sweet corn. This is one place where you are glad they have toothpicks, if you didn’t remember to pack some dental floss. But you won’t feel self-conscious when you gaze at the pictures on the walls and realize that Mikhail Baryshnikov and many other celebrities probably excused themselves to use the bathroom to make sure that when they smiled, remnants of dinner didn’t remain wedged between the incisors and canines.
Mrs. London’s Bakery and Cafe:
464 Broadway, Saratoga Springs. http://www.mrslondonsbakery.com/
This is a favorite breakfast and lunch spot in Saratoga. If the attendants spoke French instead of English, you would believe you were in a Parisian patisserie, as you order a cafe or a croque monsieur. Before ordering, take time to check all the display cases as you will likely find a dessert or breakfast pastry not contemplated before entering.
26 Henry Street, Saratoga Springs. http://www.capricciosaratoga.com/
This has become a go to place on every trip to Saratoga for many reasons. First the menu offers multiple choices from Neopolitan Pizza to Pasta Puttenesca and fresh seafood offerings. If you happen to see fried smelts on the menu they are an acquired taste, but if you enjoy the salty sea flavor of sardines, you will find them to be a crispy treat. We have regularly seen owners and trainers enjoying a meal while discussing past and future races.
Maestro’s at the Van Dam:
353 Broadway, Saratoga Springs. http://maestrosatthevandam.com/
Breakfast or lunch on the veranda of the Van Dam Hotel is a pleasant way to watch the comings and goings on Broadway. The menu has a nice variety of breakfast and lunch options. The lounge inside is a great place to relax with racegoers. When Hurricane Irene caused power outages in Saratoga Springs in 2011, Maestro’s was one of the few places with generators providing uninterrupted service. While most of the town was shut down, we were able to have a nice conversation with Sam the Bugler while waiting for power to restored.
541 Broadway, Saratoga Springs. http://www.dzrestaurants.com/restaurants/FornoBistro
We have never eaten inside the restaurant so we can’t describe the interior or the bar. If you have a dog and want to dine outside with them, Forno Bistro and Mrs. London’s definitely allow them to join you. They will provide bowls of water for your pet while you eat. The menu at Forno was straight forward classic Italian. Our server was conscientious and we never felt neglected although dining outside.
Chianti Il Ristorante:
18 Division Street, Saratoga Springs. http://www.dzrestaurants.com/restaurants/chianti-il-ristorante
Owned by the same company that operates Forno Bistro, Chianti was developed with a chic urban influence in mind. We have dined there twice and both times the crowds were so large we had trouble finding seats at the bar while waiting for our table. The combination of the music and patron voices made it difficult to talk until seated. This seems to be an “it” spot for local residents and visitors. On one occasion we ate outside on an awning covered patio. The food was outstanding. The pasta was al dente. The service was a bit lagging which we suspect was due to the overwhelming crowd. On our next visit we had family with us and they enjoyed the menu and service, although as stated before the noise was a challenge. So consider this if you have someone with you who has a hearing deficiency. If upscale atmosphere is your thing, then this is the Italian restaurant for you.
Sperry’s is another restaurant we have eaten at with family on Travers’ weekend. The atmosphere is timeless with the mahogany paneling, brass railings and equestrian theme throughout. However, be sure to get a table in the main dining room or else you may find yourself in the back dining area which isn’t nearly as intimate or relaxing. The meal was dependable Continental cuisine as advertised. I’d like to say we enjoyed the entire experience, but its rather difficult to judge just how much of our difficulties in getting timely service affected our view of the food itself. I cannot say negative things about the meal, but in the end a lesson everyone who attends the races Traver’s weekend should learn is that all bars and restaurants are besieged by guests so be prepared for delays. If you are concerned about prompt service, sometimes a better option is to prepare a meal at your rental house.
Druther’s Brewing Company:
The courtyard set behind iron gates is a nice respite from the busy Broadway thoroughfare. Grab a pint of fresh draft beer and peruse a menu. In my estimation we were served overwhelmingly large plates of unique bar style food. The menu is designed to have most items paired with particular beers. If you are uncertain about any brews, ask for a sample before ordering a full pint. The staff was very accommodating.
One Caroline Street Bistro:
1 Caroline St, Saratoga Springs, NY 12866; http://onecaroline.com/
One Caroline Street Bistro boasts music 7 nights per week during the racing season. Unlike the raucous cover bands you may hear in other bars and restaurants in town, the Bistro offers musicians performing jazz and eclectic original compositions. The exposed stone and brick walls and wood paneling provide a sophisticated but not stuffy atmosphere. The food was New Orleans/Chicago Jazz influenced foods. A very nice place which we have always enjoyed.
384 Broadway, Saratoga Springs.http://www.dzrestaurants.com/restaurants/boca-bistro
We remember Boca Bistro for the friendly wait staff and excellent paella. Be sure to review the tapas offerings as they are some of the most inventive and satisfying options on the menu. If you get the paella, make sure you are hungry because one order would feed a small army!
60 Court St, Saratoga Springs, http://www.saratogalittleindiarestaurant.com.
Located in a residential area between Broadway and the track, this small, but bright and cheerful restaurant offers authentic Indian cuisine in a straight forward manner. They also do take out, which is how we enjoyed our meal since we only were staying a few blocks away. My husband enjoyed a multiple meat appetizer including chicken, lamb and sausage with various sauces to dunk them in. The sauces ranged from mild to hot. We both enjoyed Naan, or warm flatbread. One was plain, the other flavored with cheese and another garlic. Our main courses were Chicken Biryani and Shrimp Biryani. Biryani is a mixture of the meat with basmati rice and sauces to add flavor. The restaurant offers beer and wine.
The Brook Tavern:
139 Union Avenue, Saratoga Springs. http://thebrooktavern.com
After a day at the track on the walk toward downtown we stopped at the Brook Tavern for dinner. It was a hopping place, with seating at high top tables on a side porch. The lounge has room for about 15 patrons and the restaurant has both booths and tables. The burgers are enormous, no appetizers are necessary if ordering one. The restaurant offers a wide variety of appetizers and small plates ranging from edamame, fried artichoke hearts, creamy mushroom polenta, walnut cranberry salad to fish tacos. It may be difficult to get a table right after the last race, but it’s a nice option any time of the evening.
457 Broadway, Saratoga Springs. This diner is open from about 3:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. They serve breakfast all day long. It’s clean. The offerings are standard, eggs, pancakes waffles corned beef hash and breakfast meats. If you’re an early riser wanting breakfast downtown that’s strictly diner food with no frills, this is an option.
Dining at Home:
If you have a nice kitchen or patio and don’t feel like cooking or dining in a restaurant, Putnam Market on Broadway has a wonderful selection of prepared meals, wines and desserts. Go in during the late morning before you head to the track when the selection is best, so dinner will be ready and waiting for you when you cash out your last winning ticket of the day. Another similar option is Roma Foods, an Italian market and sandwich shop located at 222 Washington Street (www.romafoods.com). There are wonderful pastas, meats, cheeses and Italian delicacies for a complete meal.
By Guest Author: Nancy Meyers