The 147th season of the Saratoga Race Course began last week, and my town is choked with tourists. It’s fun to observe the passing crowd with their big hats, limos and cigars, but it can also be very difficult to get a meal. Here are a few suggestions from a local on where to eat in Saratoga Springs during the racing season. I haven’t included links because they are readily available from the touristic websites, and when you investigate you might find other options you want to explore.
- Make a reservation at 15 Church (original restaurant or patio) as soon as your travel plans are decided. This is by far the best restaurant in town and wildly popular, but with sufficient advance notice you may be able to score a table. If you do, you’ll be treated with courtesy and an excellent meal instead of being rushed through. The recently opened patio is a more casual place that’s very loud and even more popular than the sedate original, which I prefer.
If you’re going to the races at lunchtime, remember that you’re allowed to bring in food and a cooler full of beer and beverages in non-glass containers. I recommend an Italian Mix from Roma Imports, a vegan buffet box from Four Seasons, or a sandwich and a carton of gazpacho from Putnam Market. All these places are very crowded from about 11 to 12:45 with people trying to get to the track, so go early, phone in your order, or miss the first post and pick up your sandwich around 1. Get the beer at EBI on Excelsior… cans only, remember.
Take at least a couple of your evening meals as picnics in Congress or Spa Park instead of waiting on line for restaurants. Any of the above lunch suggestions are good, and since we’re not going to let the food sit around I would add a Comfort Burger or Mac and Cheese from Comfort Kitchen (note that they close at 7) or a bucket of take-out chicken from Hattie’s Chicken Shack in the Wilton Mall.
For breakfast, have at least one meal (or take out a box of pastries) from Mrs. London’s. You can also get an excellent diner-style breakfast at Triangle Diner or Compton, two locals-only places that are remarkably free of high rollers (though you may have to wait in line with the working stiffs).
Most (not all) of the above places are right downtown, so don’t even think about driving. Leave your car where it is and walk to the track (it’s about a mile). The exercise will do you good after eating all that food.