I have been sitting on this post awhile because I didn’t really know what to call it. “Best eats in Saratoga” is a little presumptuous because I haven’t tried everything at all the high end places, plus I’m not going to force my preference in a $30 entrée on somebody else. “Best budget eats in Saratoga” on the other hand is too simplistic; some of these foods are great values, others just great dishes. For those who aren’t locals, I should explain that Saratoga Springs, NY is a highly touristed area and as in any such place (cf. Ashland, OR) there are a certain number of establishments which are just phoning it in because during the season they’ll attract massive traffic, regardless. Anyways, here goes.
1.Hacked Italian Combo Sub at Roma Imports, Washington St. The smell alone at this Italian deli is worth the price of admission: you would be ahead of the game if you simply tossed a Hamilton over the counter and left without your food. But hang in there and order an Italian combo sub with these tweaks (which don’t cost anything extra): domestic sharp provolone instead of regular; fatty cappy him instead of regular; hot or sweet sopressata instead of salami. Plus lettuce, tomato, onion and oil and vinegar dressing of course.
2.Deconstructed fried chicken sandwich at Hattie’s Chicken Shack, Wilton. The chicken sandwich is not sold at the original Hattie’s on Phila so you have to go to the mall. Tell them you want the Big Daddy, which gives you an extra thigh to enjoy for a second meal, and you want it “with the parts separate, chicken and slaw on the side because I am going to eat it later at home” since the word “deconstructed” is not likely to register. Get yourself a cup of hot sauce to go while you are waiting for the order.
3.Big ass burger from (fill in the blanks). Many of our high end restaurants have a burger on the menu, which allows you to enjoy the ambience and the standard setups and service while paying a fraction of the price of any other entrée. And there’s a quiet competition among these places to make the burger really, really good. My favorite was the Brady Burger at 15 Church but now Chef Brady has migrated to Max London’s which offers Brady Burger 2.0. You can’t go wrong with either, or with the burger at Salt & Char.
4.Lunch special at Kinjo Japanese Steakhouse (Congress Plaza). After some unknown but evidently serious sin in the past, Saratoga was afflicted with a curse that says we cannot have Chinese or Thai or Japanese restaurants but only “fusion” places combining multiple cuisines. Kinjo is the best of this challenging lot, delivering consistently good food at a reasonable price point. My go-to is the tempura special (Japanese) with shrimp and vegetables. A dark horse except to those who know this spot and have found it extremely consistent.
5.Breakfast special at Compton’s on Broadway. This old school diner is a hotline to authenticity for any visitor who wants to eat like a local. The hours pass like a soap opera, with drunk college students in the early hours (it opens at 4 am, 3 am on weekends) giving way to downtown stalwarts fueling up on their way to work and finally to retired folks passing the time and waiting for someone to trip on the oddly configured step at the entrance. The special (it is no longer called that on the menu, but it’s easy to find) includes protein (bacon, sausage or hash), two eggs, cottage fries, and toast with bottomless coffee—everything you need to kickstart your day, and nothing you don’t need. I get mine with bacon, eggs over easy and rye toast and request Tabasco (for the eggs) and A-1 Sauce (for the potatoes and for when sop up everything with the toast) to intensify the experience.
That’s my list. I’d welcome yours.