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Over-rated in Saratoga

Saratoga has been known for great restaurants, but in the past couple of years we go to Saratoga we end up having a bad meal. This includes Brindisi's, Chameleon on the Lake, The Old Bryan Inn, One Caroline, Mouzon House and several others that are supposed to be good (and expensive). It reminds me of The Emporer's New Clothes. People believe it's good because they are told that this is what's good, and they would be embarrased to admit they paid so much for dinner and it wasn't good like everyone says, or that they don't understand what's good about it like their. Let's raise the bar and start demandig a great dining experience to go along with the Saratoga price tag.

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  1. I couldn't agree more. It's very discouraging, especially when out of town friends or family ask for a recommendation. I tend not to go out much since I dine out often while travelling for pleasure or business and all I want to do when home is cook. But I'm further discouraged by the local dining scene. Ironically, the tourist season used to be limited to just the track season, but it's way extended now. Unfortunately, the growing affluence and somewhat increase in sophistication in the area has not translated into better food-just more pretension and higher prices. I can usually get much better food for less money in NYC than home in Saratoga. I think we are seeing the Emperor as is-at the risk sometime of coming off as a food snob.

    1. janwil, I agree with your take on Brindisi's-- my husband and I went there a few weeks ago and were pretty disappointed. It seemed like all 'fluff' -- atmosphere, and good service, it's true--but food boring and pricey. And I noticed at Brindisi that hardly anything was healthy; even a dish I had with a vodka (pink) sauce tasted like it was heavy and fatty (which tasted good, but for the arteries not so good). Tons of veal and heavy duty meats but little in the way of interesting fish or pastas.
      The other places I haven't tried. I do like Ravenous in Saratoga-- more of a lunch place. And I adore Mrs. London's. I was at Hattie's and liked it a long time ago; anyone been there recently?

      http://www.dishanddirt.blogspot.com

      1. There's some great dining in Saratoga Springs, although not at any of the places you mention. Lanci's, Chianti, Beekman St. Bistro are some current favorites, single malt and jazz at 9 Maple before or after or both. Brindisi's is always terrible, Mouzon House is a more expensive version of One Caroline. What Saratoga Springs lacks is mid-range dining, although Hattie's is still good, and the pub grub at the Parting Glass is usually satisfactory.

        1. I also agree about the prices/quality of food in the local restaurants. You can get a GREAT dinner at Gotham Bar and Grill or Union Square Café in NYC for the same price as a GOOD dinner at Chez Sophie. Chez Sophie prices are probably related to the rent they pay in their new space. I happen to think that Chianti is not very good. I agree with the first posting, Chianti falls into that category. The one meal I had there was a veal dish and the “sauce” congealed on the veal. I don’t think a sauce is suppose to do that. Once Chianti moves to its new quarters (new office/residential building under construction on Division St) you know the prices will go up to pay for the rent.

          While I have not been to Lanci’s or Beekman Street Bistro, I have tried all the other restaurants in Saratoga and a few in the capital district area and the two restaurants I have found to be good for price and quality are Springwater Bistro on Union Ave and Tiznow’s on Henry Street, both in Saratoga. The best night to visit Springwater Bistro is Monday night The menu is tapas only. A lot of different dishes, the prices range from $5-$9, maybe a few $11. Portions are enough for 2 people to share one plate.

          Being new to Saratoga and the capital district area I read the reviews by the food critics and other articles in magazines and then try the restaurant. But when I leave I have to wonder about the review because I don’t feel I had the same dinning experience as the reviewer or article stated. So while I use to eat out quite often, now that I moved to this area I tend to cook and eat at home more often. That leads to a whole other discussion about finding good quality meat and fish to cook at home since the only sources seem to be the price chopper and Hannaford. But I am finding other sources like the honest weight food coop, etc. Anyway that’s my venting for the day :) !

          1. I went to Springwater last night for tapas for the first time, it was pretty good. Two of us shared 6 items and 4 were good, 1 was ok and 1 was real bad. You can't beat the price, and the selection. Light eaters would love it. We will go back.

            1. We've had good experiences at Beekman St. Bistro, Chez Sophie and the Wine Bar - though we never go to Saratoga for dinner in August.

              2 Replies
              1. re: meg944

                meg944, is it true none of the Saratoga restaurants take reservations in August?

                Saratoga restaurants charge NYC prices, as other posters have said that doesn't always translate to quality. I like value.

                1. re: financialdistrictresident

                  No, it's not true. Restaurants that take reservations during the rest of the year take reservations during the Saratoga season.

              2. Ravenous is also quite good for what it is.

                1. Yes, there are some bright spots as mentioned- tapas night at Springwater, esp. Mrs. London's, Beekman Bistro, Lanci's, etc. However, you can still get as good/better Italian food many other places for much less. This morning, a friend was bemoaning the loss of decent, not expensive Italian places locally (there still are a number in Schenectady and many people like Augie's in Ballston Spa, but I have not been there). Food and wine are very good at Lanci's, but you'll spend $100-150 for two. We used to have higher prices during track season, but regular prices and types of food catering literally to the locals the rest of the year. With development of the city and an expanded tourist/convention trade business where many people are loosening their wallets-giving a little slack being on vacation, or on a business expense-accout type trip, there's little reason for restaurants to offer decent food at decent prices. A bit discouraging.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: markabauman

                    One of the things we really enjoy about living in Schenectady is the number of small, inexpensive, family-run Italian places, often completely lacking in atmosphere because all they care about is the food. That may be a real advantage to living in a less-vibrant city.

                    1. re: markabauman

                      I just came back from Saratoga and was sorely disappointed in the quality:price ratio of nearly every restaurant my wife and I tried. The one exception was Augie's. Reasonable prices and good quality. The risotto with shrimp and asparagus was excellent: toothy yet creamy, and very flavorful. The only "problem" was that an app and an entree are too much food for two. The portions are huge. A couple would be more than satisfied with two appetizers.

                      The most egregious offender in the "bang for your buck" category was Hattie's. The food was fine, the service exemplary, but the prices were easily 20%+ higher than they should have been. After all the hype, I couldn't help but think I've had better fried chicken for $4 in NC. I don't mind spending money for great food, but Hattie's was nothing special.

                    2. Exactly. There are places like Luigi's, Ferrari's, Peter Pause, Cornell's, Fireside, etc. (Mother Ferro's in the past- I lived in Schenectady in the 1960's!), etc. that fit this description. We used to have them in Saratoga, but, alas, not much more. We still have places like Shirley's, Winslow's, etc. that have some local flavor, but most everything has gone upscale, and not for the better.

                      1. Mother Ferro's .........now there is a blast form the past. I'll be visiting my old stomping grounds this coming weekend. We really are hoping to try Park 54 in Clifton Park, grab a pizza at Marino's, and do a little shoopping at Cappiello's. So much to do, so little time !

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: gastro

                          While I may get bashed by the locals, I am a racing meet Saratoga resident, LOL. I do get there other times of the year, but it's usually for a weekend, overnight trip, etc. Anyway, I enjoy so many of the Saratoga restaurants. I think, to some extent, consistency, can make a restaurant great (if it's consistently very good or great of course, LOL). If you go to a restaurant 50 times, you are almost bound to get a meal that doesn't measure up to expectation, the standard, etc.

                          So, with these restaurants -- I am a big fan of the Olde Bryan Inn. I enjoy the menu, the food, the atmoshere. It is what it is. I view it as a default place sometimes and other times I really look forward to it. It's always been very reliable and dependable for me. I probably ate there 50 times over the last few years. This past summer, I had a "not so good meal". It was a one time occurence for me. But for my tastes, I like the place. I also like Brindisi's. There are a few dishes there I think are done very well. Is it the best restaurant in Saratoga? No, I don't think so, but again, for my tastes, I like the various dishes I get there. This past year, I also had a not so hot experience -- entree(s) were fine, but side dishes and other things were not up to the standard I have experienced.

                          Lanci's -- I think this place is excellent. I am one of the few of my friends who doesn't like Chianti. Whatever I've had there has been OK, sometimes better, but nothing that I really, truly, enjoy. One Caroline -- I absolutely consider this as one of my favorites. This past summer, I was liking Doc's very much. I frequent the Wine Bar a lot -- being it's the only place in town I can smoke a cigar, LOL. The food is very good, but I find myself "fighting" the menu sometimes, that just being my likes, dislikes, wants, desires, etc. at the time. I had a steak at the Grey Gelding, it was prepared well, but the peppercorn sauce was, in my mind, so incredibly overpowering the steak almost became unedible. Maybe my taste buds were super sensitive that night. But everyone else really liked their food every time we went back. Chez Sohpie is another place I like very much.

                          I appreciate everyone's comments -- and I respect them. Some like chocolate and some like vanilla; and Baskin Robbins has a ton of flavors to appeal to everyone. Thanks again for the great thread. Eric

                        2. As others have observed, and, also as a Saratoga resident, I've had both good and bad meals in many of the more "upscale (translate expensive) restaurants" in town. They seem to blow hot and cold. But, if you don't necessarily need the "upscale" panache, there are some good, consistent places at lower prices. BREAKFAST: Both of the Corner Cafes'; Shirley's, the Horseshoe Inn during track season. LUNCH: Toscano Forno DINNER: Bentley's on Route 9 south has good red sauce Italian, and some other not red sauce entrees. Public House, Ripe Tomato, also on Route 9 South. Cliff's Country Inn, a carnivore's delight, on Route 9P south of Saratoga, make the turn at the Ripe Tomato. Augies I concur with. The Factory in Ballston Spa has an extensive, not haute cuisine menu, but a good bargain in a restored factory. Interesting decor.

                          Have also had some good comments on the tapas night at Springwater, but have no personal experience with them, although I live within walking distance. And, although the music and beer selection is good, I'd take an MRE over eating in the Parting Glass

                          1. I'll be visiting the Saratoga area on July 10, 2008 and would like a suggestion or two for a mid-priced good food restaurant, preferably with the possibility of outdoor dining. It doesn't have to have a lot of atmosphere - mostly we're looking for a clean place with a good variety of menu choices. Thanks!

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: cindyf1216

                              Hi Cindy, sorry I missed your post. Where did you end up...

                            2. janwil, I have lived in Saratoga for 31 years and couldn't agree more with you on the 4 restaurants you name: mediocre, overpriced, in 2 cases pretentious. But Chez Sophie is good, as is Springwater, Chianti (prices are lower at the new location), Forno Toscano, Sperry's, Dine, and Limoncello (re-opening this month). Augie's is good, but is not in Saratoga. Add Wishing Well to "most overrated."

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: gerchak

                                Having grown up in the saratoga area and working in the food business here for some time, I think people need to broaden their views on some of these places. Chez Sophie used to be great, moved a couple of times and the chef's have not kept the consistency at all. Spring water is great as is chianti and forno, everything you have mentioned above have been good and been around for while. I liked the wine bar with the old chef but I'm not sure who is cooking there anymore. I like the wishing well for what it is...dine has always been interesting. I like scallions for something light

                              2. I have recently moved to Saratoga and am just beginning the process of eating through the local cuisine. I had an OK meal at the Old Bryan Inn and an inconsistent one at the Mouzon House (some items fine, others almost inedible). But what I want to comment on at this early date is the pricing, which seems way out of line for a place that is not in NYC or San Francisco (where I came from).

                                Grey Gelding and Cantina are two examples of places that seem to have tacked on an extra $10 per entree beyond what the overhead and food cost would dictate. They were both pretty empty when I checked them out. With economic conditions pinching, I wish they would take another look at their pricing so the locals could consider them off-season.

                                4 Replies
                                1. re: otis

                                  No question about it. Saratoga's restaurant prices are way out of line. Pricing at Forno Toscano, Circus Cafe, Dine, and Chianti are a bit high, but I would say fair.
                                  Three other reasonably priced and good recommendations: Stadium Cafe (B'way or West Side), mainly for burgers, the local (corner Beekman and Grand), and Gotchya's (Beekman).

                                  1. re: gerchak

                                    My experiences at Chianti have been that they are very competitively priced, took a business connection there and the two of us with bottled water and one wine, salads, entre and coffees was less than 80. I was pleased and the food was great.

                                    1. re: jspear

                                      Went to One Caroline last month and it was way overpriced and average food/service at best.

                                      1. re: MommyTwingle

                                        My wife and I work for the NY Horse Racing Association and spend the summer season in Saratoga. Yes, the places named are overpriced, and those named with bad food do have bad food.

                                        However, I have found thta to be true in many cities I have visited. You jsut ahve to find the 5 or 6 places you like and stick to them.