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Need rec for restaurant this Saturday in Saratoga Springs

Miss Needle Jul 30, 2009 06:39 PM

I'll be in Saratoga this Saturday and am wondering where to dine. There will be three of us. I understand that Chez Sophie is closing soon. But I've eaten here numerous times (before and after the move), and looking for something different. I've also really enjoyed Hattie's and Mrs. London's for pastries. I've been to a few other places but names aren't really coming to me now. I did remember, though, that Wheatfields was HORRIBLE. Doing a search on these boards, I have a tentative list:

Beekman Street Bistro
Max London
The Wine Bar

Price and cuisine not an issue. I would prefer to find something that I can't really find in my hometown of NYC -- eg. Hattie's as NYC isn't too great for Louisiana cuisine, or something really unique to Saratoga Springs. And as I try to limit my gluten intake, a place where pizzas and pastas aren't the main focus would be nice as well.


  1. PSZaas Jul 30, 2009 07:24 PM

    All four are good choices; one of them offers pizzas (Max London's), but also lots of tapas in a trendy atmosphere; one of them has pasta offerings, but lots of other choices, including probably the best steak entree in Saratoga Springs (Chianti), one of them offers interesting cuisine/small plates (Wine Bar) and one of them offers market cuisine (Beekman St.) All are authentically Saratogian. Go to whichever one will reserve a table.

    1. e
      Elisa515 Jul 30, 2009 07:33 PM

      That's a good list. I'd also add Maestro's, where I had a delicious dinner (caesar salad w/white anchovies, soft-shelled crab on polenta pancakes, raspberry creme brulee) last weekend. The service was great too, attentive without being intrusive.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Elisa515
        robinsilver Jul 31, 2009 05:18 AM

        We were there recently, and were at both Hatties and Maestro's, plus had a great meal at Dine, which seems to be overlooked here. I live on Long Island, and eat in NYC often, so am familiar with what they have to offer there. I had great fried chicken at Hatties, something I think is hard to find in NYC. I agree with you that it might be the place to go.

      2. Miss Needle Jul 31, 2009 09:54 AM

        Thanks guys! I did make a reservation at Beekman.

        And Robinsilver, Hattie's fried chicken was definitely better than anything I had in NYC. It's really good. But DH just came back from a business trip in Mississippi last week where he ate quite a bit of the stuff (and, believe it or not, he said it was better than Hattie's!). So we're looking for something different.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Miss Needle
          financialdistrictresident Aug 1, 2009 07:04 AM

          Miss Needle, please report back on your experience at Beekman Street Bistro. Enjoy!

        2. GIOny Jul 31, 2009 01:12 PM

          We love Lanci's in Saratoga. It's a very small family run business, the food and staff are wonderful. Tough to get in though.

          3 Replies
          1. re: GIOny
            financialdistrictresident Jul 31, 2009 01:37 PM

            Lanci's is gone. 8 Tables Restaurant is in their former location. We went recently and posted a report of our experience.

            1. re: financialdistrictresident
              GIOny Aug 1, 2009 10:37 AM

              Sorry to hear that, we really enjoyed it. I'll look for your other review, I think we'll be going up in a few weeks. Thanks for the update.

              1. re: GIOny
                financialdistrictresident Aug 1, 2009 11:11 AM

                I never went to Lanci's but read good things on this Board. 8 Tables is currently doing three dinner seatings: 6 pm, 8pm, 10 pm.

          2. financialdistrictresident Jul 31, 2009 01:36 PM

            The Wine Bar is my favorite and we have been many times. Probably won't meet your not like NYC requirement. Beekman Street Bistro was good. They charged for bread service. Have only been to Mrs. London's for lunch, not Max's yet. Went to Chianti for the first time recently. Service was excellent food was mixed. I think it might be overrated (to be fair I have only been once). As to Dine, we went once. I thought Beekman Street Bistro was better.

            16 Replies
            1. re: financialdistrictresident
              markabauman Jul 31, 2009 04:04 PM

              Keep in mind, it's track season and Saturday is supposed to finally be a nice day. Chianti doesn't take reservations. You'd almost definitely need a reservation at any other of those good choices.

              1. re: markabauman
                financialdistrictresident Aug 1, 2009 07:06 AM

                markabauman, do you know why Chianti has this policy? We would probably go more often if they took reservations.

                1. re: financialdistrictresident
                  markabauman Aug 1, 2009 01:09 PM

                  I have known David personally for many years (although I only went to old location a few times and never to the new location; a few times to Forno), but I have never asked him that question. I have a gift certificate for DZ restaurants and thought about going after track season. If I do, I'll ask him and report back.

                  1. re: financialdistrictresident
                    PSZaas Aug 1, 2009 02:53 PM

                    Your call, of course, but except when it's crazy busy in town, like this time of year, it's never a very long wait. After you check in with them, they will take your name and cell number, and phone you when your table's ready, so you can stroll around town or bar-hop a little bit while you wait. Not a bad way to spend an evening in the Spa.

                    1. re: PSZaas
                      financialdistrictresident Aug 2, 2009 07:50 AM

                      Thanks markabauman and PSZaas. We went before track season on a weeknight and the restaurant was not full. We didn't have a wait. Maybe we just need to continue that approach. Good Italian options in this area are limited (always appreciate recs) when we don't want to drive to Albany, Troy or Schenectady. We're not into Augies.

                      1. re: financialdistrictresident
                        markabauman Aug 2, 2009 10:01 AM

                        What-you're not into stuff-your-face, feeding-frenzy, quantity over quality dining?
                        For a truly unique experience, one might want to consider the Villa Balsamo during track season only. It's a very NJ-Long Island style experience reminiscent of a past HBO series. Cash only (unmarked bills preferred).

                        1. re: markabauman
                          jaylhorner Aug 2, 2009 03:38 PM

                          Is Villa Balsamo still in business for the "public" during track season?

                          1. re: jaylhorner
                            markabauman Aug 2, 2009 04:29 PM

                            I believe "normal" people can and do go; you don't have to be "connected".....

                            1. re: markabauman
                              gerchak198 Aug 2, 2009 06:04 PM

                              markabauman, you are so on the money. I haven't been for years, but do they still have the blackboard with tonight's specials, w/o prices! In fact, I'm not sure the old menu had prices. I remember the bill for six being astronomical, like 2K or so--in 2009 dollars.

                              1. re: gerchak198
                                markabauman Aug 3, 2009 04:53 AM

                                We went there a number of years ago and asked the "waiter", who looked very uncomfortable wearing an apron (although it was leather), for the wine list. He growled "I'm da wine list...whadda ya' want? red or white or sangria?". I do believe, however, that they now have a real wine list.
                                A few years ago we went with some people who were friends with Joe & Carmela, the owners, who came out to say hello. The chef, one of their sons also came out. I asked him about the menu and what he suggests. He says "I suggest I get the f*** out of here and take a f***in vacation!". I was too speechless to respond.

                                1. re: markabauman
                                  financialdistrictresident Aug 3, 2009 06:32 AM

                                  Maybe while we wait for our reservation at Basement Bistro . . . Albany, Troy and Schenectady are not that far . . .

                                  1. re: financialdistrictresident
                                    bdegregory Aug 3, 2009 11:44 AM

                                    Wow- I live in Saratoga and never would have known that Villa Balsamo actually operates. In fact, I drove by it this AM on the way to the vet for my dog and thought to myself, "that property must be abandoned or for sale or something" because it looked so uninviting.

                                    So it sounds like if we are up for an adventure (and apparently willing to part with half our paycheck), we could check it out sometime?

                                    1. re: bdegregory
                                      markabauman Aug 3, 2009 12:50 PM

                                      Well, it's hard to say if I would truly recommend it or not. As stated, it's quite expensive; food is (in my opinion) decent, not great standard Italian-American fare. If you want a unique summer Saratoga track experience, however, and you want to hang with horse people and feel like you're part of a movie/TV set, it could be fun.

                                      1. re: bdegregory
                                        gerchak198 Aug 3, 2009 03:35 PM

                                        The Paradiso, now closed (it was pretty bad) has a sign out front that says that they are now at Villa Balsamo. Please post if you do go.

                                        1. re: gerchak198
                                          PSZaas Aug 3, 2009 08:08 PM

                                          Same owners, no? My impression is only one of their restaurants is open at a time; when Villa Balsamo closes at the end of the season, they'll reopen Paradiso; at least that's been their practice in the past.

                                          1. re: PSZaas
                                            gerchak198 Aug 4, 2009 06:43 AM

                                            Yes, but now Paradiso has a For Sale sign out front.

                2. Miss Needle Aug 4, 2009 10:24 AM

                  Thanks everybody for your responses. We ended up going to Beekman Street Bistro. Pretty bustling at 6:30P (we couldn't get later reservations) and a bit noisy as there's no carpets, etc. to soak up all the noise. My MIL is a bit hard of hearing, so that was a bit of an issue for us. But we managed fine. DH ordered the five coarse tasting menu, I ordered the special appetizer of lobster cake and seared scallops with butter poached leeks and salsa verde, and my MIL got the pan-seared ahi tuna. The lobster cake was really delicious -- the gluten was definitely worth it. I was actually picturing more of a crabcake, but it ended up being a small crepe filled with lobster in a cream sauce. It was just a special, but if it's on the menu, I would highly recommend ordering it. My scallop entree was okay, but I think they were sitting around for a while as it was lukewarm and the sear on the outside turned rubbery by the time I ate it. I think it would have been much better if they got the timing down a bit better and I had received it when it was done. My MIL liked her seared tuna. And DH's five course menu consisted of: house-cured gravlax, orecchiette with lemon sauce topped with bottarga, salad (forgot which one), grilled pork chop with mashed potatoes and a cheese plate. You don't know what the five course tasting menu will be ahead of time, and everybody at the restaurant will not be getting the same five courses. The house-cured gravlax was wonderful -- not too salty and very well done. I wasn't too crazy about the pasta course (would have been a waste of gluten on me) as the sprinkling of bottarga was pretty small. The lemon was a bit overwhelming, and I think it needed a larger boost of the umami of the bottarga to balance the lemon flavor. The grilled pork chop was good, but I guess like the seared tuna, they didn't ask DH how we wanted it prepared. If it's good pork, his preference is for medium rare, and it came out well done (with the exception of the bone area where it was slightly pink). So it was cooked too much for our taste. He and I both preferred the pork chop he ordered at Terrapin in Rhinebeck the night before as it was a lot more flavorful and tender. The mashed potatoes were fine, but DH and I preferred the potatoes we make at home a lot more -- probably because they used a masher and I use a ricer. But if you like mashed potatoes with lumps in it, you'd probably like Beekman's. And the dessert was a cheese plate composed of five different cheeses.

                  There were a few hits and misses throughout the evening. Overall, I'd say it was a good experience. But I'm inclined not to go back and will probably try some other places next time we're in town in September.

                  After dinner, we headed over the Mrs. London's where my MIL got a tiramisu (her favorite), DH got a mocha and I got a chocolate mousse dome. Best desserts in Saratoga Springs! And I've always loved their mocha there -- they've achieved the right balance between chocolate and coffee so that it isn't too sweet, but not too bitter. I haven't been able to find a place in NYC that matches their mocha.

                  btw, if you plan on going to Hattie's during racing season on a nice day, be prepared to wait. I passed by Hattie's a little before 5P and the line was down the block (with the restaurant being packed to capacity)!

                  21 Replies
                  1. re: Miss Needle
                    financialdistrictresident Aug 4, 2009 12:29 PM

                    Miss Needle, thanks for the report. I still have not been to Hattie's but based on your post may need to go on a week day or after track season is over.

                    1. re: financialdistrictresident
                      Miss Needle Aug 4, 2009 01:13 PM

                      Definitely after track season. It really was quite a mob scene there. I was starting to wonder if there was a recent repeat of Bobby Flay's Throwdown where Hattie's was featured. But the fried chicken is pretty good. Hope you enjoy it!

                      If you're going to the track, Hattie's actually has a stand there. I haven't tried it so I don't know what it's like. But the lines are sure shorter there than at the restaurant. I would just probably avoid Travers.

                      1. re: Miss Needle
                        financialdistrictresident Aug 4, 2009 01:27 PM

                        Thanks Miss Needle. We're going to the track this weekend (haven't been in 20 years!). I've heard Hattie's fried chicken is very good, but Hattie's overall is inconsistent. I was just discussing your Beekman Street report with my SO. . .

                        1. re: financialdistrictresident
                          Miss Needle Aug 4, 2009 01:46 PM

                          Wow! 20 years! I think this is the first season where Hattie's is present at the track. I don't remember them there last year.

                          Overall, Beekman was good for the area. There have only been three places where I was willing to back multiple times -- Chez Sophie (and there's been some inconsistency throughout the years), Mrs. London's and Hattie's (because good Louisiana food is hard to come by in NYC -- Delta Grill doesn't quite cut it). So, in general, my requirements are pretty tough for me to go back to when I'm traveling as I'm not in the area as often as locals are. I'd rather be trying out different places.

                          So I think you'll enjoy Beekman. As I know you're a pescatarian, there are plenty of fish dishes you can choose from there. My scallops would probably have been good if they were hot. And the lobster cake was really tasty. And the tuna wasn't bad as well (I only took a small bite).

                          1. re: Miss Needle
                            financialdistrictresident Aug 4, 2009 02:29 PM

                            Chez Sophie will be closing . . .

                            We went to Beekman once and liked it better than Dine. Both can get lively and noisy. The recent reports on Beekman had us discussing whether we should go back again. We tried Tiznow recently. All three are similar IMO, except Tiznow's space is a "former machine shop." We've been to The Wine Bar many times and I'd like to go back to 8 Tables (in Lanci's former location) again. We are lucky to have Bloomers Bistro and Lake Ridge nearby so we can avoid the track season crowds.

                            1. re: financialdistrictresident
                              gerchak198 Aug 4, 2009 05:02 PM

                              You can also avoid the track crowds at 51 Front St. in Ballston Spa, which also has great fried chicken and wonderful fish. BTW, Hattie's (and the so-called "Saratoga Restaurant Row") was introduced last year at the track.

                              1. re: gerchak198
                                financialdistrictresident Aug 4, 2009 05:10 PM

                                Thanks, gerchak198. We need to get back to 51 Front. It's so close. I went to ? across the street and had fried chicken and got a mini cheesecake (cream cheese variety) with cherries on top to go. It was quite good.

                                1. re: financialdistrictresident
                                  gerchak198 Aug 4, 2009 06:58 PM

                                  Do you mean Chicory's, same owner?

                                  1. re: gerchak198
                                    financialdistrictresident Aug 5, 2009 05:51 AM

                                    Thanks, gerchak198. It was Chicory's.

                              2. re: financialdistrictresident
                                Miss Needle Aug 5, 2009 06:46 AM

                                Yeah, I've heard about Chez Sophie. Too bad because it was one of the better food experiences we've had there. I've only had wine at The Wine Bar in the past, but perhaps I'll stop in for some food next month.

                                1. re: Miss Needle
                                  financialdistrictresident Aug 5, 2009 11:53 AM

                                  I've never been to Chez Sophie and am running out of time to do so. Miss Needle, what we had the last time we had dinner at The Wine Bar follows below. Their menu changes and we went right before summer. Please note my details/description don't do the food justice:

                                  *asparagus soup with a mini grilled cheese/mushroom/truffle oil brioche sandwich
                                  *Salad with an apricot scone and sugared walnuts. Goat cheese, candied walnuts/apricots in a small mason jar (like coddled cream)
                                  *Black cod (cucumber on top)
                                  *Duck with carrot gnocchi and roasted carrots
                                  *Chicken canelloni with morels

                                  Everything we ordered was a small plate or 1/2 portion. We still ordered too much. All was delicious. Our experience was even better because we had our favorite server. I probably wouldn't get the canelloni again. We will go back after track season.

                                  Enjoy when you go and please report back on your experience.

                                  1. re: financialdistrictresident
                                    Miss Needle Aug 5, 2009 12:14 PM

                                    Oh, you really should try Chez Sophie before it closes. They're having a four-course recession special -- appetizer, soup or salad, main, and dessert for approximately $60. I've had a couple of mediocre meals there. But my lunch there a few months ago was not too bad.

                                    Thanks for your rundown of The Wine Bar. I'm glad that it's small plates because I love to try so many things. The asparagus soup sounds really good!

                                    1. re: Miss Needle
                                      gerchak198 Aug 5, 2009 01:25 PM

                                      Oh, you really should hit Sophie's now because J.T. Baker, formerly of the eponymous resto in Greenwich and most recently of the Inn at Erlowest, has joined them in the kitchen until they close. I would advise avoiding breakfast or lunch, though, which are not good.

                                      1. re: gerchak198
                                        financialdistrictresident Aug 5, 2009 02:57 PM

                                        Thanks, gerchak198. You and Miss Needle are quite convincing but I believe they closed yesterday. Sadly, we were underwhelmed by the food at the Inn at Erlowest (and they can't keep chefs - first Dale Miller, now J.T. Baker) on New Year's Eve.

                                        1. re: financialdistrictresident
                                          gerchak198 Aug 5, 2009 06:19 PM

                                          Chez Sophie closes Sept. 30th.

                                          1. re: gerchak198
                                            financialdistrictresident Aug 6, 2009 06:17 AM

                                            Thanks. Web site said Aug. 4th, unless I misread it . . .

                                            1. re: financialdistrictresident
                                              gerchak198 Aug 7, 2009 07:50 AM

                                              Let me be clear for everyone on this thread: Chez Sophie is OPEN and better than ever! It will remain open until Sept. 30. Any rumors to the contrary are wrong.

                                              1. re: financialdistrictresident
                                                financialdistrictresident Aug 7, 2009 01:06 PM

                                                Thanks, gerchak 198. My apologies if I created any confusion. I think I read the date of the letter (June 4th) wrong as 8/4 . . .

                                                Definitely open until September 30th! I will do my best to get there for dinner before they close. Link to the letter and menu:


                          2. re: financialdistrictresident
                            financialdistrictresident Aug 10, 2009 06:06 AM

                            Miss Needle I finally got Hattie's fried chicken yesterday at the track. No block long line. It was very good and the fried chicken craving is finally gone. Hattie's was part of the Saratoga "Restaurant Row" which I read started last year. Also, Grey Gelding, ? and Brindsini's (spelling?). Also got my Saratoga potato chip fix. They are across from the Restaurant Row.

                            1. re: financialdistrictresident
                              Miss Needle Aug 10, 2009 06:23 AM

                              Glad that you got to try it. It is really good. But the best thing is you avoided that crazy line!

                              Are those Saratoga potato chips any good? They looked pretty awesome but we were so stuffed that we couldn't eat anything.

                              1. re: Miss Needle
                                financialdistrictresident Aug 11, 2009 02:23 PM

                                They are really good. The ones at Tropic Hut are too. I learned recently the potato chip was invented in Saratoga. When they are hot they're not that crispy. Once they cool down a bit they get crispy. So fresh and delicious.

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