Weekend in Saratoga

I went to Saratoga Springs for the first time over the weekend, visiting Todd Engel, a long-time horse lover and attorney specializing in Equine Law. He's local to the Syracuse area, but also spends much of the racing season in Saratoga Springs. We took a whirlwind tour for the weekend. The city has a walkable downtown with restaurants, art galleries and retail shops. The area has tradition and money. Here are some of the spots we hit.

Olde Saratoga Brewing Company. Olde Saratoga does Red Tail, King Fisher, and a bunch of other brews – including Schmaltz, which is a nice coffee porter. They've also taken over Sackets Harbor's 1812 Ale. They have a tasting room that draws a variety of people (both tourists and townies). We saw people in their early 20s and people in their 60s and 70s.

Gaffney's and Sperry's. These are two bars across the street from each other. They both have large patios (we didn't go inside either place) with outdoor bars. Gaffney's has music and is a bit rowdier; Sperry's includes outdoor dining space and is a bit more upscale.

Frankie Flores Gallery. Frankie Flores is a talented painter and illustrator. He had an opening for some new works. He's got storefront show space with a beauty salon in back. Turns out he's a nice guy, too; he joined us for dinner after the opening.

Jacob & Anthony's. A grille with a very pretty bar and a large patio (complete with fire pit), Jacob & Anthony's boasts good service and good food. The Cuban is good, the fries are very good, and I had tastes of the fish tacos and jambalaya as well. Well done, all around. And bonus: You can get something in your price range, whether it's $12 a plate or $30 a plate.

Yaddo. An artists' and writers' retreat, Yaddo boasts a large rose garden with over 200 varieties of roses, and a team of volunteers tending the gardens three times a week. Great spot for photos (oh yeah, I have a few hundred photos I need to pull off my camera – yipes).

Saratoga Saddlery. I'm not big into the whole shopping thing, but the Saddlery has some nice stuff. Cowboy boots, varying styles of hats, horse gear (as in gear you'd wear while riding), and, of course, saddles.

Saratoga Coffee Traders and Uncommon Grounds. Uncommon Grounds is clearly the more popular spot – it's huge, and the line for coffee was 20 people deep when we got there on Sunday morning. Coffee Traders is quaint, has better coffee (also organic/fair trade, I hear), and penny candy (which doesn't cost a penny anymore, but still is within reach).

Saratoga Reading Rooms. The Reading Rooms is a private club abutting the racetrack. I'm told they were founded in the 1930s as a place for men to read the dailies before the races; I feel like I may be placing myself and the people who read my blog in danger if I say any more (even if there's not a Masonic eye on the building).

Saratoga Race Track. We made two trips to the track – in the morning to watch the horses work out, get baths, etc., and again in the afternoon for the races. It was a new experience for me. Workouts were fun, and it was interesting learning about the business. Races were also fun – who doesn't love dressing up and sitting amongst people who are out to be seen? I didn't do any betting, which is probably just as well because in my head I would have bet a show on a horse that won and would have lost every other race we saw.

Siro's. Apparently this was once the place to be seen after the races (it's adjacent to the track). Now it's the place all the tourists go to try to see. The outdoor bar and raw bar are fun, and there were a lot of people.

Hatties. Best fried chicken north of the Mason-Dixon Line. That is all.

9 Maple. Despite the hideously uncreative name (it's just the address of the joint) 9 Maple Avenue is a bar with a ginormous whiskey list, broken into the regions of Scotland (those would be scotches), as well as having both Irish Whiskys and a fair bunch of bourbons (which are an American thing, despite the French word). Very classy, intimate, with a nice jazz quartet playing in the corner.

Adelphi. The Adelphi has done its best to recreate the atmosphere of its origins (Civil War-era), with the exceptions of modern electricity, plumbing and pricing. Their patio is gorgeous, with Adirondack chairs, candlelight, visible stars, and they manage to block the sounds of the city.

Country Corner Cafe. Ah, breakfast. Potato pancakes (but not latkes, which are cooked in olive oil) on the menu in various incarnations, but more importantly a Syracuse favorite – Paul de Lima coffee.

Lyrical Ballad. This is a bookstore built in old bank vaults. As such, it twists and turns, and the first editions are still gated. Sweet little spot I could have spent hours in if we had time.

Definitely worth the trip; I'll probably do it again next year!


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