— RESTAURANTS IN SARATOGA SPRINGS, NEW YORK — When folks come to Saratoga Springs for a visit, whether for a business trip or family vacation, they’re anxious to take in the sights. No matter what time of year, there’s always a festival, a new museum exhibit, live concerts at SPAC, picnics in the park, thoroughbred racing, gaming at the casino, and more to fill up their free time.
At the end of the day, though, people need to eat. With well over 200 places to pick from, the decision can be paralyzing. And, OMG, leave room for dessert!
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Dear Rovology reader.–Theresa St John, Travel writer, photographer, videographer
I’m sharing a few of my favorite restaurants in Saratoga Springs. They are in alphabetical order because they all rank #1 to this local.
I’m not sure the owners of Cantina, located on Broadway in downtown Saratoga knew how popular their restaurant would be when doors first opened to the public in 2007.
This authentic Mexican eatery was such a hit – they eventually decided to move to another location. Just a few steps away from their last address, Cantina now boasts additional space and the freshest contemporary items on an extensive menu. They’ve even opened a rooftop bar for those who want to eat and drink under the sunny skies and starry nights in Saratoga.
I love sitting outside on the patio when the weather permits, sampling some of the 90-plus specialized tequilas in frothy margaritas while people-watching. Sometimes friends and I order several appetizers to pass around the table while we catch up on everyday life. We never go away feeling hungry, that’s for sure.
Cantina is a fun, vibrant place to meet and share a meal while visiting our historic Spa City. We celebrate every day, no matter what we’re wearing. So feel free to dress up (think party attire) or down (flip flops and tees) – after all, you’re in Saratoga.
2. Country Corner Café
For those who prefer a morning breakfast to get them up and rolling through the day ahead, Country Corner Cafe is a must-try when in town.
First off, people love the window dressings that invite them inside, like old milk bottles, kitchen utensils from grandma’s era, alongside other fun items that might remind one of a distant childhood. In addition, patrons can purchase homemade jams, jellies, and other locally made specialty food items. The Country Corner Cafe also features the largest selection of handcrafted, all-natural beeswax candles – I often buy them for gifts throughout the year.
This restaurant opened in 1991 with a mere 19 seats to start. The owners have since added another dining area. The waitstaff is excellent and will do all they can to make sure your visit is perfect.
The eatery is small, with a simple coziness, and the music is from the 50s and 60s. I love the feeling of nostalgia while eating a great meal. I’ve tried three different types of Eggs Benedict, more pancakes and waffles than I can count, the best bacon around, and have even sampled a slice of baked (yes, baked) oatmeal.
During the summer months, this 30-year-old cafe is a favorite place for jockeys and horse-trainers to gather over breakfast – who knows, you may gain a tidbit or two on the day’s betting card while you sip your first cup of coffee.
3. Eddie F’s Eatery
I’m from Boston. Everyone knows what that means – at least when it comes to seafood. It needs to be fresh. Period.
When I moved to Saratoga in 2000, it was hard to find great seafood, and I found myself missing the Boston harbor restaurants. I missed New England and Maine, where whitefish and succulent lobster tails were abundant.
And then, I found Eddie F’s Eatery, just a few blocks from Broadway. Don’t let the bright pink building put you off – it’s pretty charming. Step inside and sit at one of their many tables, each covered with old-fashioned tablecloths, and strings of lights overhead.
Eddie F’s landed the #1 spot for Seafood and Fish Fry in Saratoga County. They also landed in the top 10 seafood restaurants in all of Upstate New York by Yelp and top 10% of restaurants worldwide by TripAdvisor. (In case you’re interested in stats.)
The menu is pretty extensive, serving up traditional New England fare made with the freshest ingredients. I love their lobster rolls, and the whole-belly fried clam platter is one you can write home about. They even offer Boston baked beans as one of their sides. But can you stand all that yumminess?
4. Forno Bistro
One of my favorite go-to Italian restaurants in Saratoga is Forno Bistro, also on Broadway. I love the location, so near the hustle-and-bustle of downtown. I feel the welcoming ambiance from the moment I step inside.
The chef uses seasonal ingredients from local farms, so the menu choices vary throughout the year. And because this is a Tuscan-Style restaurant, I can be sure the chef won’t bury my food in heavy sauces.
I often go here with friends to spend a few hours over dinner and drinks. The bistro is a great place to unwind after a long week. Order appetizers, share one of their amazing wood-fired pizzas before you choose your entrée.
Available Tuesday—Saturday between 4:30 and 6:30, small plates and drinks are offered to people who might not have a huge appetite or maybe love a bargain for dining out early. Specialty drinks and several wines by the glass are featured as well.
I never feel rushed, and there’s nothing on the menu I wouldn’t suggest – every visit’s been a success. However, if you’re in town long enough, you might want to try Forno’s sister restaurant as well. Chianti Ristorante is only a few blocks away.
5. Hattie’s Chicken Shack
Before I even moved to Saratoga in early 2000, I would drive up for the weekends to visit friends and spend some time at the track. We were always looking for a new restaurant to try out, and I have to tell you, Hattie’s remains one of my favorites all these years later. Southern fried chicken, mashed potatoes, chicken gumbo, piping-hot biscuits? Yes, please!
I love eateries with a ton of personality, and this one has plenty of both. It opened in 1938 on Federal Street. Hattie worked there throughout the wild-and-crazy days of the 30s and 40s, when the restaurant was open 24-hours a day, catering to the late-night crowds visiting gambling dens, speakeasies, and jazz clubs on the west side of town.
Both she and her husband Bill helped many folks in the community – and it’s undoubtedly part of the reason they’re still so beloved in our town. They gave people jobs when no one else would and helped some make it through school. Talk around town is about how the couple treated everyone the same – whether they were rich or didn’t have a penny to their name.
During Saratoga’s Urban Renewal, the address of Hattie’s Chicken Shack might have changed to Phila Street. Still, the variety of Southern and Louisiana cuisine on her menu remained the same.
When you stop in, make sure you have a drink in their French Quarter Lounge, which is heated and open year-round.
Who doesn’t love the great selections neighborhood food trucks offer? So in December 2011, when two of the most popular food trucks in Jersey City decided to combine their efforts, creating this one-of-a-kind restaurant in Saratoga, I’m not sure they realized what a hit it would be with the locals.
Beekman Street is the hub of Saratoga’s art district – the perfect spot for a place like Kraverie. Just a few steps away from the downtown area, what’s still known as Lucina Creperie and The Krave Korean BBQ back home complement each other here with original recipes, rotating lists of craft beers, live music, and special events.
I ordered their Kimchi Cheese Fries to start – and Bibimbap – a rice bowl with sauteed zucchini, carrot, bean sprouts, spinach, romaine, sweet & spicy chili sauce, topped with a fried egg and cilantro for my entree. Ah-mazing.
The owners are community-conscious, too, something that’s always been important to Saratogians. Each month they pair a specialty beer event with a charitable organization. They’ve been involved with places like Saratoga War Horse, Wounded Warrior Project, Shelters of Saratoga, and several local non-kill shelters, to name a few.
If you want unique crepes and amazing BBQ, this place should move to the top of your dining choices next time you’re in Saratoga.
7. Mama Mia’s
Who would have thought an authentic Italian restaurant could be tucked into such a nondescript strip mall, only 1/2 mile from downtown Saratoga? Not me! Most of the Italian eateries I visit boast stand-alone buildings on the corner of some notable intersection, making it easy to find and a hot spot for diners. Mama Mia’s is a hidden treasure I am happy to experience and recommend, that’s for sure.
I have to admit; I never expected it to be a place I’d frequent again and again when I popped in with friends many years ago, anxious to try out their brick-oven pizzas. I’m somewhat proud to admit I’m a pizza-snob, and they did not disappoint.
What I discovered on that 1st visit was a full-service, family-friendly restaurant with a delightful menu that caters to any number of tastes. You’ll note the menu prices seem to land between $15—$30, but everything is fresh and perfectly executed, so you won’t mind paying for your meal.
I feel close to Italy when I gaze around the dining areas and see the walls painted with vibrant scenes from that country. I would say four main rooms welcome you in, including the bar area. It’s an excellent family restaurant, and I’ve attended/hosted holiday parties there as well.
My suggestion – try their eggplant rollatini or Chicken Scarpariello – my favorite. Still, any dish or pizza on the menu won’t let you down.
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8. Mrs. London’s
One of the first places I take people when they come to visit is Mrs. London’s, an adorable boutique French bakery located in the heart of Saratoga. Once inside, it’s hard to think you are anywhere other than France.
You can choose to sit outside on their patio in warmer weather. Still, I love the little wood and marble-topped tables inside, each tucked into corners of the small eatery.
Flaky pastries made from scratch fill the glass-front cases. Fresh sandwiches, soups, daily selections of quiche, several flavors of macarons, side green salad, loaves of hearty bread, teas, coffees, creamy desserts, and much more have been offered here for over forty years.
I can hardly believe how many people I know, folks who’ve lived in Saratoga or nearby towns all their lives yet have never stepped foot inside this bakery. I always shake my head and say, “We need to change that!”
Owen Wilson was in town recently filming a movie. I heard the actor was a staple at Mrs. London’s every day, enjoying the early morning quiet with coffee and a pastry before his busy schedule began. So, I smiled when I learned that, happy we could share this little bit of heaven with him.
9. Olde Bryan Inn
I love this old stone building. The Olde Bryan Inn is a place steeped in history and charm, where people gather for drinks and food served by the friendly staff. Old wood floors, stone fireplaces, wood tables scarred with age, paintings, and other items from the past make one feel as if the late 1700s aren’t yet over in the Spa City.
It began as a crude log cabin. Somehow it survived the Revolutionary War, changed hands several times, and today it is an essential reminder of how vital Saratoga was in the shaping of America. Some people even swear it’s haunted. I say, with a history like theirs, it very well could be.
One of my favorite things to order is their French onion soup – I have it every time I dine there. They make the savory broth so hot I have to wait a minute to try it, and the cheese is always a little extra crispy – just the way I like it.
I’ve tried burgers, fish, salads, steak dishes and have never been disappointed with my choice. The menu is extensive, and they also feature daily specials. Everything is made fresh to order and cooked to perfection. Of course, dessert is a must anytime I go – even if I’m stuffed and need to share it with others.
10. Phila Fusion Noodle Bar
If you like sushi – and I mean the freshest sushi out there, you need to treat yourself to a meal at Phila Fusion or Sushi Thai, sister restaurants located on Phila Street in Saratoga. They offer an assortment of specialty sushi rolls and at a very reasonable price.
Friends invited me there many years ago, and truthfully I wasn’t sure I’d enjoy it at all. I wouldn’t say I liked the sound of raw, undercooked fish. But, by the end of my first visit, I was so grateful they’d talked me into it.
I let them order for me, and the selections they made were a perfect introduction to the world of sushi. The restaurants use the flavors of fish, vegetables, seaweed, and rice wrappings to create a delicious array of items on their menu.
Besides sushi rolls, the menu offers up several other items – soups, crab rangoons, savory noodle dishes, vegetable tempura, to name a few. Of course, I love the California Roll, and their Pad Thai with chicken and peanut sauce is a dish I often lean towards when I order. Their fruity cocktails with tiny umbrellas are a great compliment – make sure you try one!
Located on Lake Avenue, Scallions restaurant is one of the coolest restaurants around.
The menu boasts an exciting array of items, always using fresh fruits and vegetables to create various fish dishes, sandwiches, delicious soups, vegan offerings, specialty chicken, and pasta dishes, to name a few.
I love the interior – the colors are vibrant, almost southwestern-like with a side of whimsy, and there are homey touches everywhere you turn. There’s tons of natural light streaming in through the windows, and they have an adorable outdoor patio for the warmer weather, where catching a gorgeous Saratoga sunset is an everyday treat.
Another fabulous draw to Scallions is that they’ve opened an art gallery featuring handmade American furniture, jewelry, and fascinating objects of art by Sticks. I love wandering through before or after my meal – I usually find something I cannot leave without buying!
Believe it or not, Wheatfields Restaurant and Bar on Broadway serves close to twenty shapes and flavors of pasta daily. So I think you could easily say that pasta is their specialty.
But the menu at Wheatfields features other items as well. For example, there are times I’ll visit with friends, and we’ll choose a bunch of tasty appetizers to pass around the table. I love sitting with people I haven’t seen in a long time, chatting over a meal, catching up on life with tasty food and thirst-quenching drinks in front of us.
Wheatfields serves up local farm-to-table fare, hand-cut steaks, and their selection of fine wines has drawn the attention of Wine Spectator for five years and counting.
Their front windows look out onto the main drag of downtown Saratoga, and the tables there give you a great seat if you love people-watching. I make reservations in advance for our annual Victorian Streetwalk; it makes for a beautiful evening of great food, wine, friends, and childhood nostalgia.
As you can see from this small account of places to try when in our fine city, restaurants do all they can to cater to taste, combining the freshest ingredients they can find to make your dish unforgettable. In addition, you’ll find the chefs, owners, bartenders, and waitstaff experienced and attentive to your every need. Trust me – you’ll be back for more – Saratoga’s like that.