A Long Weekend in Saratoga Springs, New York
While most out-of-towners venture to Saratoga Springs, N.Y., for horse racing, weddings, or concerts, the food there is reason enough for a visit, and a weekend getaway’s worth is just enough for a sampler. The small town's food scene consists of both long-time staples and newcomers, all within walking distance from each other.
Saratoga’s slogan is "Health, Horses, History," and the first "H" comes to life with fresh, local offerings at every stop. Farmers and chefs in Upstate New York emphasize sustainable practices and seasonal cooking, and most local restaurants specify which farms menu items are sourced from, knowing if they didn't include it customers would ask. And as passionate as the customers are about the ingredients, they’re even more vocal about what visitors should try — just ask.
The Daily Meal spent a weekend eating nonstop in Saratoga Springs; here’s an itinerary filled with delicious stops where you can spend your winnings from the race track.
8 p.m.: If you’ve taken a train in from New York City, you might just make it for dinner, and after that three-hour train ride fast, head straight to Max London’s, centrally located on Broadway. Start with famously fresh homemade bread from Mrs. London’s next door, served with an assortment of both local and international cheeses. The local dig has a great drink selection and two-for-one options if you make it in time for happy hour (3 p.m. to 6 p.m.).
Next, try the beet salad, a starter distinct to Max London’s and a favorite for regulars. There’s nothing like a staple so simple you can make it at home — just add feta, pistachios, and piquillo vinaigrette — but we prefer to leave the work to Max.
For your main course, locals highly recommend the mussels or wood-fired pizzas; it’s hard to choose so share both. The pizza toppings cover a broad range and the mussels are perfectly prepared with chile and fennel pollen.
10 p.m.: Once you're sufficiently stuffed, head to Saratoga’s new microbrewery right across the street and to try what’s on tap. Druthers opened in August, introducing six craft beers from three guys who put their lives, work, and convictions to the test by entering the micro-brewing business. The pub and restaurant has a lively, fun vibe and the patio provides a quaint gathering place. This is the spot to meet locals, as the clump of bars on Caroline Street is crowded. Druthers often projects football games on the wall outside, and we hear movies are coming.
9 a.m.: Saratoga’s coffee claim-to-fame is back on Broadway at Uncommon Grounds. Get an early start with coffee roasted on-site and homemade bagels. The signature roast is only available here and bringing a bag home makes for a great souvenir.
10 a.m.: Then stroll down Caroline Street to the farmers market on the left on High Rock Avenue. Local farmers from the four surrounding counties gather every Saturday (9 a.m. to 1 p.m.) and Wednesday (3 p.m. to 6 p.m.) with seasonal goods and pre-packaged orders for local chefs. Bundles of fresh greens, blocks of cheese, barrels of veggies and buckets of fish abound; you’re going to want to have your burlap sack on hand. If it’s raining, the market’s covered and there’s coffee and tea for warming up, and when it gets too cold outside, the market moves indoors for the winter.
The end of the market reaches the beginning of High Rock Park, home to a 9/11 Memorial and one of Saratoga’s many springs. Steps lead right back up to Broadway where boutique shopping awaits. Make your way to Beekman Street (a short walk down Washington) to browse Saratoga’s Art District with eclectic galleries and co-ops showing everything from jewelry and textiles to furniture and wall paintings.
1 p.m.: While browsing Beekman, stop at The Beekman Street Bistro for signature farm-to-table fare. This district’s primary restaurant serves healthy, seasonal American food sourced from more than a dozen local farms. You can check out its herb garden right in the backyard, too. Note that they’re only open from Tuesday through Saturday, and a great alternative on a Sunday or Monday is The Local Pub and Teahouse right around the corner.
3 p.m.: Now that you need to walk off your meal again, stroll through nearby Congress Park, where the Saratoga Springs History Museum is housed in the old Canfield Casino. Discover charming local beauty in the springs, fountains, memorials, and carousel, and then discover the town’s story inside.
If you’re looking to burn a few extra calories, or love the nature kick, drive to Saratoga Spa State Park where visitors can hike, bike, swim, golf, play tennis, or even go cross-country skiing or snowshoeing in the winter. The 2,200-acre property boasts beautiful pines, a variety of trails, and streams with fishing access.
The Roosevelt Baths & Spa within the park is perfect for relaxing afterward and recharging with baths, massages, steam and relaxation rooms, and a full-service salon. The historic building is an elegant landmark perfect for pampering and learning more about the area.
6 p.m.: Once you’re willing to brave consumption again, ease into it with drinks and starters at the new kid in town, Boca Bistro. Popular restaurateurs known for local staples Chianti and Forno introduced this tapas dig in June with a rustic, down-home feel and Spanish flare. While you’ll rarely fill up with tapas, you can’t go wrong either. When done right, sharing small plates over drinks is a fun alternative to individual appetizers and a great strategy for tasting a little of everything at a new restaurant. Of the veggies list, Pimientos de Padron blew us away.
8 p.m.: For your main course, take another walk down Caroline Street. Past the row of bustling look for The Living Room, a warm bar and restaurant with simple ingenuity like wasabi lime sorbet, crab sliders, and char-grilled ostrich. Pair your dinner with a Chianti Cobbler or Moscow Mule, which are served in tin mugs so amusing patrons often take them home.
10 a.m.: Back on Caroline Street, Sperry’s stands out for an à la carte brunch with a beautiful new patio, a sophisticated yet warm ambiance inside, and a spin on its varied selection. Try Sperry’s Brunch Punch and indulge in guilt-ridden items like lemon ricotta pancakes, cinnamon pecan French toast, or the savory signature steak and eggs or basil and feta cheese egg scramble.
12 p.m.: When you’re not in town for an event or race season, Saratoga Springs' museums provide plenty of entertainment and ways to explore that third "H," history. Choose from the National Museum of Dance, Saratoga Automobile Museum, National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame, the History Museum, or the Children’s Museum. Many of the museums host events throughout the year as well, from vintage car shows to dance classes to performances.
3 p.m.: Whether for a snack outside or early dinner, don’t miss Maestro’s before leaving town. You can’t beat the new patio seating at the Rip Van Dam Hotel. While locals and staff alike claim the Maryland crabcakes are the best you’ll ever have, we loved the duck bruschetta just as much. Maestro’s makes its own bread in-house, with seven varieties to choose from, and the peasant bread with Brie and pulled duck was to die for.