I've been wanting to write this post for a while, and it will likely be my last posting before the bar exam. With the weekend coming and track season knocking at the door, this seems like the perfect time for it. Also, I was finally indirectly prodded to finish this posting when I learned of the plan by Times Union staffers Chris Churchill and Jordan Carleo-Evangelist to come here on Saturday and check out the best of what the Spa City has to offer.
So, in a posting that I started in May. Here is the first annual FunSaratoga top 10 list of cool places in and around Saratoga Springs. Drumroll please...
10. Gaffney's Restaurant - just a great place to hang out and have an outdoor dinner in the summer. The crowds in the backyard can get ridiculously large and there is no room to move, to the point of making you leave or avoiding it in the first place, but if you get a table on the back patio and have dinner it allows you to enjoy the atmosphere without being squeezed by the masses. Read my previous entry here.
9. The Meat House - OK, it's technically in Wilton, and it pains me to say any sort of chain location along the Exit 15/Route 50 strip is cool, but the Meat House is that good. Top quality steak and other meats prepped in unique ways (marinated or perhaps rolled with italian cheeses and other spiced products) combined with a nice selection of local items along with unparalleled service gets the Meat House on the list. My entry from a few months ago is here.
8. The Bread Basket - not exactly sexy, but The Bread Basket is simply good in many ways. Their sandwiches and soups are hearty and filling, their bread is excellent, and they arguably have the best cupcakes in town and their other sweet offerings are stellar as well. Their new outdoor patio is open. I previously wrote about The Bread Basket here.
8A. I'm going to give an honorable mention to The Cupcake Lab here, simply because it's unique, good, and I recently met the owner and patched up a minor misunderstanding the two of us had about my blogging as it related to his restaurant. The place has good food and the best ice coffee in town (others say they have the best hot coffee, but considering this week's temperatures I haven't tried it yet). The classic black and white movies shown on the wall add a nice touch and add to the comfort level, which is already appreciable due to it's spaciousness and quality seating arrangement.
7. The Adelphi Hotel - anything that old and still standing has to make this list. When you walk into the place it is truly like stepping back in time. And not just in appearance, just the sounds, smells, and even the feeling on your feet from the old wooden floor takes you back. The building is very cool, and the back courtyard is an awesome place to sit and talk while having a drink. One problem: I had a lousy dessert there once and my friend got a glass of wine that tasted old to him, so you may want to be very selective in what you order. Nonetheless it's still a great place that I suggest you bring your out-of-town visitors to. Also, the Adelphi Hotel building is where Maestro's Restaurant is located, which is arguably Saratoga Springs' best restaurant.
6. Universal Preservation Hall - Its steeple is the highest one in the Spa City, and it's not only old ( built in 1871) but also beautiful and majestic. (Full disclosure: I am a member of UPH's board of Directors). This is another building that brings you back in time. The reconstruction is not completed but the building is presently in use as a community center and wedding hall, and as the organization that saved the building from the wrecking ball raises more funds, it will become even more of an asset to the entire community.
5. Bettie's Cakes - Retro, sexy, and simply fun, this little shop in the Downstreet Marketplace along Broadway is bright pink, vibrant, has a cool 50's feel to it. It is a fun stop for a quick cupcake, coffee, or some fantastic cookies. Click here for my previous entry on Bettie's Cakes.
4. Swagger Barber Shop - this really cool place fits right in along the short stretch of Caroline Street that includes a head shop and a couple of biker bars has unfortunately moved to 15 Ballston Ave, across from the Bowling Alleys, but it's still going to be a great place to get your hair cut, whether you're a guy or a gal. The place has great music playing, Pabst Blue Ribbon beer for the customers, and just a fun atmosphere to hang out in. It's the kind of place you might go to and hang out even if you didn't need a haircut - just a great place to be. Read my previous entry here.
3. PJ's Barbecue - Easily the most fun restaurant north of, well, north of anywhere I guess. Classic 50s tunes played by "PJ the DJ", the option of indoor or outdoor dining at a picnic table, classic car and bike nights, a 50s museum, a blowing bubble machine and occasional hula hoop contests for the kids, so much more - not to mention great summertime food - make this one my favorite business in Saratoga Springs. Read more here.
3. Congress Park, the Canfield Casino, and the Carousel - this city park, which is steps from almost everywhere in Saratoga Springs, is beautiful and it is large enough to allow plenty of people to get comfortable in their own space. It includes dozens of beautiful trees, natural springs that Saratoga is famous for, ponds, and beautiful statues, sculptures, and memorials. I sometimes make the mistake of taking this great place for granted and that is awful of me. It's simply a gem to have and yet another thing that makes Saratoga Springs great and other cities don't have.
2. The Saratoga Spa State Park- including SPAC, the Hall of Springs, the Victorian Pool, and so much more. It's such a fortunate situation to be living in or near Saratoga Springs, and the State Spa Park is certainly one of the reasons. With SPAC, you have a venue hosting the New York City Ballet, The Philadelphia Orchestra, some of the year's best concert tours, and jazz and other music festivals. Where else has a venue offering so many different world class events? The Victorian Pool is like something you'd find at a Caribbean resort hotel, and the Hall of Springs is an awe-inspiring venue for weddings and other events. Oh yea, and the rest of the park is absolutely beautiful. There's more there too, such as the mineral baths, the auto museum, and some of the best tasting water that I've ever had. I'm just scratching the surface here, and not doing the place justice, but there's at least an introduction.
1. Where else? Saratoga Race Course. Say what you want about how wonderful the springs are here in town, and our bright future with the chip fab plant, but if John Morissey's mid-nineteenth century vision didn't come to fruition, then Saratoga Springs would likely be another struggling and bleak upstate mid-sized city like Amerstdam or Gloversville. I'm not going to write too much here about the track, because it speaks for itself, but let me say that living here in Saratoga Springs and experiencing the track, including thoroughbred ownership (I own 5% of the thoroughbred "Wishingonadream"), has changed my life for the better and, next to my pending marriage, has really been one of the best experiences of my life. I love living here in Saratoga Springs and I appreciate it so much. The track is easily one of the main reasons for that and I can't wait for July 23rd.
There are a few places missing off this list that are incredible and world-class, but didn't make this (subjective) list because I just haven't experienced the places enough to have developed the deep appreciation yet. The two that come to mind are Yaddo and Caffe Lena. I appreciate the special nature of both of those places, as well as some others, but I have barely experienced both of them and I realize I am missing out and intend to get there again someday soon.
So there is the inaugural version of the Saratoga Top 10 coolest places list. Hope you enjoy a few of these great places. Have a great summer!