Monday, July 23, 2012

Synthetic Saratoga

I’m already Saratoga-ed out.

I have never been a fan of the Race Track and the nightlife never got me excited. I’ve had some good times, but I always left feeling like I didn’t play the night right. Then the next time came, same thing again. Gaffney's? Never once fun. The Tower? Terrible. Circus Cafe? No comment. But this year, I wanted to embrace all that is Saratoga. So Wednesday night, we went to Skidmore to watch William Kennedy read from his brilliant new play. Afterwards, he invited us to a private gathering in his honor on Union Street, and at four am we got home. Wow, what a night.

So we thought: Let’s ride the hot hand, back to Toga on the weekend for some walking around and dinner. We made reservations at a Bistro on Broadway. We drove up, parked in the garage, hit the Strip. It was beyond mobbed. And not NYC mob where the crowd flows down the sidewalk naturally, but Saratoga mobbed where everyone bumps everyone, and it’s all a big confused system. Then came the street performers. Is there anything worse than everyone gathering around to watch some kid beat drums on two plastic jugs? I get it. It's the Toga charm. Blah, blah.

We arrived at the Bistro at 9:30PM. They had a deck, and I wanted to sit outside, all the best available tables were outside. That’s why you make a reservation, right? But nope, my reservation was not honored “outside” only “inside,” and if I wanted deck seating I’d be in for a wait. Why would I wait, I wondered. When I asked the hostess why this wasn’t made clear on the phone, she said: “I took your reservation and you did not ask for outside seating.” Ask for outside seating? But I have a reservation for this WHOLE place, and I want to sit at one of the empty tables outside. Again she said I did not SPECIFICALLY ask for that. Then she said, “I’ve been doing this for a long time.” Then she said, “Do you want to leave?” I said I did not want to leave, but man oh man, I wish I did. Ah, Saratoga.

They advertised the best crab cakes you’ll ever eat as an app. Not even close. I ordered a cod dinner ($27.00), took two bites, bit into a fish bone, and was done. Complimentary dessert was paper-thin chocolates the place advertised as “homemade.” As pedestrian as it gets until the bill came. Mercedes prices for Mazda product. The place sold itself as upscale. What's that mean? Must tip big? I love big tipping, but the waitress barely looked at us. Maybe the hostess turned her against me. And if that's true, maybe my hostess friend who's been "doing this for a long time" has been doing this a little too long.

Everything about Saratoga is as paper thin as those chocolates. The restaurants: plain food at disturbing prices. The bars: twenty-minute waits for watered-down drinks. The specialty shops: Christmas Tree Shop quality. I know, I know, I go to all the wrong places. They been telling me that for fifteen years. Then there’s a strange combination of snobby people and drunk people stumbling up and down Broadway. It’s all flash with no substance. It’s synthetic. I’m already Saratoga-ed out, and it isn’t even August yet, and I haven’t even wrestled that 1,000lb monster known as a day at the Track.

Next up: Fair Season.

Brian Huba

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