Horseshoe Inn Bar & Grill
Gridley St., Saratoga Springs, 587-4909. Serving Mon, Wed-Fri
4-11, Sat-Sun 9 AM-11 PM. AE, MC, V. www.thehorseshoeinn.com
summer entertain-ment options are ruled by a racetrack that
draws an impressively diverse cross- section of visitors.
So if you’re looking for, say, music, there’s a suitable variety
that ranges from the Philadelphia Orchestra to folk and jazz
performers to rock and blues bands of every stripe.
I can’t say what stripe distinguished the band (the Bad Boys
of Blues) my friend Brian and I encountered at the Horseshoe
Inn during a recent visit. We sat on the restaurant’s outdoor
deck, with the band’s back to us—meaning the band’s speakers
also were turned against us. Although the sound was very,
very loud, it wasn’t clear enough for vocals to be wholly
articulate. We gave up early on trying to talk to one another;
I settled back to take in the mise-en-scène. It was a Saratoga
in August experience.
The drive along Gridley Street puts you at the back end of
the racetrack perimeter, where stables and support houses
line the street. The Horseshoe Inn, located across from Gate
10, offers bettors a very close venue at which to unwind.
The place is easy to spot thanks to the giant-sized plastic
Molson bottle affixed to its roof; racing-specific Budweiser
banners carried the theme to the outside walls.
There’s music each evening, and the band actually face the
many tables arrayed under a large tent, contained within a
high fence. Which didn’t dismay at least one gent, domiciled
across the street, from setting out and sitting in a lawn
chair to enjoy the tunes.
Restaurant seating is divided among a dark indoor table array,
the half-dozen or so deck tables, and more than a dozen resin
or wood tables under the green-and-white tent. I made a reservation
earlier in the day, then realized en route that backed-up
traffic would delay us. So I cell-phoned to beg a postponement,
and was cheerfully accommodated.
Not surprisingly, there’s plenty of beer to choose from, although
my order of Bass was somehow transmuted into a bottle of Beck’s.
Brian ordered a glass of a Phelps Chardonnay, and we studied
the fare options.
The menu goes in many directions, with appetizers and other
light fare running the gamut from fries or onion rings or
tossed salad, in the $3 to $4 range, to clams or sandwiches,
from $5 to $8. There are also lots of grilled chicken sandwich
varieties, and a wide array of burgers, of course.
Dinners run from $15 to $20, with such favorites as baked
stuffed sole ($14.75), pesto chicken ($16), pasta primavera
($14.50) and shrimp scampi ($19.50). Also featured are smoked
items, which drew my attention right away.
In the appetizers department, the crab cakes ($6.50) were
exactly as expected: nothing fancy in the way of preparation
and presentation, a reasonable blend of seafood and fillings,
served with a tangy tartar sauce. A good-sized portion justifies
the price, which has meal-in-itself written all over it if
you’re looking for a quick, beer-accompanying nosh.
Looking for something to accompany a barbecue sampler, I started
with garlic bread, an enhanced order ($3.75) draped with mozzarella
cheese and accompanied by tomato sauce. Again, it was as I
expected, although I wish I had expected real garlic to be
employed. And, again, it was a lot—more than I let myself
The smoked sampler platter ($10) was a terrific bargain, even
when I added an order of garlic “smashed” potatoes on the
side ($3). What puzzles me is why the smoked items aren’t
as tasty and tender as they ought to be. An impressive-looking
smoker sits to one side of the tent area, so it’s clear they’ve
got the equipment. But the ribs were too chewy, and the pulled
pork lacked that melt-in-the-mouth quality it achieves after
many hours on the grill. The sauces—Tennessee bourbon BBQ
sauce and roasted garlic BBQ sauce—were excellent.
Brian’s entrée, Caribbean jerk chicken ($15.50), showed an
unfamiliarity with its progenitor. A spicy paste featuring
allspice and thyme and a goodly amount of heat is rubbed on
the meat, which marinates overnight and then is grilled. It’s
often presented in pieces; sometimes it sits in a stew. Brian’s
serving had a quick rub of not-too-ambitious spices and appeared
to have lingered too long on the grill. It wasn’t particularly
spicy or, for that matter, moist. Served over a pile of those
garlic mashed potatoes, and with a side of impressively crunchy
vegetables, it was yet another very hefty portion.
The band took their break just as it was time for us to go.
Service was generally attentive if extremely hurried; although
we waited quite a while for our entrées, we at least were
able to get and take care of the check quickly. But I think
our table was turned almost immediately. It’s that kind of
Dinner for two, with tax and tip, beer and sodas, was $63.