Photo by: Ellen Descisciolo
Whats for Dinner
By B.A. Nilsson
63 Putnam Street, Saratoga Springs, 581-7011.
Serving dinner Mon-Sat 5-10, Sun 2-10. AE, D, MC, V.
Cuisine: steaks and seafood
Entrée price range: $15 (top sirloin) to $28 (steak
and lobster tail)
Ambience: subdued elegance
As we climbed from the car, the aroma hit us. Beef on the
grill is primalóthe smell of the kill, freshly slaughtered
and dripping its blood onto the coals of the fire. The hunter-gatherer
offering succor to his family. Even my wife, still trying
to convince herself that she dislikes beef, took pleasurable
But she left it to me to actually order a beef dish, from
which she extracted a sliver to taste. It was just as well:
I prefer it rare, while sheíd order it well done if she didnít
fear my mocking reprisals. Nothing ruins a good slab of beef
more than overcooking, and you can be assured that the kitchen
makes merciless fun of you when you order it anything beyond
It turns out that Iím not even as fanatical as Doc. He was
grandfather to Docís Steakhouse chef-owner Bobby Mitchell,
who also owns the Wheat Fields restaurant in Saratoga. His
preference, as noted on the restaurantís menu, was for ďvery
rare beef, just briefly passed over the heat.Ē So Mitchell
took over the space vacated by Grahamís and turned it into
what seems by now to be an old- fashioned steakhouse.
Youíre presented with an array of beef cuts as you get started,
borne to your table like a dessert display. They all look
good. Sirloin ($22) typically is tastier, although the filet
comes wrapped in bacon for added flavor ($25). And a 20-ounce
Porterhouse ($25) gives you another tasty outlook. Opting
for the sirloin, I was very pleased to sample a tender cut
with enough bone left in to enhance the result once it was
Prime rib is popular, no surprise, and comes in two sizes
($18 and $22), but thatís a crowd-control dish. The two-sizes
approach is also taken by the teriyaki-marinated sirloin,
steak au poivre and steak marsala ($16 and $19), and thereís
a top sirloin preparation for $15 or $18.
My family visited, per tradition, on Super Bowl Sunday, an
excellent day for fine dining because the lager louts tend
to be elsewhere. Although a large TV screen by the bar displayed
the collisions of helmeted mesomorphs, we were seated far
enough away in the upstairs area so that it never intruded.
Also, we had the pleasant music of a duo guitar team.
Much of the seating is at booths, square or semicircular,
with banquettes or oversized chairs. With low-hanging lighting
and elegant table appointments, itís a very easy ambiance
Service proved fleet and attentive, and while we never saw
the place under heavy siege, the floor staff seemed well-trained
enough to handle it. I hold out the hope that your fate as
a customer wonít depend solely on one server should business
What with the salad bar at hand and included with the entrťes,
the six appetizers seem superfluous. No surprises here: shrimp
or crabmeat cocktail ($10), potato skins ($6) or two types
of mushroom dish, marinated Portobellos served with mozzarella
and peppers, or oversized mushroom caps stuffed with crabmeat
and topped with melted cheese ($8 each). I can report that
the last-named could be a pleasant forum for the seafood,
but it seemed to drown in the flavors of cheese and white
Beef barley soup is a regular menu item; for the same price
($4) we tried a special of seafood chowder, based on haddock
and finished with cream. Susan insisted that it was dominated
by a sprinkling of tarragon, but our server returned with
the info that thyme was the dominant herb. Even with the empirical
evidence of the wee spears, she clung to her belief but conveniently
managed to be in the bathroom when the chef later visited
The salad bar offers greens and an array of the most popular
sides (cherry tomatoes, cuke slices, pepperoncinióyou know
what to expect). The dressings are chilled to an oppressive
viscosity, but you really donít want to sully greens this
fresh with anything other than a nice vinaigrette.
Seafood items make up the rest of the other menu entrťes.
Haddock, scallops, salmon, shrimp, crab legs, lobster (priced
from $16 to $26 for the last two). And you can make your own
surf-and-turf combo. Chicken marsala ($18), offered as a special,
was a terrific example of how to do this right, with a big,
juicy portion breaded and sautťed in a rich sauce with a cascade
Baked potato and rice pilaf are standard; a twice-baked potato,
larger and richer and cheesier and crustier than what Iím
accustomed to tasting, is often available for an extra buck
and a half.
A kidsí menu gives diminutive portions of shrimp or prime
rib or top sirloin for $10, haddock for $8 and pasta, a cheeseburger,
or the dreaded chicken fingers for $6. And itís not a prefab
menu: Itís a page that also includes some games drawn by Mitchellís
According to the menu, Docís meal always was followed by a
sweet treat. Here itís a choice of a massive dessert portion,
a $9 slab of cake (carrot or chocolate or cheese) or tiramisu.
We chipped away at some carrot cake, the rest of which survived
for two days in my fridge, but, as I try to cling to a semblance
of dining restraint, Iíd really prefer to see smaller, reasonably
priced dessert portions.
All in all, however, Docís easily (and toothsomely) accomplishes
exactly what it sets out to do, and thatís the best you can
ask of an eatery.
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