by: B.A. Nilsson
Can’t Beat the House
Chariot’s Restaurant at Saratoga Gaming and Raceway
Crescent Ave., Saratoga Springs, 584-2110,
ext. 5790. Serving lunch Wed-Sat 10-3:30, dinner Wed-Sat 3:30-closing,
Sun 3-closing. Sunday brunch buffet 11-3. AE, D, MC, V.
surf ‘n’ turf
Entrée price range: $13 (pasta marinara) to $20 (prime
Ambiance: stadium with linen
Clientele: the Lotto faithful
Contrary to popular supposition, the number of cars in the
parking lot sporting New Jersey plates was minimal. New Yorkers
have rallied behind our new Racino, and they’re perched just
as intently, just as glassy-eyed, just as foolishly hopeful
as those who play the slots in Las Vegas or Atlantic City.
Only now it’s in our backyard—you don’t even have to go to
Perhaps I’m the wrong person to comment on this. I was taught,
long ago, as a fledgling poker player, that it’s silly to
make any kind of wager in which the odds favor the house.
By definition, you can’t win. You can bob ahead every now
and then, but that’s typically temporary.
So I don’t gamble at such places. But I do like to eat, and
recently investigated the dining options at the harness track.
Although dining options abound in Saratoga, if you’re making
a day of it at the harness track, you’re captive to the food
court and to Chariot’s, the fine-dining restaurant. Food court
options include Lefty’s Grille, for burgers and such; Americo’s
Pizzeria, for costly slices; the Jackpot Deli, where Boar’s
Head meat-based sandwiches will run you $7-$8, and Jake’s
Coffeehouse, for coffee and dessert. Most of these are located
near enough to the slot machines to barely interrupt your
If you’re planning to take some time for a meal, Chariot’s
offers a more leisurely, formal and expensive meal. Tables
are arrayed on the tiers of a large, glassed-in amphitheater
overlooking the harness track. When the horses are running,
even the highest tier has a decent view. But that view is
abetted by a TV monitor at each table that shows you not only
the race running just outside but also, when you channel flip,
activity at other raceways.
Trappings of elegance abound, from the cordial greeting and
information you’re given just outside the restaurant door
to the unfailing courtesy of the floor staff, from the handsome
linens and table service to the gleaming chafing dishes that
line the buffet.
And it’s obviously the buffet that wins the most attention.
The $18 seafood buffet actually featured more than just seafood,
but a selection of rolled, stuffed, cream sauce-topped fish
inhabited a few of the bins. Some of it we weren’t able to
readily identify, but they gave the impression of pre-stuffed,
pre-sauced frozen items, with an unmistakably fishy aroma
informing one of the selections.
I suspect that there’s not much à la carte ordering when the
buffet is in progress—which is every open evening except Sunday—because
our server instantly assumed that we were buffet-bound.
But we explored the other offerings, and discovered a certain
consistency in them. They were products of a system that has
sacrificed fresh ingredients and careful cooking to a high-volume,
quick-turnaround approach that moves the product out of the
kitchen quickly but has little else to commend it.
Take the Southwest chicken ($14): It’s touted as a marinated
chicken breast; what was presented bore little evidence of
such flavoring, added to which the butterflied breast was
dry on top and still pasty on the bottom. It seemed to have
taken a quick trip through the salamander—a professional broiler—and
hit the plate in no time.
This wasn’t the case with the New York strip steak ($20),
which, as promised, was grilled, but grilled way past the
point of medium rareness. Both plates were accompanied by
mashed potatoes and mixed vegetables, but each had emerged
from a box, the former in flakes, the latter frozen. And the
vegetables were free of any seasoning whatsoever, although
they continued to release water throughout the meal.
(My wife has a way of dealing with this: She places a knife
under one end of the plate, thus angling it enough to form
a puddle at the far end.)
The turkey in the open-faced turkey dinner ($15) was good,
except where touched by the canned, salty gravy.
We quickly reached a point at which it wasn’t worth complaining
about the food. We were surrounded by hundreds of obviously
happy people. And we were enjoying the world’s most amiable
server, who cheerfully saved us some money by swiping an extra
soup from the buffet and offering to do the same with desserts.
My daughter, who was given reduced-price buffet access, already
had sampled the desserts by then and we politely declined.
Our server also saved us some money by forgetting my appetizer
order (Maryland-style crab cake, $9), which, in retrospect,
was probably just as well.
It’s a short ride from the Gaming Center into Saratoga’s downtown,
so if you’re in search of good food you may want to cut your
losses by exploring the city’s many splendid eateries.
here for a list of recently reviewed restaurants.
want your feedback
you eaten at Chariot’s
Restaurant at Saratoga Gaming and Raceway
or any other
recently reviewed restaurants?
Agree or disagree with B.A.? Let us know what you think...
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very much enjoyed eating dinner at Daniel's
at Ogdens. You review described my dining
experience perfectly. This wasn't the case
with Pancho's. I much prefer Garcia's or
Lake View Tavern for Mexican fare. I agree
that a restaurant can have an off night
so I'll give the second unit on Central
Avenue a try.
yes I miss the star ratings, bring it back.
Second, I haven't had a chance to visit
Poncho's yet, but I especially like reading
would travel to Amsterdam to this restaurant
- it's not that far away. People traveled
from all over to eat at Ferrandi's in Amsterdam.
From his background, I'm sure the chef's
sauce is excellent and that is the most
important aspect of an Italian restaurant.
Sometimes your reviewer wastes words on
the negative aspects of a restaurant. I'm
looking forward to trying this restaurant
- I look forward to Metroland every Thursday
especially for the restaurant review. And
by the way Ferrandi's closed its Amsterdam
location and is opening a new bistro on
Saratoga Lake - Should be up and running
in May. It will be called Saratoga Lake
Bistro. It should be great!
comments about the Indian / Pakistani restaurants
being as "standardized as McDonald's"
shows either that you have eaten at only
a few Indian / Pakistani restaurants or
that you have some prejudices to work out.
That the physical appearances are not what
you would consider fancy dancy has no bearing
on the food. And after all, that is what
the main focus of the reviews should be.
Not the physical appearances, which is what
most of your reviews concentrate on.
A restaurant like The Shalimar, down on
Central Avenue, may not look the greatest,
but the food is excellent there. And the
menu has lots of variety - beef, lamb, vegetarian,
chicken, and more..