In one-half of Saratoga Living’s current cover story, Stewart’s Shops President Gary Dake, singled out what he believed to be the most important thing Saratoga Springs needed to do to ensure its survival for the future. His answer: the city needed to maintain its diversity of business. He compared it to how Stewart’s operates—the local convenience store giant has remained relevant over the course of three quarters of a century, because it’s been not only in the packaged foods business, but also the prepared foods and the gasoline businesses. When one aspect of the business suffers, the others are there to keep it healthily chugging along. Saratoga, Dake says, is just like that. We have manufacturing, arts, sports, boutique and nightlife businesses, as well as an amazing food/bar scene. And when some unforeseen obstacle (*cough* COVID-19) comes along and puts a strain on one industry, the city can rely on countless others to course-correct.
And so, while Saratoga Living once again presents its third annual Best of Everything A2Z Guide (voted on by you!), the true weight of the term “A2Z” is only just becoming clear. Saratoga really does have it all, from builders and clothing stores to financial planners and gift shops. And it has some of the best damned Italian food you can get this side of the Atlantic. Join us in celebrating that all-encompassing A2Z spirit. Voted on by you, Saratoga! –Natalie Moore
WIN: Saratoga Farmers’ Market
The Saratoga Farmers’ Market puts the “art” in artisanal, showcasing the area’s finest local growers and artisans (with COVID-friendly rules that have kept the show on track, pandemic or not). Nothing beats a stroll through the market, with local vendors’ tables
piled high with colorful fruits and veggies, fresh-picked wildflowers and specialty items like meats and cheeses. A testament to how much Saratogians love their market? It’s almost guaranteed that you’ll run into a friend or neighbor (or three) there on any given weekend.
PLACE: National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame
SHOW: Bow Tie Criterion Cinemas
WIN: Bonacio Construction, Inc.
Modern Saratoga looks as good as it does largely because of Bonacio Construction, which puts on a masterclass when it comes to high-quality residential and commercial construction, as well as remodeling and a bevy of other services. Bonacio’s team is known for its innovative work on private residences and commercial hubs, including the recent update to the historic Saratogian building, where Walt & Whitman Brewing Company now makes its home. After more than 30 years in business, Bonacio has proven it can handle any project thrown its way.
PLACE: Witt Construction, Inc.
SHOW: Teakwood Builders, Inc.
WIN: Union Hall
Owner Heidi Owen lands the trifecta for Clothing Store, with her three shops running the category. The big winner? Union Hall, whose carefully curated selection of men’s clothing, shoes and accessories makes it a fashion-forward man’s dream. (And even if you’re not that type of guy, it’s worth poking your masked face in.) A combination of modern pieces and classic staples keep shoppers coming back for more—and the downtown store’s in-house craft beer bar doesn’t hurt either.
PLACE: Lifestyles of Saratoga
SHOW: Caroline & Main
Druthers Brewing Company’s Saratoga location is its flagship—with newer outposts in Albany and Schenectady (and plans for another in Clifton Park)—and its outdoor patio does not disappoint. Druthers Brewing excels at exactly what its name implies: brewing signature craft beer for every palate. From malty brown ales to hoppy IPAs and more, Druthers’ beer selections are exceptional alone or paired with the brewer’s pub fare, which includes its signature Druthers Mac and all of its delicious variations.
PLACE (tie): 550 Waterfront + Hamlet & Ghost
WIN: Saratoga Performing Arts Center (SPAC)
SPAC has been a Saratoga institution for more than 50 years, and although this year’s classical and Live Nation seasons took a direct hit because of the COVID-19 crisis, it’s still as essential as ever. Whether your preference is to catch the Philadelphia Orchestra and New York City Ballet, or bro out with your crew at the Dave Matthews Band’s annual two-nighter, SPAC is what the Saratoga summer is all about.
PLACE: Caffè Lena
SHOW: Universal Preservation Hall
Need a financial advisor to get your house in order? AYCO’s got you covered. The company’s personalized approach to financial planning means that you’ll receive one-on-one assistance from an experienced professional who truly has your best interests in mind. Sound advice about your savings during troubled times–what more could you ask for?
PLACE: Northwestern Mutual/The Anderson Financial Group
SHOW: Bouchey Financial Group
WIN: Tailgate and Party
Who’s ready for a shower of confetti? Stop at Saratoga newcomer Tailgate and Party for everything you need to pull off (and crush) your next successful fête. This shop (on the corner of Caroline and Henry streets) has it all—everything from decorations and drinking games to unique gifts and yes, hangover kits. And who says you need to be throwing the party to go there? There’s now no excuse to show up to your next get-together empty-handed.
PLACE: Crafters Gallery
SHOW: Impressions of Saratoga
WIN: Vanity Salon & Spa
You’ll have every reason to be a little vain after an appointment at Vanity Salon & Spa. This salon, located on Maple Avenue on the way to Wilton, offers first-rate haircare services including cuts, color and styling for formal events that will leave you feeling pampered and photoshoot-ready (even if the red carpet leads from your kitchen to living room).
PLACE: Svana Beauty Lounge
SHOW: Fusion Salon
WIN: Leah Margolis Design
Expect compliments aplenty after bringing in the expert eye that is Leah Margolis Design for all of your home’s interior design needs. Lead designer and company namesake Leah Margolis Nathan knows her Saratoga, too, having graduated from Skidmore College. (She’s also styled in capitals of swank such as Lake George, Manhattan and the Berkshires). It’s clear after flipping through her enviable portfolio that she has a natural talent for transforming any space into a stylistically sensational sanctuary.
PLACE: Susan Waldron Designs
SHOW: Sensory Six
WIN: Lake George
Lucky for us Saratogians, another one of Upstate New York’s premier vacation destinations—the glorious “Queen of American Lakes,” i.e. Lake George—is just a half hour away. There’s never a shortage of things to do there, whether it’s boating, hiking or simply relaxing on a dock, beach or your own private island. And the best part? You can spend a fun-filled day by the lake and still be back in Saratoga in time for dinner.
PLACE: Lake Placid
SHOW: Manchester, VT
While Mommy and Daddy take a trip to Margaritaville, kids find more than a few reasons to be distracted from their iPads as they chow down at Broadway’s hot spot Cantina. The jovial atmosphere is a perfect complement to the high energy of young diners, and Cantina’s kids’ menu options, which include popular dishes like Make-Your-Own Tacos and Kickin’ Chicken Tenders, are sure to keep them satisfied.
SHOW: 2 West Bar & Grille
Landscaping & Gardening Supply
WIN: Sunnyside Gardens
Did your quarantine productivity go into everything except your garden? Sunnyside Gardens can help you with that. This plant lover’s paradise carries all of the greenery you could ever want, and then some. Stop by to explore any and all of Sunnyside’s 20 greenhouses. You’ll have to clear your car to make room for all of the plants, flowers and pumpkins you’re going to bring home. Thanks to Sunnyside, you’ll be turning over a new leaf in no time.
PLACE: Allerdice Building Supply
SHOW (tie): Hewitt’s Garden Center
Olde Saratoga Home and Garden
WIN: Garland Nelson
Whether fronting Soul Session or playing solo, Garland Nelson is a standout in Saratoga’s rich local music scene. And he has the chops to prove it: Nelson, with his super silky-smooth vocals, masterful musicianship and packed repertoire, has played just about every venue, wedding and fundraiser of note in Saratoga during his decades-long run. And he’s even regularly taken to Facebook in these live concert-less times. Bravo!
PLACE: Rich Ortiz
SHOW: Funk Evolution
WIN: Ridha Plastic Surgery & Medspa
Looking for a renewed you? Ridha Plastic Surgery and Medspa is Saratoga’s top choice for transformative treatments and cosmetic surgery, offering a range of services from rejuvenating facial peels to natural-looking surgical enhancements. Dr. Jeffrey Ridha’s team of highly qualified surgeons and aestheticians uses a combination of high-end technology and aesthetic sensibilities to leave you looking (and feeling) like a million bucks.
PLACE: Saratoga Surgery Center
SHOW: Rappaport Dermatology
WIN (Tie): Hattie’s Restaurant
Hattie’s has been the place to go for authentic Southern cuisine in Saratoga since the late 1930s—and though its ownership has changed a few times over the years, the same great recipes still keep bringing people back year after year. But it’s not just Saratoga famous; the beloved restaurant’s can’t-miss fried chicken has been on the winning end of a Food Network challenge and has been ranked among the best in the United States by Food & Wine.
WIN (Tie): Olde Bryan Inn
Dining at the Olde Bryan Inn is like taking a step back into Saratoga’s storied past—like, actual centuries! The restaurant’s building dates back to the 1770s, when Revolutionary War hero Alexander Bryan operated a tavern on its site. Today, the restaurant welcomes in diners looking for cozy, homey vibes; yummy, traditional American fare; and of course, a full bar—with a side of social studies.
SHOW: The Parting Glass
WIN: Osteria Danny
So what if there’s still a European travel ban? Take a trip to Italy without ever going past Saratoga’s city limits. At Osteria Danny, authenticity is the name of the game. The Henry Street trattoria serves Italian classics like spaghetti, bucatini and carbonara that will have you giving socially distanced, air cheek-kisses to its chef and staff as you leave.
PLACE: Augie’s Family Style Italian To-Go
SHOW: Mama Mia’s
WIN: Uncommon Grounds
It’s impossible to go wrong with Uncommon Grounds. The spacious cafe always smells like freshly roasted coffee and has a lively yet productive atmosphere that’s perfect for getting work done. With nearly unlimited types of coffee and bagels at your disposal, it’s not uncommon to spend an entire day here without even realizing it.
PLACE: Saratoga Spa State Park
SHOW: Congress Park
WIN: Classical Concepts Salon & Spa
Classical Concepts Salon & Spa is so peaceful that you’ll forget you’re just steps away from
Broadway’s hustle and bustle. This wellness oasis offers a variety of haircare and spa services, including blowouts, waxing, massages and nail care. Expect to leave your appointment feeling rejuvenated and completely blissed out.
PLACE: Roosevelt Baths & Spa
SHOW: Complexions Spa for Beauty & Wellness
WIN: Roma Foods
Roma is the Michelangelo of sandwich-making. It’s hard to put into words just how exciting it is to peruse this Washington Street standout’s extensive menu, which includes more than 30 varieties of delicious meats, cheeses and mouthwatering extras that can
all be heaped on your next perfect lunch or dinner order. And it takes a mighty Saratoga appetite to finish a single sandy—so meals might even be covered for days to come.
PLACE: Fat Paulie’s Delicatessen
SHOW (tie): Putnam Market + The Barrelhouse
WIN: Taquero Tacos & Donuts
It’s hard to believe that one place can make both tacos and doughnuts so well, but downtown’s Taquero has managed to pull it off without a hitch. The innovative eatery excels at combining classic Mexican-inspired ingredients like barbacoa and queso fresco in fresh and exciting ways that keep customers coming back for more (with a side of doughnuts, of course.)
SHOW: El Mexicano
WIN: Tailgate and Party
Having only opened this past June (just in time for home track parties!), Tailgate and Party is already making its presence felt in town, having swiped the top-vote-getter honors for both Gift Shop and Up-and-Coming Business. It’s hard to remember what we did to stock our soirées before the shop arrived on the scene. With a selection of gifts and decorations for every occasion, Tailgate and Party is nothing short of a party-planner’s (or -guest’s) godsend.
PLACE: 550 Waterfront
SHOW: Walt & Whitman
WIN: 15 Church
15 Church’s sophisticated menu coupled with its atmospheric lighting and interior have made it a hotspot for special-occasion meals since it first opened in 2014. (And don’t get us started on its chic, open-air patio!) Walking into this cut-above establishment is the easiest way to feel like a celebrity or visiting royalty, especially once you’re seated at a private table, with its gracious waitstaff attending to your every need.
PLACE: 550 Waterfront
SHOW: Hamlet & Ghost
WIN: Saratoga Peak Performance
If you’re serious about fitness, Saratoga Peak Performance is the place to go. A combination of heavy-duty equipment and acclaimed personal trainers makes this gym an athlete’s paradise. And it’s not just for your average Joe and Josephina off the street; its owner, Dr. Bryan Briddell, has trained professional athletes who have competed in a number of high stakes events.
PLACE: Saratoga Springs YMCA
SHOW: Reform Pilates
X-tra Special Occasion Spot
WIN: The Adelphi Hotel
After undergoing a multimillion-dollar renovation and reopening in 2017, The Adelphi Hotel has returned to its 19th-century Saratoga splendor, with more than a few modern luxury flourishes to boot. And it’s not just a ritzy place to rest your weary head; it has its own grand ballroom, wine cellar and more than a few classy culinary choices like The Blue Hen (breakfast), Morrissey’s (cocktail hour) and Salt & Char (dinner). Oh, and if it weren’t already obvious, it’s smack dab in the middle of one of the Northeast’s greatest small cities!
PLACE: Hall of Springs
In this category, Chowderfest is the one to beat. The highly anticipated mid winter event is about so much more than just warming your frigid frame with some hot, delicious chowder (though, it’s hard not to walk away stuffed silly). It’s a chance for foodies of all stripes to unite and enjoy the best of what Downtown Saratoga has to offer.
PLACE: New York City Ballet Gala
SHOW: Victorian Streetwalk
WIN: The Adelphi Hotel
The Adelphi Hotel experience is truly dreamlike, beginning from the moment you walk in the front entrance to when your head hits one of your room’s luxurious pillows. With heated bathroom floors, towel-warming racks and beds that make you feel like you’re lounging on a cloud, you’re guaranteed to get a peaceful and unforgettable night’s sleep.
PLACE (tie): The Gideon Putnam
Saratoga Casino Hotel
SHOW: The Pavilion Grand Hotel
Want to comparison shop? Check out last year’s Ultimate A2Z Guide here.