If you need a reminder about the reality of how a pandemic is devastating the hospitality industry (as well as countless others industries), look no further then the strained smiles on the faces of so many independent business owners. What these hard working entrepreneurs are doing to keep their enterprises afloat is an inspiring and exhausting testament to their fortitude and flexibility. They are working their asses off and witnessing their struggles has left my heart shredded like rösti potatoes. Raise your next glass in their honor, why don’t you?
Since late last winter, restaurants have had to reinvent themselves more frequently than Madonna in the 90s, and I’m not even talking about whatever she’s done to her face in more recent years. After sudden and mandatory closures in March, many restaurants reopened but exclusively for take out, which sometimes became included delivery. Blessedly with cocktails.
As the weather changed, outdoor dining became an anticipated option and businesses hustled for outdoor seating space and furniture while not really knowing how much to invest or what to expect. The weather is unpredictable, tourism is nonexistent and federal leadership is sorely lacking in guidance or support.
Indoor dining reopened, but with a limitation on the usual seating capacity. I know many people who remain uncomfortable with coming inside for a public meal and I am sympathetic. I’ve only eaten indoors on 3 occasions since March and each of those widely social distanced experiences nonetheless left me feeling a tad unsettled afterwards. I don’t want to catch Covid dining out. End of story.
So, what’s a girl who loves dining out going to do to satisfy that yearning? My solution has been to frequent places that offer outdoor seating, especially those which take reservations. In the past 6 weeks or so, I’ve been to a half dozen or area restaurants and have had all positive experiences. A time or two the food might not have been at the piping hot temperature that I appreciate or the service may have been a bit remiss, but it’s a pandemic, people. My complaints are trivial and I’ve noticed prices on bottles of wine have become incredibly reasonable during this crisis. I feel like I’m still winning here.
Where have I been, you wonder? There was a lovely evening at a sidewalk table just off Saratoga’s main drag, where my friend, Nancy, and I capped an afternoon at Victoria Pool with a dynamite smattering of plates from Amuse on Broadway. The mezze alone would have satisfied most, but the lamb that followed was worth the indulgence.
Lost and Found is one of my favorite spots for quality live music (*sigh*) and tasty tidbits. To me, Ian’s food comforts. It’s what I want on a Friday evening – a gastronomic hug. The traveling man joined me and we decided on three small plates to share – house cured capicola with pickle relish, corn fritters with spicy cream and the burrata served with pesto. My favorite was definitely the corn fritter plate. On a cool night, a hot dish, especially one so seasonal and perfectly crisp, was wonderfully delicious.
City Beer Hall’s chef Dimitrios Menagias consistently creates food which is a remarkable blend of traditional and experimental. A Saturday night spent on the beautiful rear deck came with a tantalizing variety of house-cured and pickled items that were a delight. Planning to head back there for some fall events that you’ll not want to miss!
On a weeknight in late September, a friend and I hit up Dove & Deer for what were probably the best burgers eaten in recent memory. Absolute perfection. How does one a follow a dinner so ideal? A shared piece of their fantastic carrot cake left us riding high. OMG. The crunchy bits?! It was love at first bite!
Two spots a little further afield –
I’ve been spending some quality time in Catskill and have been quite happy with the dining options. The place we return to for classic Italian, as well as creative takes on more contemporary cuisine, is the family owned La Conca D’oro. The food is fresh, plentiful and wildly inexpensive. Check out their Monday night special!
A perennial favorite of the Laker girls and I, is Woodstock’s Cucina. We have never had a bad experience at this established spot and being able to dine on their front porch was lovely. While my 3 friends looked at me like I was crazy when I ordered for the table, I think I nailed it and everyone happily consumed the dishes covering our table.
Now, get out there and explore these and other restaurants in our region. And – tip in cash.