This past week’s announcement on Steve Barnes’ Table Hopping blog that Javier’s in Saratoga was to close prompted several commenters to suggest that Saratoga is a “one street wonder” and viable for only six weeks. It was also concluded that Saratoga is overrated as a place to open a restaurant.
Well, they couldn’t be more inaccurate, Saratoga has more than shopping and restaurants on Broadway, and more attractions than the race track for six weeks. I suggest that Saratoga is a worthy place to open a restaurant, but it had better offer something that the residents of this town are looking for Monday-Wednesday, because that’s the customer base early in the week, and there’s fierce competition to get enough of our 28,000 people to come in for a meal.
The bottom line is price or value for the price because people are not typically headed out on a Tuesday night to drop $200 on dinner, but they are willing to spend money for a few small plates, a salad and a bowl of hand-made pasta, or a well-crafted burger.
A successful model is a French bistro (true bistro) that caters to the people in the neighborhood who can walk in for a meal and be home by 9:00.
I posed my query on Facebook earlier today and got a good sense of what various restaurant professionals, local food bloggers, and the Saratoga dining public thinks. It reaffirmed my assessment of the Saratoga restaurant scene in general. Oversaturation, high rents, the false perception of limited parking, and a shallow labor pool.
Dominick Purnomo, who (with his family) owns DP and Yono’s in Albany says he is approached several times a year about opening in Saratoga but is reluctant because of oversaturation and higher rents which do not equate to long-term success (I think he would be successful here, especially with DP, because successful, hard-working people are generally just that. Successful, despite being a Yankee fan).
Otis Maxwell, author of the Burnt My Fingers food blog believes in a high-end restaurant’s ability to thrive here assuming they follow through with their commitment to quality 100%. So far, that has been shown to be the case at 15 Church where, from what I understand, has good food, and excellent service from the time you walk in to the time you leave. Time will tell here.
Danny Urschel who owns Mio Posto, a 20ish seat spot off Broadway, believes in keeping it small as he runs the kitchen, and his wife Heidi Beasley runs the front of the house. This model has low overhead and does not require a large well-trained staff. He’s a great chef, and despite being a Yankee fan, will do well there on Putnam St.
I believe that Saratoga is a very good place to open, but by a hard-working, high quality driven individual who thinks small and will cater to the locals without looking at the six weeks of racing as a get rich quick scheme. If I were to open a restaurant in Saratoga I would do it off Broadway, in a small setting with a comfortable skillfully-tended bar, great French bistro food, reasonable, superior quality portions, and nothing over $20. This would all be delivered by an upbeat, knowledgeable staff that had your satisfaction and enjoyment as their number one priority. The setting would be homey, and comforting. It would be small, with little reliance on too much staff, which, as mentioned is selected from a shallow labor pool. This place, I assert, would do well.