Blue Smoke in Saratoga

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It's really not just Blue Smoke. There's a Shake Shack and a Paddock Bar too, all from the Union Square Hospitality Group. Situated by the Club House Gate off Nelson Avenue and near the paddock and horse path and with their own betting windows, the restaurants are perfectly placed to enjoy both the equine and hominid action of the Saratoga Race Track.

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Even though it was a beautiful day after the track's opening weekend of hot and sometimes rainy weather, it was still Monday and the track was only lightly attended as were the restaurants, which at this point was just as well. With the track just having opened for the season this past Friday, the restaurants are still absolutely brand new. It showed in the time it took for small orders to be filled, but the quality of the food was still excellent and service was given with the trademark Danny Meyer reputation for friendliness and excellence. When I ordered fries at Shake Shack, the ones I received were not particularly fresh. When I asked the counterperson about them after I had tasted one, she didn't blink an eye. She took them back with an apology and within a couple of minutes I now had two orders of delicious piping-hot fries right out of the fryer. With a special "Sloppy Track Shake" to go along with the fries, we were good to go. The shake was a truly beguiling salted caramel with a generous heaping of Valrhona cocoa sprinkled on top. I couldn't finish the shake, but I made sure to siphon off the wonderful cocoa. At $7 the shake was not cheap, but it was truly decadent and worth the splurge, especially if splitting it with someone.

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At Blue Smoke, the ribs came right away, but the pulled pork sandwich took a bit longer despite the lack of any line. Both were excellent, however, especially when eaten in the small dining area situated directly above Blue Smoke overlooking the Paddock Bar. The ribs were meaty with a Kansas City style sauce that mercifully wasn't too sweet. I prefer a non-tomato, vinegar based North Carolina style sauce with pulled pork, but the Blue Smoke sauce was still tasty without smothering the pork's flavor. There are also chipotle chicken wings and some desserts on the menu, but we didn't try them this time. 

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The upstairs vantage point is a great spot to hang out, enjoy the meal, have a cold brew or glass of wine available at a small bar up there and observe the milling people and horses below or watch the race on the simulcast tv screens. We just happened to find Danny Meyer himself overseeing the early days of this venture.

 
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The Paddock Bar is a nice spot for cocktails. Since I was driving I didn't indulge, but the Lynchburg Lemonade with Jack Daniels and house made lemonade and The English Twist with Bombay Sapphire Gin, Pimm's Cup No.1, lemonade and cucumber both tempted.

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A few kinks still need to be worked out in distributing the food efficiently, especially when the days get really busy, but that will undoubtedly happen sooner rather than later. The enthusiasm of the staff at the restaurants and the expertise of Meyer and his crew will see to that. More importantly the food is as good as I expected (I expect a lot from the Union Square Hospitality Group though I must admit that Shake Shack burgers are not my favorite) and the location and ambiance are as good as it gets for food at the track. I'm not a betting man in general and I don't really go to the track to play the ponies. I go because it is fun to watch not only the incredible horses, but the people at the track as well. Now with the additions of Blue Smoke and Shake Shack as well as kiosks for a number of local Saratoga eateries, it is also a fun place to eat.

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