Hot Dogs

It took nine years for Beth and Jasper Alexander, the owners of Hattie’s, to realize that their fried chicken dinners could taste great away from their Phila Street location.  Then they opened an outpost on Restaurant Row.  This summer, two years later, a new Hattie’s pushed Pat’s Saratoga Chicken stand into oblivion. The next frontier will be Wilton.

It seems finding a place to sell food at the track is a preoccupation of many leading Saratoga restaurants.  But there are at least two that haven’t been tempted to expand their operations at the race meet.  PJ’s Bar-B-Q on Rte.9 wants to franchise its business, but not in this manner.  Spring St. Deli seems pleased with the business it has. The short of all this is – if you want to chow down, there are options.

The Wishing Well is one spot that’s been tops on visitors’ lists for nearly eight decades. Brenda Lee and her son Bob have wisely retained most of the restaurant’s charms, including a popular piano bar, as well as the reason for why people go there.  That would be fresh-grown tomatoes, platters of locally-grown corn and succulent lamb chops, juicy beefsteaks and two-pound lobsters that would cause even a man with a full stomach to salivate.

Each August, Marylou Whitney and John Hendrickson make a habit of coming by on Whitney Handicap evening. This year, the couple dined with their usual posse - the Oxleys, Farmers and Ed and Maureen Lewi. Scattered about the 70-year-old roadhouse fine-dining eatery were horsepeople John and Theresa Behrendt, Cobra Farm’s Gary Bizantz and his family, Peachtree Racing’s John Fort and the Son of Sam sleuth.

The track lured its own interesting crowd for the races on Monday.  In particular, Alex and Stephanie Vavak of Montreal, Quebec via Lake George, NY were the most inconspicuous. They managed to wheel three Yorkshire terriers past the guards in a baby stroller.  The pooches - Alfie, Charlie and Lily - were darling.

In a related faux paw, Nick Kling, the featured handicapper among five whose picks appear in the Pink Sheet, referred to the lone Saratoga race in The Underling’s resume as a “barker.”  Of course, The Underling won.. A race later, Ginger Snapit, a 2-year-old filly in search of a maiden victory, would have won also, had she not thought she was a dragon in a Chinese parade.

Vic Zast has attended at least one day of racing at Saratoga in each of the last 47 years. He is the author of the award winning book, “The History and Art of 25 Travers.”

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