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Saratoga's Best Kept (Culinary) Secrets
Bonacio, Mulholland and MOMS join the cult followings behind these 3 dishes. PLUS: Cocktails to go, $25 concert tickets and more.
Saratogians know Druthers has good mac ‘n’ cheese. They know Hattie’s has good fried chicken, and they know that though Stewart’s is technically a gas station, it has some of the best ice cream around. That’s because those restaurants (yes, I just called Stewart’s a restaurant—sue me) advertise their hottest (or in some cases, coldest) menu items.
But not every stand-out dish gets the publicity it deserves. Some sandwiches, steaks and sweets fly under the radar, known only to a cult of local followers who spread the word by word of mouth. Whispers of three such meals have recently found their way to my ears, and I feel that it’s my civic duty to pass on the good word.
Turkey Club from Trotters
I first heard about the Trotters turkey club from my friend Noah, who heard about it from his friend Spencer, who heard about it from his friend Jason. “I started going there just to get it,” Jason, who bartends at Druthers, told me. “They make it with fresh-roasted turkey. It started out as kind of a joke, but every time I got somebody to get it they were like, ‘Oh my god.’” Word spread like wildfire, and the sandwich is now Trotters’ most popular menu item, by far, bartender Ashley told me this past Thursday afternoon.
Besides the fact that the turkey is roasted in house, the sandwich is also popular because you can get it late at night. “They serve until like 10:30pm,” Jason says. “And then one of the bartenders—Lance—will serve industry people that he knows and likes after that, which is nice because you can’t get anything in town after a certain time.”
And it’s not just restaurant industry people who are cashing in on the best bang for your 11 bucks. When I asked Ashley if the sandwich was most popular late at night she shook her head. “Open to close.” As I was walking out, one customer who’d overheard my conversation raised her hand.
“I’ve had it,” she said.
“And is it as good as they say?” I asked.
Muffins from Hannaford
This one obviously isn’t a meal at a sit-down restaurant, but that doesn’t mean, by any means, that it’s not a meal. “My son is obsessed with them,” says Kelly Smith, who, it turns out, is also obsessed with them. “We had to take a little break from them because it was becoming an addiction.”
Hannaford’s muffins, which come to individual stores as frozen batter and are baked on site, are so popular that they’ve won the Capital Region Living Bestie award for muffins the last two years—yes, beating out all other bakeries in the region. “They’re really good,” says Gabby Vadnais, the bakery manager of the Saratoga Hannaford, who confirms that some customers are obsessed with them. “Blueberry’s our top seller, so a lot of people will come in looking for blueberry.”
Kelly, on the other hand, prefers the chocolate chip ones year round and pumpkin ones in the fall, while her son likes the corn muffins. “You know how corn muffins sometimes need butter?” she says. “You don’t need it. I talk about them all the time. Any time anyone’s talking about bakeries or muffins, I’m like, ‘Hannaford’s the one to go to.’”
Steak from Pennell’s
I know what you’re thinking: Steak, from an Italian restaurant? You’re not alone.
“When people I work with in Albany ask me where they should go to eat in Saratoga, I say, ‘Well, you’ve probably never heard of Pennell’s, but you should check it out,’” says NewsChannel 13’s Mark Mulholland, who lives in Wilton. “Sonny Bonacio told me, ‘You’ve got to get the steak.’ And I said, ‘It’s an Italian restaurant—why am I getting the steak?’”
Here’s why: “Thirty years ago, to get more business, I decided that if you make a great steak, Dad wants the steak and Mom and the kids come in tow,” says Pennell’s owner Bruce Cerone. (He admits that these days, the kids more often dictate where a family eats.) “I don’t advertise it because I don’t want to be a steakhouse—I’m an Italian restaurant—but it’s definitely one of our top sellers. I myself have never ordered a steak in an Italian restaurant in my life.”
So, is there a secret recipe? “It’s not rocket science,” Bruce says. “We buy the best prime New York strip and we put a Montreal seasoning on it. It’s had a cult following for 30 years now.”
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Quote of the Week
“She’s got a butt like a dump truck and a heart like a regular truck.”
—Overheard at Nashville of Saratoga
Concert season is just around the corner, and starting Wednesday, you can snag tickets to see some of your favorite acts coming to SPAC on the cheap. Live Nation’s annual Concert Week is going on May 10-16—get tickets to Zac Brown Band, TLC & Shaggy, Tears for Fears and more for just $25 when you buy in that time frame.
Save the Date
There are still tickets left for Saratoga Living’s group medium reading with Christine Seebold at The Gideon Putnam on Wednesday! All ticket holders will receive a complimentary drink and hors d’oeuvres during cocktail hour from 6-7pm before the main event begins at 7!
You can now order cocktails from Lucy’s Bar on DoorDash. (They come served with a strawberry Pop-Tart.) You’re welcome.
This Week in Saratoga Living After Hours
Then on Wednesday, we shared a rainy day playlist created by Saratogians, for Saratogians.
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