Saratoga's Men and Where to Find Them
Forget "Find My Friends:" We'll tell you the exact location of these 10 Spa City regulars.
Anyone who’s out and about in the Spa City on a regular basis knows: You tend to see the same faces around town, whether you’re out for a coffee, lunch or late-night drink on Caroline Street. Sure, Saratoga’s a small city, but Saratogians are also creatures of habit. We know what—and where—we like, so we tend to do those things (such as drink certain beverages) and go to those places (our favorite bars and restaurants), regularly.
For the purposes of this exposé, I’m going to hone in on the male population ages approximately 25 to 88, who take being a regular to a whole new level—so much so that you can waltz into a guy’s favorite establishment at the same time every week (or even every day) knowing that, beyond a doubt, he’ll be there, in his self-designated “spot.” And Saratoga’s nothing without these town personalities, routine guys we can depend on, whether they’re at Uncommon Grounds or a specific side of a specific floor of a specific bar on Caroline Street. So, if ever you need Steve Struss, James Morrow, Ryan Mortka, Josh Feng, Justin Metzger, Dan Graham, Justin LaViolette, Bill Zeitler, Steve Bouchard or Mike “Brownie” Brown, here’s where to find them:
Name: Steve Struss
Where to Find Him: Outside Desperate Annie’s
For someone who loves Desperate Annie’s so much, Steve Struss spends an awful lot of time standing outside of it. “You have a great viewpoint of the full street,” he says, defending his go-to Saturday night post. “You know where the riffraff is going. I can see the shenanigans as it all flows down the street.” While you can count on Steve to be surveying the Caroline Street scene on any given Saturday, you can catch him in and around DA’s most other nights—especially on Super Dark Mondays, either as a spectator or drummer for the band Gusto.
Why You Might Need Him: Not only is Steve an excellent late-night Esperanto companion, but he has access to some of the coolest cars to come through Saratoga Springs.
Name: James Morrow
Where to Find Him: Bailey’s
I’m not going to lie to you (have I ever?)—on a recent Saturday night, I went to Bailey’s in search of James Schober, whom I always seem to run into there. On that particular night, he wasn’t there, but another James was. And according to Bailey’s Co-owner Matt Beecher, James Morrow is even more of a frequent flyer, hitting up the Phila Street bar in the late afternoon/early evening hours some five days a week. “I hate to date myself, but it reminds me of Cheers,” James tells me a couple of hours after the Kentucky Derby. “Everybody knows my name.” Besides that hometown feel, James loves Bailey’s for its three different settings (“the indoor bar, covered patio and patio”), the waitstaff (“they feel like family”) and the food (“it’s the only place to get Utica Greens”).
Why You Might Need Him: If you’re looking to hear the longest, most descriptive story in the world.
Name: Ryan Mortka
Where to Find Him: The Second Floor of Saratoga City Tavern
After a certain time on a Saturday night—like clockwork—you can catch class flirt Ryan Mortka on the second floor of Saratoga City Tavern, usually flanked by a couple of guy friends and always chatting up a group of girls. Why there? In recent months, the floor affectionately dubbed “Saratoga’s Favorite Dive Bar” has been co-opted by a group of Shenendehowa alumni, so it’s basically a big high school reunion. “This is where we find the homies,” Ryan says. “This is our area: the right-hand side of the second floor of the City Tavern.” Why that specific spot? Ryan’s friend Adele Cekic weighs in: “Good company, beautiful women, great drinks, heavy pours.”
Why You Might Need Him: If you’re looking to buy or sell commercial real estate or need a lunch recommendation in Latham.
Name: Josh Feng
Where to Find Him: At the Pool Table
To the untrained eye, you may think Josh Feng’s home base is Tin & Lint, where he runs the pool table regularly. But as any given night progresses, this man follows the action, and has been sighted at tables at both Tap & Barrel and Caroline Street Pub. Josh moved to town for a job at Global Foundries and started coming out with some fellow engineers, but didn’t know many other people in Saratoga. “I started shooting pool five or six years ago,” he says. “I come out more and more, so I get to know more people and nice girls like you.”
Why You Might Need Him: Selfies and shots of Jameson.
Name: Justin Metzger
Where to Find Him: Tap & Barrel on Saturdays
When I recently replied to Justin Metzger’s Instagram story of him on top of an Adirondack High Peak and said “Looks like you require a Miller Lite,” he didn’t skip a beat: “And I will be at the usual watering hole inhaling them.” Of course, I knew the usual watering hole was Tap & Barrel, where he goes pretty much every Saturday with BFF Matt Flint. While Justin is a man of few words when on the record (“live music and atmosphere” was all he said when I asked why he goes to Tap so dang much), he has plenty to say off the record, specifically about Cocaine Bear.
Why You Might Need Him: Advice on renovating a bathroom and/or for a friendly game of Asshole.
Name: Dan Graham
Where to Find Him: Henry Street Taproom
There have been several occasions on which I’ve said to friends, “Let’s go to Henry Street Taproom to see Dan Graham,” having no idea if he was actually there or not, and upon arrival finding that yes, of course, Dan is there. I even met up with him there once to do the interview for his Celeb Shot feature, and he filmed a promo video for his Capital Region Gives Back fundraising effort there. (Yes, Dan is undeniably Saratoga Living’s most featured subject.) “I love HST because you can actually have a conversation there,” he says. “It’s also the only place in Saratoga with the perfect barstool-to-bar height ratio.”
Why You Might Need Him: His web development, whiskey, volleyball or dog adoption expertise.
Name: Justin LaViolette
Where to Find Him: Everywhere but Lucy’s
Justin LaViolette currently works at Lucy’s. I know this because he’s always mixing up creative cocktails in the video Reels on the pint-sized bar’s Instagram. And yet, every time I run into him (which is all the time), he’s somewhere else. “It depends what I’m looking for,” he told me when I finally cornered him on the first floor of City Tavern and asked why he’s literally everywhere. “If I’m looking for a nice cocktail, I’ll go to Hamlet & Ghost. If I want to have a good time, I come to the Tavern. And if I want to mind my own business and do a little bit of lunch—maybe hang out on the patio—I’ll go to Bailey’s.”
Why You Might Need Him: He very well may be the only coherent, well-spoken person at the bar at 1am.
Name: Bill Zeitler
Where to Find Him: Every Morning at Uncommon Grounds
Amazing, I know—I do actually go places that don’t serve alcohol. I recently switched up my go-to coffee shop from Saratoga Coffee Traders to Uncommon Grounds, and in doing so have noticed an older gentleman that seems to be there every time I go. Yesterday I found out that his name is Bill Zeitler (aka Bill from Brooklyn), he’s 88 years old, and he does indeed go to Uncommon every day from around 8-10am before going to the YMCA. “It’s a big part of my life,” Bill tells me about socializing at the coffee shop. “Since my wife died, it’s a great place to keep me going. You meet so many great people.” In case you’re wondering, yes, Bill did recently make the move from the Uncommon couches (his old HQ) to the table nearest the window, because it’s easier to read over there.
Why You Might Need Him: To set you up with his grandson.
Name: Steve Bouchard
Where to Find Him: Weekdays at Cantina
They don’t call him “Steve From Town” for no reason—Steve Bouchard is a staple of Saratoga’s bar and restaurant industry, and come mid-afternoon, there’s one place to find him: Cantina. “These people are my friends before they’re my bartenders,” Steve told me over a margarita yesterday. “And Jeff Ames who owns this place is a god as far as hospitality goes.” While you can catch Steve at the Mexican spot on pretty much any weekday, Mondays at Cantina are a must: “My friend and I have a running Monday mandate.”
Why You Might Need Him: If you don’t want to take a shot alone.
Name: Mike “Brownie” Brown
Where to Find Him: Tap & Barrel on Thursdays
Not to be confused with Mike Brown of Death Wish Coffee fame, Mike “Brownie” Brown is Saratoga-famous not only for his handlebar mustache but also for another reason: karaoke. And while he performs all over Saratoga and the surrounding areas (in 15 bars, to be exact), no place compares to Tap & Barrel on a Thursday night after 9pm. “Last week was my favorite crowd,” he told me recently. “That was a crowd that was so into the music, they were out-singing me, they were cheering and going nuts. It was like a rock concert.”
Why You Might Need Him: Paid performers have been known to record his karaoke performances to help with their own on-stage presence.