May 8, 2012

Saratoga: Heaven or Hell ? (part 1)

 Forming an opinion about something is all about 'perspective:' where you've been or where you're coming from is the key determinate. So it is when one looks at the current status of any given location which one chooses to live in  --  or is considering such -- in drawing an opinion on how that location rates when compared to others.

The city of Saratoga Springs is no different. Yet one can take note of an interesting divide between two segments when each one voices an opinion on the livability or state-of the Spa City. If one's perspective is that of a transplanted resident, with a lifelong perspective having been formed in the rat hole of New Jersey or Long Island, for example, Saratoga seems like an oasis in the desert, with a small town feel missing from those compared-to environs.

But the general consensus of long time residents -- not to mention those that lived in the city in years past but no longer do so -- is that the town has gone to hell, and is, in fact, starting to resemble those aforementioned rat holes than it is the vision encumbered in their nostalgic memories. 

So, where's the reality? As always, it is somewhere in between the two poles. 

But it is in this spirit of debate that Nanoburgh hereby launches a new feature, one which serves in each edition a specific example of one good thing about the current day Saratoga  and another specific example of one not-so-good thing.  This new feature is billed as:

Gone to Hell vs Slice of Heaven

Gone to Hell: Siro's

After serving for decades as the classy destination restaurant for the track crowd, an ownership change in the 80's brought with it the very bright idea of kicking the property's backyard space into an open-air/post-races hang --- and the party was on. Siro's became the August "see and be seen scene," with everyone in the region and beyond having a story to tell relating to a visit there. There is no doubt that it played a major role in the revitalization of Saratoga's track scene that kicked-in at that very same time frame.

Sure, the overpriced drinks were obscene, but what the hell? We're dealing here with a clientele that just got done tossing wads of $20's at horses galloping in a big circle. This is a celebration of the greatest racing meet in the world, goddamit; and for the dwindling few that still care about such a fact, that is important shit. Siro's supplied the perfect spot for just such rejoicing. There's just something about watching a hammered Wall Street punk slugging down a $400 bottle of champagne while doing the "woulda-coulda- shoulda" recap on his wagering follies that warms the heart. You just can't beat it.

But another ownership change a couple years back has Siro's on the fast train to shitsville. Whenever you hear the word "investment group," one can usually smell trouble; and the whiff here wasn't pleasant; This new group (mostly out-of-towners, of course) includes a couple minor league actor types along with a sprinkling of racing figures and others.

Right off the bat, this spelled trouble. The "we got great news" announcement of this changeover brought with it the remark that the yard's live musical entertainment would be "upgraded" to include "some of the best tribute acts on the east coast." The example of a Billy Joel act was even offered. We kid not.

The first casualty of this dumbing-down the masses philosophy was Saratoga's very own treasure, the legendary Commander Cody. For year, the pioneer of 70's western swing meets rock and roll boogie-woogie had the honor of kicking off the party season with the opening day performance slot. But the guess here is that no one in this new "investment group" even heard of our guy, and the Commander was unceremoniously booted from the lineup. His remarks from the stage at his recent Parting Glass performance, where he lead a crowd chant of "Fuck Siro's," tells us that he's not too happy about it either.

Siro's truly jumped the shark last August, when former heavyweight champ Joe Frazier was dragged into the joint and up on the stage to briefly front his old lounge act, the Knockouts. Just a few months away from his death, Smokin' Joe proceeded to deliver a few croaking sounds before being helped back down. For those of you who think that hearing one more rendition of Mustang Sally will make your head explode, this one might have done the trick.

Add to the mix the "you want your picture taken?" and other assorted hustles that are now a part of the scene, and there should be little question as to why the real party crowd has headed down the block to The Horseshoe in recent years.

But that doesn't concern this new Siro's ownership bunch. Can we say "expansion" or "extending the brand?" Yep, you guess it: they just opened up a NYC Siro's franchise, whereby they will attempt to recreate the Saratoga experience right in the 'hood of those downstate types for a year-round groove.

It's kinda like a tribute act in its own right, huh?

Slice of Heaven: The Parting Glass

Rocco's was where you got your pizza in town. Hell, it was automatic: whenever someone said “let's get a pizza tonight” anywhere within the Saratoga city line, it was an order for whoever was closest to the phone to ring up the joint down on Lake Avenue down near the Fire House and make it happen. But you had to go get it; I don't think they ever had delivery. That was fine, because that gave whoever was charged with pickup duty the chance to catch a quick pop at the bar, where one could always find the City Hall and Saratogian newspaper peeps at their constituent service posts on any given night.

1980 was the year Rocco's switched to the Parting Glass, with a motivated and hard-working family taking over the site. With an Italian food - meets - Irish beer and music mix, the Glass was an immediate hit and a welcome addition to the Spa City's social scene. The two back rooms were opened up and thus was born both a performance space and a large dart room. The locals and the tourists bought into the whole thing.

Somehow, this same family has kept it going all these years later, which is a major accomplishment when considering the wear and tear that is inflicted on the human psyche from being in just such a business. The Italian menu has given way to a more pub grub offering, but it's still good and that's all fine. It IS a pub, ya know? Likewise, the music has expanded a bit from the pure-Irish approach. The list of performers that have graced that stage over the years includes such international big shots as Alison Krauss and Union Station, Bela Fleck and the Flecktones, Tommy Makem and many more.

Nanoburgh's sister company 398 Productions has long been a supporter of the Parting Glass, having placed a number of shows and business affairs in there over the years. The music section is a gem, with great small-room sound and lights. The staff and management are top notch. We will surely continue that support. It is warming to see how the local business community continues to do the same, with a constant flow of business mixers coming through the doors.

Long may you run....


Anonymous said...

couldn't agree more on Siros.

Raining Iguanas said...

Spot on, on both counts my friend- as I would expect. I like this Heaven or Hell idea.
I had my first legal draft in Rocco's June 7, 1973 at 4pm, dad bought the first round, I the next. I can't get Rocco's air-light crust off my mind now, thanks for the reminder.

PD said...

FUCK SIRO'S. Indeed!

I hate that place.

Phil the Thrill said...

Let's get out the old math skills, shall we? An $8 can of shitty American beer. Times 6. That makes it $48 for a six-pack of shitty American beer.

Can't be true. It must be that my math skills have disappeared from the years having passed by.

Bluto said...

Hey you can't blame the owner of Siro's for trying to tap into the throngs leaving the track at the end of the day.
Too bad they couldn't have spent some more time checking out some of the local lore.

Parting want to like it, but... the food is awful and it's kinda dirty, not kinda, it's just dirty. It's great that they support live music and if you have a chance to see Kevin McKrell there you're in for a treat.

Wasn't here for Rocco's but wish I was.

Nanoburgh? said...


You Said:
"Hey you can't blame the owner of Siro's for trying to tap into the throngs leaving the track at the end of the day."

Nanoburgh Says:
"We don't; we're all for it. The objection here is the "Disneyfication" of the place. Whereas it was once the place to go party, it's now the place where people go to pose. Hell, they've even got the photography service right there on-site for just that. Add in the merchandising and the mentioned shitty musical offerings, and we are somply stating that it "ain't what it used to be."

Bluto Said:
"Parting want to like it, but... the food is awful and it's kinda dirty, not kinda, it's just dirty"

Nanoburgh Says:
We disagree on the food; as said: pub grub has its place. Dirty? Why does everything need to look "mall fresh" in this 'burgh? Rocco's used to have the same rap with the incoming newbies as well, as did most non-chain establishments. Ya want Applebee's, go to Applebee's (I think there's an Applebees on X15, isn't there?)

Anonymous said...

Modern day Siro's is what we used to call in college a bad "mixer" - "A Meat Market." A drunken gathering to be seen and guys looking to get laid.

I miss the old Siro's and Hud as bartender. We would walk over around 10 p.m. have a drink and sit for hours listening to the stories from the national racing journalists...

It's now very plastic and superficial.

Anonymous said...

So what's wrong with looking to get laid?

Anonymous said...

Gotta go along with Bluto.
We have parted ways with the Parting Glass.
Think about it for awhile, please.
It is neither an Irish Pub, nor an Italian eatery.
The food is worse than bad. It sucks.
And dirty, dirty, dirty.

Go Bluto.