Share your spot
• The Daily Gazette wants to know where your favorite place to dine is after a day at Saratoga Race Course. Nominations can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line “Favorite restaurant” through Aug. 23.
• An online poll with the top nominations will be posted on dailygazette.com from Aug. 24-30.
Maria Perreca Papa thinks of her Schenectady restaurant, More Perreca’s, as more of a neighborhood restaurant than a destination restaurant.
“We tend to see the same people, even a couple times a week,” she said. “We’re that kind of a mom-and-pop restaurant.”
Not in the week leading up to Travers Day, though. Then, they see a lot of first-timers, thanks to Travers 1864 Restaurant Week, now in its fifth year. The five-day celebration, which kicks off today and runs through Thursday, features special fixed-price menus at 33 restaurants around the Capital Region in celebration of the oldest major stakes race in the country.
Diners can get a three-course meal at any participating restaurant for just $18.64 — the inaugural running of the Travers was held in 1864.
Restaurants in Saratoga Springs are packed each August during the meet. Travers Restaurant Week gives restaurants outside the city a unique chance to cater to a track crowd or even hometown crowds looking to explore new foods and establishments.
“While [the Travers] is a Saratoga tradition, it’s also a Capital District tradition,” said New York Racing Association spokesman John Durso Jr. “Our most loyal fans come from all throughout the region, so we want the entire district — be it Albany, Schenectady, Troy — we want all of them to take part in this great tradition with us.”
The first Travers Restaurant Week was held in the summer of 2010. At its peak, it attracted more than 60 restaurants to participate. The biggest change since then has been the more geographically diverse array of participants. Restaurants from as far north as Lake George to as far west as Amsterdam are participating this year.
The patrons at More Perreca’s, next to Perreca’s Bakery on North Jay Street, in Schenectady’s Little Italy neighborhood, are a mix of track-goers and new customers just looking to take advantage of a good promotion.
“I always like to find out where people are from,” said Perreca Papa, owner of More Perreca’s. “What’s interesting is that of the track-goers, a lot of them will be familiar with our bakery next door, or at least the Perreca’s name, but not with our restaurant. So this is a good opportunity for them to try us out.”
Restaurant week promotions typically offer the biggest financial boost during slow times, like the dead of winter. But Café Nola owner Kevin Brown says any little bit helps, and even a restaurant week set in the heat of summer helps. The Schenectady restaurant specializing in Cajun cuisine has participated in the event since it began in 2010.
“I’d say I’m 20 percent busier than normal,” he said. “Restaurant Week in February is much busier, but this gives potentially new customers an opportunity to come in and not spend a whole lot of money.”
Perreca Papa is convinced that even without Travers Restaurant Week, restaurants outside Saratoga Springs undoubtedly benefit from track season.
“Saratoga helps our whole Capital District this time of year,” she said. “We see an increase in sales, even in our bakery. People stop and get tomato pie and pack it up and bring it with them to the track. That happens every year. It’s a very nice little spike. It really helps.”
To view the prix-fixe menus, visit www.nyra.com/saratogaevents.