Irish eyes smile in Niall Roche’s traditional Gaelic pub, at once cozy and grandiose with iron chandeliers and imported Irish furniture strewn throughout the many rooms of the 6,000-square-foot space. An Emerald Isle native with restaurateuring in his blood, Niall realized his dream of owning and operating a pub of his own in Saratoga. He's poured energy into The Irish Times Pub & Restaurant's tiny details: the hunter-green leather on the second-story furnishings, the serving staff of accented Gaels, and the wall-mounted fiddle painted as green as a three-leaf clover jealous of its four-leafed cousin. The bar and booths on the first floor form a cozy country-pub ambiance, and the castle-like second story takes advantage of the space and spills out over a rooftop terrace overlooking Congress Park.
As much care, if not more, is taken with the menus, which feature an all-day Irish breakfast, chicken with imported Irish curry, and Celtic fusion food that incorporates anything from egg rolls to nachos. Fresh haddock, broiled or fried, offers a taste of the North Atlantic, and a splash of Guinness improves menu items from the beef stew to the chocolate cake. While diners dig into hearty shepherd's pies or rasher-topped burgers, live musicians play anything from Celtic pub songs to contemporary radio jams.
Erected in 1890, the sprawling, country-style house that harbors The Good Times Lakeview Restaurant carries on a rich tradition of lakeside hospitality. After a stint as a speakeasy, the tree-flanked dwelling wrapped itself in a cocoon and emerged as a tavern in 1940. Over the next several years, the house shape-shifted into various establishments before reaching its current incarnation in 1973. Visitors munch classic American fare from a seasonally rotating menu as they warm up by the fireplace or attempt to coat Ballston Lake in mustard as they look out from old-fashioned wooden booths. The lake thrives with coastal wildlife as blue herons and flying squirrels traverse a landscape flourishing with impatiens, zinnias, and herbs. Stardust garnishes plates on the outdoor veranda, and private parties of 30–120 revelers tap toes on the dance floor of the sunny banquet room.
Actor and comedian Russell Brand frees chortles from belly prisons with his unique style of manic, irreverent humor. Riffing on the nature of fame and celebrity, Brand regales audiences with edgy observations and outsized characters to delight audiences grown bored with tamer comedians and telephone time-of-day services. Visiting a series of colleges, the tour filters the eccentricities of American universities through Brand's singular wit. George Mason University's recently renovated Patriot Center contains the glee in arena-style seating, ensuring everyone has a clear view of both Brand and the cricket whispering jokes in his ear.
Even from outside, where the red-orange door and window frames pop against the dark-gray façade, it’s clear that Marotta's takes contemporary eating to a new level. Inside, patrons immediately notice that their traditional menus have been replaced with Apple iPads. And once minds are made up, attentive servers place orders through iPods Touch, feeding tickets immediately into the kitchen. Even credit and debit cards can be conveniently swiped right at the table. Though traditionalists can still pay at the register or place their orders with Old-World Italian robots, owners Chris and Dee Marotta hope the digital options broaden and improve their customers' overall experiences.
To ensure their 50-seat bar-risto is steeped in just as much traditional flavor as technological convenience, Chris and Dee hired Executive Chef Edward Bradt. Chef Bradt brings his culinary experience as the former head chef at The Van Dyck Lounge to classic offerings such as juicy filet mignon, veal, and seafood in a cornucopia of sauces, from a tart, sherry-infused marinara to a peppery madeira demi-glace. A full wine menu assures a complementary pairing with any of the 12-inch red or white pizzas, each slow baked in a wood-fired oven with pancetta, goat cheese, and fresh basil. Patrons can two-hand signature sausage burgers as they attempt to ask muffled questions of Marotta's tech guru, Joe Leverett, about the restaurant's other wireless wonders, including tabletop children's games and iPad-accessible valet service.
Legend has it that in 1901, on his way from the Adirondacks to Washington, where President McKinley had just been shot, Vice President Theodore Roosevelt made a pit stop in Ballston Lake. There, he allegedly ate a meal at Carney's Tavern—then known as the Ballston Lake Hotel—and used its telephone, one of the area's first. Historians aren't totally convinced of Roosevelt's appearance, but none dispute the rich heritage of the restaurant, which has nourished diners since 1877.
These days, chef Michael Pallozzi continues that legacy as the head of the tavern's kitchen. Along with timeless options such as grilled reuben sandwiches and veal parmesan, he creates more contemporary dishes, such as pizzas topped with shrimp and wild-leek pesto. Chef Michael's feasts unfold in a spacious dining room enhanced with historical touches, including an original tin ceiling and a trolley rail now serving as a bar footrest.
Bright red tapestries cover almost every surface at Aladdin's Restaurant and Hookah Lounge, setting the scene for a celebratory meal. The kitchen crafts classic mediterranean dishes, such as falafel and gyros and hummus, all served in a bi-level space trimmed in natural wood accents. Post-meal hookahs send fragrant clouds into the air, and on weekends, belly dancers invite diners to get up and dance to lively music.