The brainchild of husband-and-wife tandem Mitchell Cutler, a Québécois, and Tracey Tate-Cutler, a fifth-generation Californian who lived in Germany for years, La Fondue pairs the traditions of the European delicacy with the spirit of American cuisine. Cauldrons of cheese comprise the bubbling centerpiece at most tables, into which guests dip victuals such as Kobe flat-iron steak, alligator tail, sea scallops, and tiger blue shrimp. The experience comes with an added twist: servers bring the raw ingredients, but it’s up to the diners to choose from one of six cooking methods to heat their meat or seafood morsels, such as dipping them in a rich tomato-basil bisque or roasting them over a European-style grill from Munich.
On any given night, you might see diners following one of fondue's most popular traditions: if someone drops their cube into the fondue, they must then buy the next round of drinks for the table or accept a kick in the shin from the table companion with the strongest calves. Luckily, La Fondue's drinks include wine from a well-rounded list that earned an Award of Excellence from Wine Spectator. But if it's Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday—BYOB nights—the table just might enforce the second punishment. Still, with cheese fondue such as pesto cognac and chocolate fondue enhanced with flavors such as mint or Irish cream, most diners do everything in their power to get their cubes into their mouths.
The whole fondue experience unfolds in an eccentric dining space that joins medieval motifs, zebra-print upholstery, and Andy Warhol wall-art in a vibrant, decorative pastiche. The restaurant offers multiple dining rooms, each with its own touches, such as ornate mirrors and leonine busts.
Saratoga Wine & Beer Garden's menu offers 28 bottled beers, three rotating taps, 21 wines, and an array of mixed drinks and small plates. To go with this ample selection, the kitchen's staff plates colorful assemblies of charcuterie meats, cheeses, olives, and more, though the flavors to be had provide only half of the venue's sensory appeal. The rest comes from the garden. Covered archways over tables combine with intermingling tree branches above to create shady retreats. A fire pit spouts flames that ward off evening chills. Vases on each table display elegantly simple floral arrangements of two or three flowers. Even the pathway to the garden offers natural, shady splendor, curving around the building and wending between hedges, the overhead awning fending off ultraviolet rays and the eyes of the one crow who follows you everywhere, gazing at you knowingly, just waiting.
The chefs at Triple Seven Pizzeria shuffle custom combinations of sun-dried tomatoes, pesto sauce, and mozzarella cheese to spread across sourdough crusts made fresh daily and form their gourmet, casino-themed pies. They stack the Texas Hold'em BBQ Chicken pie with grilled chicken breast, barbecue sauce, and cheddar cheese and crown the Straight Flush with pepperoni, red onions, and italian sausage. Vegetarian pies include the Viva Las Veggies, with black olives, zucchini, and green bell peppers, and the thin-crust Lady Luck, which diners typically blow on before eating, with fresh garlic, basil, and tomatoes. Patrons order from the red-and-black-tiled counter before adjourning to the outdoor dining area or around tables inside that afford views of 42-inch plasma TVs that project football games on Sundays.
Michelin may have stamped its Best Value and Charming Restaurant distinctions on Hachi Ju Hachi, but all the acclaim should be directed toward the restaurant's chef and owner, Jin Suzuki. His innovative vision for traditional Japanese cuisine and open kitchen have yielded dishes such as steamed-seafood egg custard, pork-belly stew, and seasonal mushrooms with grated mountain yam. The mackerel, which is seasoned and dried in-house, is a popular entree, especially when it's prepared on the grill or in a stew of red miso broth. Best of all, Hachi Ju Hachi's unassuming vibe makes it a great place to chow down and drink sake with friends?or people who will pass as friends until your real friends arrive.
When owners Kellie and Mike Ballard purchased the land for Savannah Chanelle Vineyards in 1996, they also inherited the plot of land's rich history. Originally cleared in 1901, it features a zinfandel vineyard that was planted in 1910 and a cabernet-franc vineyard that was planted in 1919, just to name a few. Today, the Ballards, winemaker Anthony Craig, and the staff rumba on the grapes to make an array of wines, including chardonnay, pinot noir, cabernet franc, and zinfandel. Guests can sample the libations and take in the Santa Cruz Mountains at the vineyard's charming tasting room.
After Sandro Costanza left his home in Calabria, Italy, in 1988, he devoted decades to waiting tables and cooking his way through Paris, London, and Rome before finally landing in Saratoga. There, he opened Ristorante Da Mario to re-create the bursting flavors and vibrant colors of the southern Italian dishes he remembered from his childhood. Today his chefs forge these staples by layering lasagna, stuffing ravioli, and fluffing gnocchi in-house, and by using a number of lighter cream sauces instead of exclusively glazing entrees with marinara. Although Sandro's wine list features numerous California varietals, it also includes bottles from major wine-producing regions across Italy to complement the authentic dishes.
Faux tuscan walls mimic the cuisine's rustic, down-home approach, but crisp, white tablecloths and framed artwork also lend their touches of refinement to the dining room. Outside, patio seating pairs rich Italian meals with light gulps of fresh air and lets diners keep eyes out for invading Byzantines.