A terrible buffet at the 1863 Club de la piste costs $ 85

There’s not much time left, with the 2021 season at Saratoga Racecourse coming to an end, but there are a few things that are best left untouched. I have been thrilled with your brand new Club 1863. I have been paying attention since the 2018 inauguration, the artwork of your three story glass walled building promising impeccable air conditioning with stunning views of the track – something that historic wooden pavilion seating, beautiful as they are, cannot provide.

I missed Club 1863’s opening season two summers ago. Last year, with spectators excluded from the course, we downloaded the NYRA app and placed bets in remote locations, mostly Saratoga Springs restaurants trying to serve the missing summer vibe. So this year, arriving for Sunday brunch at your newly reopened 1863 club, we were ready to roll, placing bets from cellphones before the first race was released yet.

But, NYRA, if you build a shiny building and offer a Mazzone Hospitality brunch for $ 85 per person, it can’t stop there. There has to be a tiny bit of effort, just enough grip that you don’t feel the cost recovery and a complete lack of customer service.

Now, so late in the season, can you explain why it is always so difficult to find a brunch start time or details like if it is a walk-in buffet or a sit-down meal? ? We were ready to call ahead and find out it’s 11am which made sense since it’s brunch, right? But we didn’t assume that our party of eight would be staring at each other for an hour and a half, as brunch actually doesn’t start until 12:30 p.m. Don’t you agree that 12:30 to 3:30 p.m. is lunch? Are you not going to tell that to your embarrassed employees as well, so that they don’t shrug their shoulders and say, “We hear this all the time”?

Your servers are nice, however. They checked us in, gave us bracelets like we were going to a rave, plus two paper drink tokens, like we could swap them for two Solo mugs at a keg party. Without food our server offered to take out the included mimosas which was nice as they had clearly been poured hours before to avoid any annoying fizz that might tickle your nose.

We went to explore the restaurant and found the buffet to be well stocked and pretty, but your staff pushed us away. No, we weren’t able to fill our plates before 12:30 p.m. No, not even if that man over there slips strawberries with his bare hands under the clear guard of the buffet. Regardless, we said, heading over to the bar for something freshly made. Shoo-shoo, the bartenders said. We cannot serve you here! You must return to your table. Sit down and wait.

We liked our happy waiter, who sold us bottles of Veuve Clicquot for $ 100 a drink, good value if split between eight people in front of flat mimosas and nothing to eat. Could we have glasses instead of flat bottom plastic cups? “No”, we are told. “People can get upset when they lose a race. They could use their glass as a missile and launch it at a horse. Could they? From inside the air-conditioned room? What about the business people partying on the upstairs balconies? Are you only worried about glassware as potential projectiles, not the porcelain plates and knives on the table? Not my pointy stiletto heels?

It’s 12:30 p.m. and let’s go. Like the starting grid of the first race, the buffet opens and the crowd storms the hall, elbows and bellies dragging it along. Unlike a wedding, where tables are invited to take turns joining the queue, there is no reception check at both stations. When you clean both sides of the buffet, you hit the incoming traffic as determined by drivers on the Northway so you don’t let the lane cutters get confused.

Plates are filled with scrambled eggs and sliced ​​ham, beef from a carving station, cooked salmon, grilled zucchini and brightly colored pasta salads, butter waffles, muffins, slices of melon and grapes. Customers are two fingers away for value for their money. What is it exactly ? I’ve been thinking about it for a while now. How much could $ 85 justify for brunch? A raw bar, caviar, shavings of truffles? That’s an impossible calculation for waffles and eggs, even with a betting program and two more flat mimosas. (The regular lunch buffet, served at the same times for the same price Wednesday through Saturday, does not include two drinks.)

After the push, a lull. Time to walk off the rail and watch the first race. No more waiting time, as a dessert station is on the way. After 20 minutes, then 30 minutes, some of us have to go. “The desserts will be released as the second race approaches, around 1:45 pm,” we are told. Finally, a flurry of activity signals the establishment of the Dessert Buffet, an uninspired mix of cookies, brownies, and éclairs, the latter in hopelessly moist and thawed form.

NYRA, at the end of this season you have over 10 months to figure out how to do better for the 2022 season, and you really need it. Within sight of the 1863 Club, you’ll find your original $ 25 outdoor brunch at a clubhouse that includes a tour of the track. And then there are those who come early with coffee and bagels to watch the horses exercise for the price of $ 12 parking. (Leave before 10 a.m. and you get $ 7 back.) Businesses might not hesitate to raise the prices for your Sunday brunch, but patrons on the trail deserve more value than scrambled eggs and a side of 1863 Club A / vs.

Club 1863 – Sunday Brunch at the Rail

Or: Saratoga Racecourse, 267 Union Ave., Saratoga Springs
Hours: 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Brunch buffet served from 12:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m.
Price: $ 85 per person, including two mimosas or bloody marys, race program, taxes and tip. Trackside patio tables available for groups of 6 at an additional cost. The lunch buffet, served Wednesday through Saturday, is the same price but does not include bloody mimosas or barys.
Info: nyra.com/Saratoga/tickets/1863-club or 844-NYRA-TIX

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