Do you like Chowder? No, alright leave town. Yes, you’re from Boston (Well, not Boston, but like Wellesley or Newton, so you’re basically in Boston like all the time.) and you have a deep, emotional connection to New England Clam Chowder? Then Saturday is your day, the day that downtown Saratoga Springs transforms from a quaint and cute, cultured Northeast hotspot to a hearty, congested, and probably gassy convergence of Chowder-craving mouths. It’s Chowderfest, the annual Saratoga Springs food-fest when restaurants around town compete with the most innovative and delicious renditions of chowder to claim the crown of Best on Broadway.
The way it works is at 11am restaurants open. You pick up a ballot at any restaurant participating in the event. The ballot is for taking notes and voting for your favorite chowder offering of the day. Each restaurant involved will be selling small sample bowls of chowder for $1. The trick is to scout the lines because they’ll be long and it will be cold and possibly rainy. Pick some favorites, keep track of their availability, and take advantage of the thin margins you might have to swoop in and grab chow.
Crowd favorites will probably be Druther’s (of course), Esperanto’s (serving chicken/Doughboy Chowder and a vegan, gluten-free Harvest Chowder), The Farmers Market (serving spicy sausage, sweet potato, kale, gluten-free chowder), Hatties, Dango’s, and a slew of others. The full list is available at Saratoga.com. Past winners include Cantina (Best on Broadway, 2010-2012), The Seven Horse Pub (Best Off Broadway, 2010-2013), Druther’s (Best Newcomer, 2013), and The Parting Glass (Peoples Choice Winner, 2009-2011). In the past there’s been oddball bowls like buffalo wing chowder from Dango’s, garnished with a wing, and chowder pizza from D’Andrea’s. There’s also doggy chowder available for your pooch.
Chowderfest is Saratoga Springs at it’s most festive, as downtown fills with live music and flocks of hungry people. They also have shirts that you can buy so you can brag to your friends that you were legitimately there and didn’t just find a goofy-ass Chowderfest shirt at the Saratoga Salvation Army.
At the end of the day you turn in your ballot at City Hall with a stomach full of Chowder and heart full of love.
So, sandwiched within a weekend of classy, shwasted dancing at the Hilton and Superbowl Sunday, bundle up, mosey down to Broadway and pump yourself full of as much chowder you can muster. Though you might want to purge, or do one of those instant juice cleanse things you guys do before Sunday, because chowder, vodka, pizza, wings, beer, and football may not feel so great when it turns to rock in your stomach.
Chowderfest starts at 11am and runs until 4pm.