Tasting the Past: Recipes from closed Lexington restaurants
Lexington loves local restaurants and reminiscing about favorite dishes from closed dining spots we wish to taste again. So we’ve been digging into the Herald-Leader archives, contacting local chefs who ran some of Lexington’s most popular restaurants and reaching out to veteran recipe collectors to pull together a collection for you to bring to your dinner table. Enjoy.
The Saratoga Restaurant was one that people always thought would come back because it had so many times before. Then the building got torn down.
And even today, people talk about The Saratoga Restaurant with yearning. So we had to look around for a recipe from the Chevy Chase neighborhood haunt to share for our Tasting the Past series highlighting local lost restaurants.
The thing was, the menu wasn’t really special or unique or fancy. As the late Don Edwards put it in a column he wrote in February 2000, “The Saratoga was its characters.”
Totsie Rose opened the restaurant on Lexington’s East High Street near Euclid Avenue in 1953 and named it for the famous New York race course. The popular restaurant changed hands several times before closing for good in 1995.
The essence of the Saratoga, Edwards wrote, was “the books, the college professors, the City Hall types, the Monday meatloaf, the gin rickies and whiskey sours — and the front doorstep worn down and smooth from thousands of feet that crossed the threshold of 856 East High Street.”
Edwards reviewed the restaurant in 1982 and said it was like stepping into 1952 or into a Damon Runyon novel.
In its heyday, the ‘Toga was known for industrial strength cocktails, $2.50 sandwiches and plate lunch specials like chicken and dumplings, salmon croquettes and meatloaf.
Ted Mims, who owned The Saratoga from 1977 to 1989, told Edwards that the regulars didn’t like menu changes. “Once we took the olive nut spread off the sandwich menu,” Mims said. “This lady raised nine kinds of hell until we finally put it back on.”
Luckily, one of those regulars was Lexington cookbook author Barbara Harper Bach, who managed to talk a former waitress there into giving her the recipe for that olive nut spread. If you are not familiar with olive nut spread, it’s not a condiment, think of it as a sandwich spread, like chicken or tuna salad.
The building was torn down in 2000 as part of the revitalization effort that helped breathe new life into the Chevy Chase business district. The new building became a variety of new restaurants but nothing lasted more than a few years: Some people refer to that as “the Curse of the Saratoga.” Which may be why it is now a Realtor’s office.
But even those who welcomed redevelopment acknowledged that something special was lost. As a Saratoga regular opened in a 2000 article on the looming demolition, “It was a good place.”
Collected by Barbara Harper Bach
This story was originally published May 5, 2022 6:00 AM.