By Kristen Rafferty
The candlelit dinner is history. How about a lantern-lit meal instead? And bread bowls are old news—it’s all about the garlic bread trapeze tents now. Chandeliers, elephant candles, and colors to flood the streets of Saratoga—now that’s a real night on the town. Hidden between the classy restaurants, shops, and boutiques on Broadway Street in Saratoga is the Circus Café, the perfect blend of sophistication and fun that defines the thriving city.
Entertainment is core here, and what better way to keep diners enthused than to delight them with circus-inspired and specially arranged meals? Pasta is served a la garlic bread trapeze tents, and fries—curly of course, because straight would simply be boring—wind through your dinner like the limbs of a contortionist. A well-
proportioned steak dazzles the eye with colorful peppers that zigzag around it, and
Chef Dave Hernandez, whose award-winning burgers are classic, spices up the usual chicken with rum, lime juice, and brown sugar to create the café’s signature dish, Mojito Chicken.
“Mojito Chicken is by far the best dinner dish,” says Dan Sheridan, a frequent visitor to the restaurant. “But for lunch, it’s gotta be the Tropical Shrimp Salad.”
Manager Lindsey Ciccone insists that the café’s attention to combining great food with nonstop entertainment is the key to its success.
“From our food to our employees to the scheduled entertainment, everything is geared toward fun,” she says. “It’s really a combination of everything that keeps people coming in.”
Entrees are delivered by an exuberant wait staff wearing themed t-shirts that proclaim phrases like “Trapeze is My Art” and “Former Contortionist.” Upbeat and charismatic, the employees are specifically hired for their dedication to the restaurant’s theme.
“All of our team members are hardworkers, and excellent servers,” Ciccone proudly admits. “We’re really like a family here.”
Amidst red-velvet curtains and painted circus murals, the café boasts an upscale dining experience that is very much family-oriented during afternoons, transforming into an adult nightlife by happy hour, and, as local patron and longtime Saratoga resident Lisa Leroux observes, a “fun and funky” gay bar by midnight. Talk about a three-ring circus.
While Ciccone does acknowledge a single adults and gay following, she insists the café’s focus is primarily family-oriented.
“We have a great number of families who come in regularly,” she says. “We also host a large younger crowd, which makes up most of our nightlife.”
From Skidmore College students to sixty-year-old baby boomers, a variety of ages mingle to create a regularly diverse audience for the weekly entertainment on
Wednesday nights, and even come to perform their own material on Thursday open mic nights. Saturdays are reserved for the jam-packed karaoke nights.
“My friends and I go down there at least once a month for the karaoke nights,” says
Kiera Stewart, a senior at Skidmore College. “There are always so many people. Some of the usual karaoke singers are really good, and some are really bad, which just makes it more fun. It’s just an awesome night out.”
Adds her friend, Christina Stromberg, “We definitely owe that place some of our best birthday nights.”
Desserts make up the finale of the show, with chocolate shavings and two cherries topping off a Circus Maximus Blackout Sundae. Homemade cotton candy—nicknamed “Fairy Floss”—piles high on a single plate (the house favorite) and specialty martinis and cocktails color the nightlife of the café. Color-rich margaritas, served beneath the lantern-strung bar, cost only $4 and draw capacity crowds. The eccentric menu includes oldies like the Moscow Mule along with the signature, candy-filled Circus-Café’s Scorpion Bowl.
“The cotton candy is everyone’s favorite,” says Ciccone. “You can’t give someone a plate of foot-high cotton candy and not have them smile. Whether you’re five or fifty, it’s just a happy moment.”