40 Days: A Salute to Saratoga–The Grease Shack

From Mary Lou to Tom; Jim Dandy to Fourstardave; Siro’s to backyard tailgating; and morning workouts to give aways; Saratoga has a cast of heroes, customs, and institutions which make it, in our opinion, the most unique sporting venue on Earth. Over the next 40 Days, we will profile 40 of these legends and traditions, adding our own memories and experiences from 30 plus years of summering at the Spa. It’s our Salute to Saratoga. We hope you enjoy following along.

Yes this is a Salute to Saratoga, but the traditions and institutions that make this place great are not limited the confines of the track. It is often said, to achieve greatness you have to be willing to go the extra mile. If you are looking to fill your belly and still have enough money to bet the pick six, that extra mile will lead you outside the Nelson Avenue entrance to place tucked under a pair of oak trees, which we lovingly call the “Grease Shack”.

This place has an actual name, but that is not important. The unofficial moniker we gave it sums it up quite nicely. It resembles a hamburger stand you find at any county fair around the country. Painted wooden counter-top, sometimes snarky staff, beers for sale by the can, paper flatware, fair prices, a few stools where patrons can watch the contained chaos of the 3-4 short-order cooks who run the place and the best cheeseburger with sauteed onions around.

This place is open at 6am and closes well after the races. Some people have been known to spend their entire day there, as the OTB channel is played on the TV in picnic table seating area. You can even see the Clubhouse turn while enjoying a bratwurst with sauerkraut. It has a down-home feeling to it, a place not often spoken of but enjoyed by many. I have no idea how they cook their onions, but they are incredible. But I do know that they have been the kick-starter to many a great afternoon at the races.

Because it is a short walk outside to this hidden gem,  we recommend you find an “off” race, either a short field or a maiden claimer with first time starters and make the walk over. Enjoy anything on the menu, have a beer, listen to the video-less call on the TV before heading back into the hallowed grounds of the track for more live racing action. You won’t be disappointed.

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