SPAC Stories

The Tastes of SPAC

by Quinn Campbell

Those of us spending more time at home in spring 2020 may be practicing new recipes and tasting them. Saratoga Performing Arts Center (SPAC) has also been planning to revamp its cuisine with a new $9.5 million food, restrooms, and visitor facility for the 2020 summer season.[1] It has been a lot longer than 40 days, however, that food has been integral to the SPAC experience.

What has been on the menu at SPAC’s many food-centric spots over the years? Let’s dig in as we explore what’s on the menu in formal dining rooms and gala, lawn picnics, and from take-out concessions options for SPAC’s patrons.

Concert Concessions

Looking Forward

Before Governor Cuomo became a household leader on national television during the COVID-19 pandemic, Gov. Cuomo granted $1.5 million to SPAC for a $9.5 million visitor facility complete with a new concessions area. Coming in summer 2020, the visitor facility will replace the concessions tents.

Looking Back

Before the new visitor facility cooks up new treats, attendees for New York City Ballet and Philadelphia Orchestra performances as well as Live Nation concerts received sustenance at the concessions tents. For at least the last thirty years, SPAC continued its commitment to serving food made on site. In the early 1990s, SPAC built pizza ovens on-site because “sizzle sells” especially when guests can witness the sizzle right before their eyes (and mouths).[2] Since the 2019 summer season, SPAC still makes fresh pizza and chicken sandwiches.

Over the years, SPAC also sought to balance their menus with classic concert fare and culinary variety. In 1992, the balance looked like the standard fare of Subway sandwiches, hot dogs, and nachos while also serving “a fresh fruit plate, a cheese platter and quiche.”[3] Recently, SPAC added vegan and gluten-free options as their changes mirror evolving cuisines trends in American culture. SPAC maintains its mission to leave all guests with a full stomach of their favorite snacks and meals.

Hall of Springs Dining

From the days of the Hall of Springs with its mineral water dispensing bars to today’s SPAC Patrons’ Club Restaurant and weddings, dining remains a staple at the Hall of Springs.

SPAC Patrons, community members committed to the mission of SPAC with their support and generous donations, can dine at the exclusive Patrons’ Club Restaurant in the Hall of Springs before performances. Ensuring plenty of time before the show, SPAC Patrons dined on locally sourced, farm to table cuisines such as Maine salmon or chickpea eggplant curry with ample libation options in 2019.[4] Twenty-four years earlier, correspondence shows a proposed menu featuring tournedos portibello, “tenderloins (2) broiled to perfection and dressed with a sauce of portibello mushrooms, sundried tomatoes and wine.”[5] Despite cooking different meals over the years, the SPAC Patrons’ Club Restaurant hopes to provide honored members and guests with a hearty and full stomach before consuming more delicacies: the orchestra and ballet.

Picnics on the Lawn

From SPAC’s beginning, fans have flocked to the lawn for a pairing of picnic snacks and music, as seen in photos from the 1960s, 1980s and 2000 (below). The 1983 image features a group dining al fresco before the annual New York City Ballet Gala. The 2016 image, taken from a performance program, says it best, “SPAC is one of the few outdoor performing arts venues whose sloping lawn is perfectly suited to fully view the amphitheater while enjoying a picnic on the lawn with friends.”[6]

Saratoga Wine & Food Festival

In 2019, SPAC revamped the Saratoga Wine & Food Festival, the largest fundraiser for its educational programs, with a focus on farm-to-table and the cultural and culinary richness of the Capital Region.

New York City Ballet Gala

What are some similarities and differences between what was on the menu for SPAC’s 1998 and 2016 Ballet Galas?

Every summer, SPAC wraps up its New York City Ballet residency with the Ballet Gala. The 1998 and 2016 Ballet Gala menus both feature entrees referring to a duo or duet of medallions of beef tenderloin and shrimp Genovese and filet and shrimp respectively. The menus allude to ballet duets in the performances. In 1998, the Gala celebrated its silver anniversary and marked the occasion with a silver anniversary dessert. When SPAC honored its golden anniversary in 2016, a celebratory cake cutting took place from the Golub Family of Price Chopper Markets, long-time supporters of SPAC. The galas offer elegance on the stage and plate, especially during anniversary seasons

Come Eat at SPAC!

Saratoga Performing Arts Center, nestled in Saratoga Spa State Park, opens each summer to fill the Capital Region with music and art. First-time to annual guests can enjoy food paired with music at the concessions facility and Hall of Springs dining options. The new visitor facility will allow SPAC to continue to serve up fan favorites and new culinary innovations, on-site and in partnership with vendors. SPAC seeks to nourish our creative soul and add some tasty bites along the way.


[1]SPAC Will Have New Two-Tier Concession Building In 2020 As Part Of Renovation,” Saratoga Business Journal, November 7, 2019.

[2] Vernell Hackett, “Ethnic and branded foods finding way to shed menus,” Amusement Business 6 (April 1992): 24.

[3] Hackett, “Ethnic and branded foods,” 24.

[4] Hall of Springs: Mazzone Hospitality, “Patron Club 2019 Menu,” 2019.

[5] SPAC Archive, Spa State Park & Physical Plant, John to Herb, RE: Patrons’ Club 1995, June 20, 1995.

[6] SPAC Archive, Print Matter, Dining at SPAC Page in Brochure, 2016.


Featured Image: “SPAC Will Have New Two-Tier Concession Building In 2020 As Part Of Renovation,” Saratoga Business Journal, November 7, 2019.

Image 1: “SPAC construction to include concessions, restroom facility repair,The Saratogian, October 28, 2019.

Image 2: “SPAC Will Have New Two-Tier Concession Building In 2020 As Part Of Renovation,” Saratoga Business Journal, November 7, 2019.

Image 3: SPAC Archive, Hall of Springs, 1977.

Image 4: SPAC Archive, Spa State Park & Physical Plant, Proposed Patrons’ Club Menu, 1995.

Image 5: Hall of Springs: Mazzone Hospitality, 2018-2020

Image 6: SPAC Archive, Picnic Photo, 1968.

Image 7: SPAC Archive, Picnic Photo, 1983.

Image 8: SPAC Archive, Picnic Photo, 2016.

Image 9: SPAC Archive, Print Matter, Wine & Food Festival Brochure, 2008.

Image 10: Courtesy of SPAC

Video: Courtesy of SPAC

Image 11: SPAC Archive, Print Matter, NYC Ballet Gala Menu, 1998.

Image 12: SPAC Archive, Print Matter, NYC Ballet Gala Menu, 2016.