Phila St., Saratoga Springs, 584-4790. Serving daily through
the summer 5-10, then Wed-Sun 5-10. Buffet night Tuesday.
AE, DC, MC, V
price range: $13 (red beans and rice) to $19 (marinated
Several years and one owner previously, Hattie’s Chicken Shack
became, simply, Hattie’s, and, befitting its new-found shacklessness,
the cuisine became slightly more formalized. This was a good
and necessary change, because Hattie’s without Hattie needed
a new personality.
Which makes this a good moment to salute Hattie, the marchioness
of Phila Street since 1968, a Saratoga fixture beginning 30
years before that. Her reputation was based on a friendly
restaurant serving an exceptionally toothsome fried chicken,
but she also was a quiet humanitarian, serving the community
even as she kept her friends and neighbors well-fed.
Hattie chose Christel MacLean as her successor; MacLean now
owns and operates the Circus Café around the corner on Broadway.
Beth and Jasper Alexander were her handpicked successors,
acquiring Hattie’s in 2001, and the reassuring news is that
they have preserved its charm and its menu even as they’ve
made creative changes to freshen the restaurant’s appeal.
In sum, it’s still Hattie’s. The gallery of photos and clippings
with which Hattie adorned her walls are still on display,
but the place has been refurbished with paint and furniture
and has expanded out the back into a patio that offers comfortable
quasi-outdoor dining. Beth is an eager-to-please hostess,
while Jasper wields the skillets, maintaining that excellent
fried chicken recipe even as he has enhanced and added other
In the context of August dining, Hattie’s groans under the
weight of the nonstop trade; like a ship burdened up to its
gunwales, it still travels, but the journey takes longer and
may have its perils.
Fortunately, the worst I can report on a recent pre-SPAC visit
was a prolonged wait for my check. Many of my surrounding
patio patrons had cleared out at that point, and our server
either was diverted into the dining room or standing in the
alley, clutching his forehead in relief. It had been one of
those murderously hot days.
The core of the menu is a medley of Southern fare, fried chicken
the centerpiece. And it really is something you need to experience.
My West Virginia-born mom used to make it, and it gave me
a reference when Kentucky Fried Chicken hit the scene with
its greasy, salty approximation. But this was my mother’s
rebellion against the Shake ’N Bake school gaining its foothold
in the ’60s; now I wonder how many home cooks have a clue
how to make the stuff.
No matter: Hattie’s chicken ($15) sets the bar very high,
with its crunch and its well-seasoned finish and—look at that!—no
grease! Barbecued spare ribs ($16) are slow-cooked and slathered
with a spicy sauce that complements the meat nicely. Side
dishes include mashed potatoes, the real thing, made with
the red bliss variety; collard greens; cole slaw, and cucumber
salad—and you can sample a broad array of these items during
the summer at the Tuesday buffet.
At $18, the all-you-can-eat offering is an area bargain. Several
chafing dishes line one wall of the dining room, with a nearby
bin of fried chicken that’s kept off the heat but is constantly
refilled. There, you’ll also get to sample the dark flavor
of the cornmeal-coated fried catfish ($16 as a dinner), some
good’n’evil chicken wings, salmon, salads, and much more.
Other nights, you have a choice (if you’re early, or lucky)
of the main dining room (which is air-conditioned) or the
patio; the latter puts you under a festive blue tent, with
a bar close enough to promise a quick thirst slake.
Louisiana beer and creative mixed drinks are also hallmarks
of the place, and there’s a short but satisfying list of reasonably
I enjoyed a bottle of Crimson Voodoo with a dinner under the
tent on the aforementioned hot August night, when the gumbo
of the day ($18) was a jambalaya cousin that featured chicken
and andouille sausage (the jambalaya is a thicker dish that
adds shrimp). Gumbo starts with a rich, dark roux, the bulwark
of soups and sauces, and is also thickened with okra or filé
powder. It has a nutty, mouth-filling flavor accentuated by
its heat, achieved both by temperature and pepper seasoning.
There’s no question that Jasper does a superb job with the
stuff, and I plan to stop back regularly—especially in cold
weather—to see what else gets featured in the brew.
I’ve been tasting a lot of jerk chicken breast ($17) at a
variety of restaurants; not surprisingly, Hattie’s offers
a version that is excellently seasoned and gains even more
flavor thanks to the free-range chicken underneath.
Chef Jasper is a Culinary Institute graduate whose real-world
experience is even more impressive: He has worked locally
at Siro’s and in Manhattan at Aureole, the Gotham Bar and
Grill and the Gramercy Tavern. We’re lucky to have him here,
and luckier still that this unmatchable legacy of Hattie Austin’s
is being kept alive so well.
here for a list of recently reviewed restaurants.
Day Nursery’s fifth
annual benefit Lobster & Steak Fest takes
place from 5 to 8 PM Aug. 18 at the Picnic Pavilion
in Schenectady’s Central Park. The menu includes
a 20-ounce lobster or 14-ounce steak, potato,
corn, beverage and dessert for $35—which drops
to $30 if you buy your ticket in advance. A surf-and-turf
option with both lobster and steak is available
for $60 ($50 in advance). A children’s hot dog
meal is $5. Participants may eat in or take out.
Entertainment will be by DJ Dave Wilkinson, and
there will be a Paper Bag Raffle and door prize.
For info and tickets, call 377-3492, or buy advance
tickets at the Open Door Book Store, Salamack’s,
Marty’s True Value Hardware, or Lang’s Pharmacy.
. . . The Basement Bistro is celebrating
its 15th Anniversary with a special “Taste of
Summer” event on Thursdays in August. Chef-owner
Damon Baehrel is encouraging each patron to bring
an ingredient, perhaps from a personal garden
or farmer’s market, which the chef will incorporate
into the menu. A portion of the proceeds from
these evenings will be donated to the Wildwood
School, which serves children with developmental
disabilities. Cost per person is $39 (excluding
beverages, tax and tip), and reservations are
required. For more info, call 634-2338 or go to
www.sage crestcatering. com. . . . Remember to
pass your scraps to Metroland (e-mail:
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very much enjoyed eating dinner at Daniel's
at Ogdens. You review described my dining
experience perfectly. This wasn't the case
with Pancho's. I much prefer Garcia's or
Lake View Tavern for Mexican fare. I agree
that a restaurant can have an off night
so I'll give the second unit on Central
Avenue a try.
yes I miss the star ratings, bring it back.
Second, I haven't had a chance to visit
Poncho's yet, but I especially like reading
would travel to Amsterdam to this restaurant
- it's not that far away. People traveled
from all over to eat at Ferrandi's in Amsterdam.
From his background, I'm sure the chef's
sauce is excellent and that is the most
important aspect of an Italian restaurant.
Sometimes your reviewer wastes words on
the negative aspects of a restaurant. I'm
looking forward to trying this restaurant
- I look forward to Metroland every Thursday
especially for the restaurant review. And
by the way Ferrandi's closed its Amsterdam
location and is opening a new bistro on
Saratoga Lake - Should be up and running
in May. It will be called Saratoga Lake
Bistro. It should be great!
comments about the Indian / Pakistani restaurants
being as "standardized as McDonald's"
shows either that you have eaten at only
a few Indian / Pakistani restaurants or
that you have some prejudices to work out.
That the physical appearances are not what
you would consider fancy dancy has no bearing
on the food. And after all, that is what
the main focus of the reviews should be.
Not the physical appearances, which is what
most of your reviews concentrate on.
A restaurant like The Shalimar, down on
Central Avenue, may not look the greatest,
but the food is excellent there. And the
menu has lots of variety - beef, lamb, vegetarian,
chicken, and more..