Posted by Tegan O'Neill
I was not impressed the first time I reviewed Hattie's. When I recall the experience, hurried waitresses and disappointing plates of food come to mind. I wanted to give the famed spot another shot, though, because that one bad experience could have been a fluke. I had hope that this time around, I would feel compelled to join the extensive Hattie's fan club.
Right off the bat, the atmosphere felt different from the first time I was there because only a handful of tables were filled and thus, it felt less hectic and stressful. It took longer than it should have for a server to approach our table, and when we were finally greeted, it was with a half-audible excuse as to why we had been neglected--something about not realizing we had sat down yet. This would be an understandable remark had the restaurant been filled, but it was not.
People drive for miles for their fix of fried chicken, and I will admit, this chicken is pretty delicious. Hattie's knows how to cook up some serious comfort food. On the outside, the fried chicken is crackly and crispy; on the inside it is smooth and tender. The level of salt in each bite rests in that perfect zone between undetectable and overwhelming. Order the fried chicken, and you have a plate of salt and meat that unapologetically taps into a primal human yearning. If you add the maple syrup that comes with the fried chicken and waffle combo ($9.95), you have the trifecta: sugar, salt, and fat. It is a no-brainer why people flock to Hattie's year in and year out.
Understanding why the waffle is a necessary part of the equation, though, is a bit more puzzling. I understand the tradition, but if they are going to stick with the same old scheme, it better be a perfect recipe--and their waffle recipe is not. The waffle is bland and boring and no match for the chicken with which it is paired, though this can be remedied with the use of the provided hot sauce and maple syrup. Without these two sauces, however, it is far from anything special. Where is the spunk? Food offers a canvas for artists to flex their creative muscles, but at Hattie's it feels like the artists in the kitchen are working from a script that they are afraid to tweak.
I did glimpse inspiration when it came time to dig into the Cajun Omelet ($9.95). The rich egg, savory Andouille sausage, and sweet caramelized onion amalgam left me wanting for more every time I finished a mouthful. The flavors balanced each other out ridiculously well. The toast on the side was practically drunk with butter, and what could be better? I would feel guilty making such a thing at home, so I am glad that a restaurant could do it for me. The potatoes dusted with a generous dash of tangy cheese deserve a shout out too, as they accompanied the greasy omelet perfectly.
My one last gripe with Hattie's has to do with timing. We ordered the beignets in addition to our two main plates as an appetizer, but the entrees came before we were even half way done with them. Beignets are definitely better hot, especially with loads of powdered sugar, but we did not have enough time to enjoy them in this fashion before being tempted by other distractions. We also ordered a Caf?? Con Miel ($7.00)that came out sometime between the beignets and the main dishes. It came too late, too cool, and it tasted like weak coffee with too much bourbon. I can only hope the other drinks Hattie's mixes are better.
Hattie's makes good fried chicken, but it will not be until they pick up their service game, however, that I will be telling anyone that Hattie's is a must when visiting Saratoga Springs.
To read more of Tegan O'Neill's outings, visit her blog at http://tegan-and-sarah.blogspot.com/