We’d gone to see the movie “The Help,” and thanks to the character Minnie, I was craving good fried chicken.
More precisely, I wanted Hattie’s Southern fried chicken, but I didn’t want to contend with the racetrack crowds in Saratoga. Then I remembered Hattie’s Chicken Shack. The Wilton outlet of the fabled Hattie’s Restaurant in Saratoga Springs opened last year.
Hattie’s Chicken Shack
WHERE: 3057 Route 50, Wilton, 226-000, www.hattieschickenshacks.com
WHEN: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. daily
OTHER INFO: MasterCard, Visa, American Express and Discover; handicapped accessible
Hattie’s Chicken Shack has a streamlined menu compared to the original. You can’t get red beans and rice there or jambalaya or the gumbo du jour, but you can get really good fried chicken made from the original recipe that Hattie Grey brought with her when she opened her first restaurant on Federal Street in Saratoga Springs in 1938.
Hattie’s in Wilton is “a chef driven, quick service restaurant,” chef-owner Jasper Alexander says on the website, and that describes it well. The emphasis is on a few tempting dishes from the original Hattie’s and some new dishes, all of which they do well based on our recent visit there.
The eatery is in a strip mall along Route 50 east of Saratoga Springs, but once you’re inside you forget that as you drink in the atmosphere — the checked tablecloths, the retro green paint on the wood surfaces, the ceiling fans and the aroma of breaded chicken pieces in sizzling grease.
The menu is on a big blackboard from which you place your order, pay for it and give them your name so they can call you to the pickup station when your food is ready. (When our food was ready, the young man who waited on us delivered it personally rather than calling us to come fetch it, and I thought that was a nice touch. Your food comes in a metal container that looks like a truncated galvanized pail.)
I ordered the half a fried chicken, which is a piece of breast, leg, wing and a thigh for $7.95. (You can also order pieces separately: breast for $3, thigh for $2.75, drumstick for $2 and a wing for $1.75.)
Lunch mate Beverly chose Jasper’s Shrimp Po Boy, crispy fried shrimp served with lettuce and tomato and Jasper’s remoulade sauce, all on a toasted roll for $8.50.
You can also get Hattie’s Famous Fried Chicken Sandwich, a boneless fried chicken thigh topped with Cajun cole slaw for $6.95 or for the same price, Hattie’s Marinated Grilled Chicken Breast Sandwich which comes with lettuce, tomato and Jasper’s Bayou Baste along with the cole slaw.
Had I not been determined to eat fried chicken, I might have ordered Hattie’s Chicken Salad on Texas Toast for $6.95, pulled chicken with walnuts, apples and celery on toasted roll.
For those with less prodigious appetites or perhaps looking for something for the kids, there are Chicken Littles, housemade chicken fingers with buttermilk ranch dressing for $4.25.
For side dishes, we chose the cucumber salad ($3), hush puppies ($3.50), Cajun Cole slaw ($3), and french fries (from local Sheldon Farms) for $3.50. The salad was a crunchy blend of fresh, thinly sliced cukes in a light, slightly sweet vinaigrette, a good chaser for fried food. The Cajun Cole slaw was distinguished by its slight bite which seemed to come from cayenne, and the hush puppies arrived warm and had kernels of real corn in their yellow innards. Beverly volunteered that she’d had better hush puppies in the Carolinas, and I remembered hush puppies I’d eaten that were studded with bits cheddar and jalapenos, but Hattie’s certainly qualified as the real deal.
The fried chicken was wonderful — crispy skin with succulent meat beneath. The same was true of the bountiful fried shrimp — not large shrimp, but plentiful — on Beverly’s Po Boy, with the added delight of a great remoulade.
Among other sides on the menu was a Cranberry cole slaw, and if you have a sweet tooth, you can also top off your meal with fresh beignets — New Orleans-style doughnuts — for $2.50. You can get a mixed greens salad with cucumber, red onion and tomato for $4.25 and you can add almost anything to it up to and including a piece of fried chicken, which raises the price to $7.50.
We found Hattie’s Chicken Shack to be a great addition to the burgeoning commercial landscape of Route 50 and promised ourselves we’d visit again. The food lived up to the promise, and the service was first rate.
Sated, we washed down our lunches with iced tea and soda and carted away some of almost everything. Our tab with tax and tip came to $38.80.
Before leaving Wilton, we paid a quick visit to the Meat House next door to Hattie’s and wandered wide-eyed through the cooler displays with one of the managers as our guide. We got the special treatment because Beverly mentioned aloud that we were first-timers. We also got meat. The manager presented us with little packets of marinated beef tips as samples. Marinated meat is a mainstay of the franchise. We didn’t go in with any idea of buying anything, but who knew they had Oscar’s Smoke House bacon on the premises?