A fellow foodie told me her husband had reported that he recently enjoyed the “best chicken he had ever had.” So faithful dinnermate and I headed north to Saratoga Springs on a dreary Saturday afternoon to find out for ourselves.
Yearling Dizzy Chicken is located on Congress Street, and your nose will alert you before your GPS recites that you have arrived. The pungent odor of woodsmoke permeates the corridor of air leading to the two-tiered white building with railings. Once inside, I realized the source of the aromatic air was a 10-foot smoker behind the bar, which opened toward the dining room. One might think the room would be smokey, but it wasn’t — only the scent escaped the wood oven to entice.
Virtually everything on the menu has seen the inside of the smoker or is made in-house. Take the chowder ($5.95) John ordered, for example. Its “meat” base is all-natural, nitrate-free house-smoked bacon. Poblanos, roasted corn, skin-on potatoes, garlic, parsley and thyme round out the thick and creamy matrix. A little too salty for me; owner Justin Bartlett explained that the bacon had previously been brined for eight days.
Besides bacon, five other meats on the menu are smoked in-house, and all are offered a la carte or in combinations as part of a platter, entrée, soup, salad or sandwich.
The in-house smoked Pastrami Reuben Panini ($8.95), pressed with house made focaccia, sauerkraut, Swiss cheese and house-made Russian dressing, beckoned to me. But I felt a moral obligation to check out the chicken and ordered the Dizzy Chicken Entrée ($13.95/half chicken).
The satiny skin on the small half bird was rosy from being smoked, and too much for this diner to finish. It was served with two sides from a list of nine. I chose the moist tender cornbread (two substantial wedges) and the braised red cabbage, which was a tame sweet and sour. Although I would not commit myself to labeling the chicken as the “best” I’ve ever had, it was flavorful, moist and tender after having been herb brined and then roasted in the wood rotisserie.
I was offered a choice of three sauces: Sweet Love BBQ (mild), Roof Raiser BBQ (hot) and Dizzy Sauce. When in Rome, they say, choose the house sauce, and I did. Justin’s wife and co-owner Annamaria is Romanian and Hungarian, and the inspiration for this sauce came from a recipe named mujdei de usteroi (Romanian garlic sauce). The Bartletts substitute organic yogurt for the traditional sour cream, making it healthier and rendering it similar to Greek tsaziki sauce.
Faithful dinner guest Janos (Hungarian for “John”) opted for the previously described chowder with brined and smoked bacon, declaring its flavor “unique and mild.” To complete his meal, he ordered the Angus Beef Brisket Entrée ($12.95). I was surprised to observe that the beef brisket resembled four neat square slices of what looked like meat loaf. Most brisket I’ve eaten looked more irregular.
But a mouthful dipped in a little Sweet Love BBQ sauce changed all my misconceptions. Smoked and tender beyond description (the accompanying serrated knife was entirely unnecessary), the brisket virtually melted in my mouth. I’m not a huge French fry fan, but John’s choice of Parmesan fries was a winner. Lightly sprinkled with Parmesan and crispy on the outside, they were steaming and soft inside. The accompanying coleslaw was slightly wilted with a balance of sweet and sour — a perfect foil for the smoked beef.
Although we were both “very well satisfied,” as Dad would have said, dessert beckoned and we dutifully heeded the call. Cheesecake and tiramisu comprised half the list, but it was the in-house made Dark Chocolate Mousse with Raspberry Coulis and Coconut Ice Cream Custard ($4.95 each) that hooked us. Both were piped into small plastic cups, much like soft ice cream. My pale yellow custard wore a small turban of a semi-solid cream and had a bottom crust of crushed, buttered and slightly salty Ritz crackers. John’s deep dark chocolate swirl hid a bottom layer of seedless, syrupy raspberry. Though portions were modest, both desserts crowned our meals with the desired sweet note.
A word about décor: soft lime walls were lined on one side with oak church pews. Tree trunks, satiny after having their bark stripped, braced the dining room. A gas fireplace warmed the far corner. Sixteen tables (with six more on a rear deck) and 14 seats at the bar accommodated patrons. Soft country music emanated from several ceiling-level speakers. Service was friendly and helpful.
When I asked about accessibility, owner Justin explained that a ramp and/or wheelchair elevator will be installed. Also, I pondered the meaning of “Dizzy” in the restaurant’s name but settled on an explanation. Affixed to a rotisserie, the rotating chicken undoubtedly becomes “dizzy” from its spinning.
WHERE: 102 Congress St., Saratoga Springs, NY 12866, 518-583-4099, www.dizzychickenrotisserie.com/
WHEN: Monday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m.; closed Sunday
HOW MUCH: $46.75 with two coffees, but without tax and tip
MORE INFO: Full bar, periodic specials, street and lot parking, major credit cards accepted, noise
level permits conversation, three stairs to front door, takeout, delivery.