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[Photograph: Jay Friedman]

My annual trip to Saratoga Springs always means a late morning almond croissant and more at Mrs. London's Bakery and Café, and then a new choice of restaurant for dinner. Last time through town, I was eyeing Hattie's Restaurant, but they were closed for annual cleaning. Disappointed this might mean missing out on their highly acclaimed fried chicken (which slayed Bobby Flay in a Throwdown episode), salvation came in learning that there's now a Hattie's Chicken Shack not far away.

It's here that I got a half of a Hattie's Famous Fried Chicken ($7.95). Said to be the same recipe since 1938—developed by Hattie Grey, who came to Saratoga via Louisiana and Chicago—this is the same stuff served at the restaurant, but the Shack is more casual with an order-at-the-counter setting. To accompany my fried chicken, I picked up "light" sides of cucumber salad and Cajun coleslaw ($3.00 each) in contrast to the tempting but heavier fresh-cut French fries and hushpuppies.

The order arrives in a deep metal tray, looking like a Southern picnic sitting upon the red and white checkerboard tablecloth. (Hattie's Restaurant uses the same tablecloths.) No sign of grease—just the allure of golden brown chicken that's plump, juicy, and delicious. The wing is best at showing off the simplicity of the batter, which doesn't put forth strong flavor, but is perfectly crisp. The breast is meaty and moist, but I really enjoy the leg and especially the super juicy thigh.

I can see why the thigh is served in Hattie's fried chicken sandwich, which is topped with Cajun coleslaw. For those avoiding the fryer, there's a marinated chicken breast sandwich that's grilled "New Orleans style," or chicken salad of pulled chicken, walnuts, apples, and celery served on Texas toast. Whatever you order, you can sweeten up your taste of the south in the north by finishing with an order of fresh beignets.

Hattie's Chicken Shack

3057 Route 50 (Wilton Plaza), Saratoga Springs, NY 12866 (map)
(518) 226-0000; hattieschickenshacks.com

About the author: Jay Friedman is a Seattle-based freelance food writer who happens to travel extensively as a sex educator. An avid fan of noodles (some call him "The Mein Man"), he sees sensuality in all foods, and blogs about it at his Gastrolust website. You can follow him on Twitter @jayfriedman.

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