30 Restaurants: Chubbie’s & Saffron Nola

Chubbie’s Fried Chicken

This place has been down the street from me the entire time I’ve lived in Algiers and I didn’t know about it. I don’t think I’ve actually driven past the McDonald’s on General Meyer, so that probably has a lot to do with it. But I found out about from one of those nola.com articles on the best places for fried chicken and was half reading it when I saw that there was a place nearby me that I’d never seen. It had great reviews and on those days I’m craving popeyes, I figured this could be a better alternative, so I added it to my list.

The building is a tiny little thing that you could easily drive past without noticing. I expected to have to go in to order, but realized there was a drive through window. Being lazy, I got in what I thought was a decently fast moving line. As soon as I got in line it stopped moving, of course. Tip: if you decide to come here, just go inside and get your food, although it may only be a couple minutes faster, so if you prefer the comfort of your car to whatever basic seating is on the inside, the drive-thru may be your spot.

There was a lot on the menu, but to keep it simple I just got the 2-piece fried chicken dinner with red beans (it was a Monday) and a biscuit. I got my food and drove home. Usually by the time I get home from popeyes, which is maybe 2 minutes farther away from me than Chubbie’s, I can expect lukewarm, almost cold, fries  and a biscuit, and decently warm chicken. When I got home with Chubbie’s, even after taking my time to change my clothes and get comfortable, that chicken was STILL too hot to eat. They clearly cook to order and had just taken that chicken out of the fryer. The outside was fine but ripping open that chicken breast released a rush of steam. It was perfectly seasoned and very juicy. The biscuit was also delicious, and not like the fabled dry, dreadlock taste of popeye’s biscuits (which I will still eat as long as I warm it up). The red beans were good, were clearly made in someone’s pot with some pieces of hamhock and other bits of pork, but they weren’t necessarily my favorite.

For about $7 this was a substantial meal that I would certainly do again. The place was busy when I went, but the rub is that they’re only open during the week, and close by 7 PM. Oh well, you better get it when you can, because it’s worth it!

Saffron Nola

Man, I had high hopes for this place, but my overall experience was disappointing. Let me preface this by saying that I’ve probably been spoiled with good Indian food, my best friends growing up were Indian and whenever my parents would go out of town I stayed with them, so I get to eat a lot of really delicious home-cooked foods. We also were invited to many of their community events, with even more bountiful homemade food. Now I know there are certain regions that are over-represented in the Indian restaurant industry, which may give people unrealistic expectations if they go to dinner expecting one region’s food and they get another. I don’t know what region my best friends’ family was from; it’s not a really a question an elementary school kid thinks to ask, but I generally don’t base my likes or distaste for a cuisine based on the availability of certain food items.

Saffron is more of a fusion restaurant than traditional, so I wasn’t necessarily expecting to see samosas or chicken tikka masala or make-you-sweat-spicy curries. No problem! The best thing I ate all night was the oyster bed roast, which was basically just charbroiled oysters without the shell and served with naan instead of saltines. They were delicious, but I can literally eat oysters anywhere. I’m sure you’re wondering why I ordered them then, but when I asked which I appetizer I absolutely should get, this is what was recommended. There was nothing particularly novel about their version of oysters other than the naan.

Don’t let the photo fool ya, it’s a tiny cast iron pan of a few chunks of goat meat

For a main course, I was between the lamb chops and the goat. I went with the goat both because I love goat and because it was what was recommended. The entire meal is bone-in goat with a side of basmati rice; naan is extra, so I ordered the truffle naan. I had heard portions were small, but I usually take comments like that with a grain of salt because U.S. portion sizes are so massive to begin with that a normal portion seems small.

This was small, at least for the $30 price tag that came with it. But okay, I thought, it must be delicious.

The goat was good, nothing remarkable; I only got the full flavor on every other bite, like the ingredients didn’t quite come together. But the rice…ugh!  From my recollection, basmati is supposed to be fragrant and floral with separated grains. This rice was bland and sticky, and the flavor reminded me of when I first learned to make rice at home and it would taste like the metallic pot it was boiled in. Even at Indian restaurants where I’ve gotten low-key food poisoning, I have never had bad rice, so this was unexpected surprise. As for the naan, I can’t believe I’m going to say this, but it was too buttery. You will be hard pressed to ever hear me complain about something being too buttery, because butter is amazing, but the amount of butter oversaturated my taste buds. Usually I can’t get enough naan, I will order more even if it costs more, but I almost didn’t want to finish the one piece I had.

All of the flavors in my meal just seemed really off balance, either there was no flavor (rice), over powering flavor (naan), hit or miss flavor (goat). What I love about Indian cuisine is the journey your taste buds go on during each bite and how the smells and flavors come together to make you feel really good. I didn’t have that experience.

I did order dessert, their version of gulab jamun called Jammin’ Jamun (clever). I love gulab jamun, I could eat bowl of those syrup-soaked balls, no problem, and if I was full I’d take it to go. So it is with a heavy heart that I say that I actually left one on my plate and let them take it away. I would have left two, but I kept trying to convince myself that if I just took one more bite it would taste better, and it did not. The fig ice cream they served it with was nice, but the jamun itself was…not bad, just not great either.

My feelings are hurt.

I realize this is probably the longest review I’ve left of my 30 to 30 restaurants, but for as expensive as that dinner was, it should’ve been better. Maybe I had too high of hopes. I read a yelp review by a woman that was comparing Saffron to Shaya. She was complaining about not getting free refills of naan (which she called “the bread”) like she did with the pita (also called “the bread”) at Shaya. I thought, silly wypipo, making false comparisons between totally different cultures with two different cuisines. I’ve eaten at Shaya, and now after eating at Saffron I can see why she went there with that comparison. Their menus (and prices) are very similarly structured. At Shaya you get a choice of three dips and a piece of pita (which they do refill once you finish), and at Saffron you can get three dips/sauces with a basket of roti. At both places it’s probably one of the most affordable dishes that does fill you up if you eat it as your main course. I didn’t eat at main course at Shaya, so I can’t tell you if they also are overpriced for the portion size and quality of food, but there were many odd similarities between the two, save for the actual content of their cuisine.

But that model obviously works, both places are always packed, hard to get a reservation at, and award-winning. What do I know?