Finally — gizzards!
This was a milestone in my dining career, one I'd somehow missed while growing up in Alabama. Turns out that digestive organs from fowl are a little tough and salty, but fried super-crisp and dipped in hot sauce, they're at least worth a try at Sassafras & Blues, an eclectic, 11-month-old, carry-out-only southeast side eatery.
I say "eclectic" because I'm not aware of another place combining Cajun, Southern, European and staple American items on a single menu. This isn't fusion — the cuisines really don't overlap but on a couple plates, the most odd of which is the chicken and waffle ($7.25).
Popularized by Los Angeles chain Roscoe's and devotees like Snoop Dogg, this may be the most guilty of soul foods. Forgive me for not offering a "Yippie yo yippie yay," but I don't think it's the shiz-nitzel: five wings under a Belgian waffle topped in strawberry or honey butter. Either component would be fine on its own — the waffle's flavor was great — but together, they illustrate what I consider a problem with S&B's core concept.
By the time I reached downtown, the waffle was a step above mush over the chicken, a perhaps predictable casualty of fried food taken to go. Similarly, the remoulade sauce on our otherwise tasty crawfish po-boy ($9.75) had turned half its French loaf into a soggy sponge. Ditto on the loaded and delicious jambalaya sandwich ($6.75) of sausage, pork loin, chicken, bacon, provolone, onions and peppers.
Surprisingly, much of the crisp held on our fried okra and the gator bites, frog legs, catfish, crawfish and Gulf shrimp that accompanied our Ultimate Platter ($19.95). The platter's crab ended up a bit mushier, and the french fries with this and several other dishes were all limp and cold as the day is long.
Save for the disastrous fries, all the flavors were on target, especially those of the Jager Schnitzel ($8.50) and outstanding Polish Boy sausage ($6). I also appreciated unique touches like a few Granny Smith apple slices in our coleslaw ($2.25/side), almost cupcake-like, sweet corn muffins ($.50 each), and a flavorful corn maux choux ($2.25/side).
German-born owner Anita Lancaster is proud of her everything-from-scratch approach, and she should be. She's gifted at the fry station, and on a second visit, I tried to take advantage by eating in the parking lot (as I'd seen a couple bikers and paramedics do on the first visit). The food was warmer, and though the fries still needed a prescription, I enjoyed S&B's slightly spicy chicken and sausage gumbo ($5.50/bowl) next to a decent pulled pork sandwich ($6.75). A beignet there pleased more than the three we ate back at home ($4 for four), which were still good.
No visit to S&B's should fail to include the superb daily trifle ($3.25), basically a cakey brownie layer mixed with a liquor-infused whipped cream; one day we got Malibu Rum, the next Cointreau.
I'd tell you to check out the menu, but that elicits my final criticism: S&B's lacks a Web site, social page or anything on which to post its offerings (even for free). So for your first order, there's no choice but to drive up and check out the menu. And after you receive it, your best choice is to get comfortable in the parking lot.
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