Food: You’ve Never Had Chicken Like This Before! (But You’ve Probably Had Similar Hummus)

I never order chicken at a restaurant—ever. It’s always the same boring bird marinated in various herbs with a spritz of lemon juice, and it spends far too long spinning in the rotisserie, sucking out all the juices the chicken originally had. Until recently, I had only eaten four versions of rotisserie chicken that I was willing to have again. But after eating at Saca’s, I have discovered a fifth version that is certainly worth my time.Holding court since 1992, Saca’s is situated conveniently in the middle of the block on Second Street, just seconds from a toy shop, a chocolate shop, a barber shop, a spa, and a Himalayan gift shop—what more could you want? Saca’s is rather nondescript from the outside, and not much more eye-catching within. A few bright paintings attempt to spruce up the interior, but really there’s not much décor to speak of other than the schwarma spit behind the counter, spinning around pound after pound of chicken and lamb. The room oozes cheap but classy college-town eatery.The roasted chicken—served fresh off the spit—is exquisitely juicy, and the skin is a perfect golden brown, as if it was prepared for a Bon Appetit cover photo. Even the white meat in the middle retained its juices, a rare and impressive accomplishment in the roasted chicken world. The “special” garlic sauce served with the chicken is superfluous—it seems a lot more like butter than any sort of garlic sauce. Enjoy this chicken in its pure state. It’s as delicious a chicken as you will find for miles.


Saca’s:435 North Fairfax Avenue248 W. Second StreetClaremont(909) 624-3340

Hours:Monday-Thursday, Saturday,11 a.m. – 8 p.m.;Friday: 11 a.m. – 9 p.m.;Closed SundaysPrices: $2.29- $7.69

Rating: **1/2

Restaurants with table service are rated with a grade from 0 to 4 stars on food, service, and atmosphere, along with an overall star rating. Restaurants without table service receive only one overall rating and are assessed with more of an emphasis on their overall value. All overall ratings take into account a restaurant’s prices.

4 stars: Extraordinary3 stars: Outstanding, very reliable, perhaps 1 area to improve slightly2 stars: Good but several flaws1 star: Avoidable, I probably did not get food poisoning at least0 stars: Should be closed/dangerous to a diner’s sanity and health

Falafel is one of my favorite treats to have when eating out, especially since my hometown in Northern California has an amazingly high number of terrific falafel joints for a small city. A terrific falafel ball can compete with perfectly tender pastrami or succulent roast beef as the premier sandwich filling. For those unfamiliar with this treat, falafel balls are made of fried chickpeas, and, like French fries, each version varies in size, seasoning, and greasiness. The falafel at Saca’s will not disappoint, and in fact tastes better than Falafel Arax in East Hollywood—which many critics consider Los Angeles’ premier falafel destination. They are perfectly grease-free and have a nice exterior that is crunchier than normal. I loved the baba ghanoush (eggplant dip), but the hummus lacked life.Sadly, there is no good bread to scoop up the dips, since the dry, monotonous pita is terribly underwhelming.The beef schwarma puzzled me, as the meat was chopped a little thinner than is typical. There were a couple fatty strips as well, which would usually signal a more tender meat, but that was not the case. The most confusing aspect was the flavoring of spices that seemed to lean heavily on cloves, completely overpowering any sort of meat taste that could have existed. It reminded me of a blueberry apple pie I once baked that required a heavy load of cloves, which made very little sense considering they’re some of the strongest-tasting spices in the cabinet, and not really one of the most pleasurable to eat. As I expected, my pie tasted far too clove-y, and this beef schwarma was awfully similar. A word of warning for diners expecting the burrito-sized sandwiches you usually get with falafel or schwarma: You will be left hungry in the end.The dolmas—seasoned rice wrapped in grape leaves and served cold—are fine but not special. The tabouleh is a perfectly adequate rendition of the parsley “salad” I’ve never been a fan of. Diners can order their falafel, chicken, or beef as platters with a choice of salad or french fries, alone as a sandwich, or as part of a special platter that includes hummus, baba ghanoush, fluorescent purple pickled turnips, and tabouleh. There are also various salads for health-conscious diners. For dessert, you can get baklava or go elsewhere. The labor-intensive sweet pastry of layer after layer of phyllo dough is made off-site by a friend of the owner’s family.Service is counter style. You carry your tray of food to your own table after the owner yells across the room that your order is ready. Prices are very reasonable, staying in line with a student’s budget. Besides some heavy-handed seasoning on the beef, Saca’s is reliable but hardly amazing. Except for that chicken. Trust me, you have not had chicken like this before.

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