“Fried chicken sandwiches were SO 2021 TANDOORI fried chicken is what 2022 is all about baby!” So said a December 31 post on Chit Chaat Cafe‘s Facebook page. Since it opened last summer in a Vienna Mobil station, Chit Chaat Café has been attracting local fans with its pani puri, curries, and, perhaps most notably, a samosa burrito that is precisely what it sounds like. I was enticed, but it wasn’t until I saw that chicken sandwich that my appetite all but forced me into the car, headed to Maple Avenue.
The tandoori fried chicken sandwich isn’t yet on the printed menu at Chit Chaat Café, really just a corner of the interior of the Mobil. Neither is the butter chicken burrito, another contender for the most compelling fusion dish of recent months. But the chicken sandwich is also served with butter chicken sauce, so it’s simply madness not to order it. While I waited for my meal, I scanned the station’s shelves. I had to restrain myself from stocking up on masala twisteez and Lay’s “India’s Magic Masala” flavor. There are Indian sodas like Thums Up and Limca, but I elected to sip a homemade mango lassi. The viscous drink is filled with chunks of mango, making it a bit more like a not-too-sweet fruit-on-the-bottom yogurt than a typical, smooth lassi.
There is no seating inside Chit Chaat Café, so I ate in my car. I was expecting one big piece of fried tandoori chicken, but instead the sub roll is stuffed with several chunky chicken nuggets that are marinated, seared in the tandoor, then crusted in cornmeal and fried. I would be more than happy to order the chicken on its own and forgo the bread, but then I would miss out on the combination of herbaceous green chutney and spicy mustard, the tangy pickles, and lettuce, tomato, and diced onion. Though I was excited for the butter chicken sauce, it turned out to be a pleasant afterthought, sweet and a bit acidic, but lacking in spice.
The Chicken Sandwich Wars are definitely still alive and well in NoVA and Chit Chaat Café has a very worthy entry. For those seeking an alternative to fast food basics, this could be the new flavor to beat.
200 Maple Ave. E., Vienna
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