Fried chicken will always have a deep tie to the American South. It’s the blue-collar expression of southern comfort. Despite its southern roots, good fried chicken can be found elsewhere. Recently, I put that claim to the test and went on a fried chicken mini immersion tour in beautiful New York City. Here’s the abridged version:
Pies & Thighs
This place is one of the originals of New York’s fried chicken renaissance. The chicken was moist and tender; the catfish was flavorful and crispy, and the apple pie with aged cheddar was like tasting a fried chicken time capsule from 2006.
Hot House – Peaches
At Hot House, great fried chicken meets exceptional sides, meets really flavorful spicy chicken. The spicy chicken is a dry rub sprinkled on top of the regular chicken right after it’s cooked. It is light-you-up spicy and delivers while never forgetting that the base chicken should be moist and delicious. The mac and cheese was made with aged cheddar and more than a little love, while the collards were made with quality smoked pork. Excellent place.
This chicken is a study in minimalism. You can only see 3 ingredients, while the 4th is a
seasoned butter, but this ruthless Occam's razor approach to a sandwich build makes you wonder why you need more toppings if the chicken is this good. Crispy dark meat with a hint of fermented chilies and sweet pickles are exactly all you need.
Root and Bone
Equipped with an honest to goodness broaster, this pressure fried chicken was moist, flavorful and complex and somehow infused with more Southern charm than its New York roots should allow. They served fresh thyme and sea salt as an accompaniment to biscuits topped with honey butter and it makes you think about life and all the good things you’ve done to deserve this one perfect moment. Root and Bone has given fried chicken a modern voice with an old sweet soul.
While there are some trendy expressions of fried chicken like Korean BonChon, Japanese Karaage, even Jewish matzoh crusted, Southern and Cajun flavor profiles are still king. Spicy chicken is expected to be balanced along with great flavor—even searing hot chicken won’t give you any news if you don’t have the flavors to back it up.
The best fried chicken will always be subjective, but the return to pressure frying and to using herbs and spices in the chicken brine is a nice return to form. Frying to order also tracks right along with the real and fresh food trends. Finally, you can’t win with chicken alone. Your sides must be on theme and deliver on the same level as your proteins—that’s what truly separated the best from the rest. Chickens tend to flock, and it takes a good amount of effort to truly stand alone.
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