Pies’n’Thighs’ $11 Fried Chicken Is Top N.Y. Deal: Ryan Sutton
You can reserve a month ahead for Momofuku Noodle Bar’s $100 fried chicken (no walk-ins) which requires 4-8 people.
The rest of us have other options. Here are the city’s newest places for great fried chicken, humanely produced, no reservations needed -- and no second mortgages required.
Hill Country Chicken, the Texas-size spinoff of the namesake Texas barbecue joint, will soon sell cans of Porkslap Pale Ale; it already fries up white and dark meat from antibiotic-free Bell & Evans.
Result: A well-salted, buttermilk-brined bird with a secret-recipe crust that actually adheres to the meat. Get the sweet and peppery classic version. (The “Mama Els” option is skinless, with a bland “seasoned flour” coating.)
Unfortunately, the meat is stored in ovens for assembly- line efficiency, meaning the skin loses its crunch. Cost: $5.50 breasts, $3.50 thighs.
Rating: Good 6.0/10.
Hill Country Chicken is at 1123 Broadway. Info: +1-212-257- 6446; http://www.hillcountrychicken.com
So far, there’s no law requiring West Village restaurants to post calorie counts, which is why I’m eating the following life-threatening Southern treat at Lowcountry.
Chef Will Sullivan marinates a giant slab of chicken breast in buttermilk, garlic, dijon and paprika. He then fries it up with Cajun seasonings and sticks the juicy patty inside a split cheddar biscuit.
Topping one: buttered red onion jam. Topping two: a mess of white pork fat gravy, the final nail in the coffin.
It’s falsely labeled as a “small” plate and it tastes exactly as it sounds, which is to say messy and hangover-y. Cost: $14. Beverage pairing: a deadly mix of lemonade and sweet tea vodka.
Rating: Very good; 7.0/10.
Lowcountry is at 142 W 10th St. Information: +1-212-255- 2330; http://www.lowcountrynewyork.com
At Peels, a Southern-theme Bowery restaurant, I emptied a tiny salt shaker on a “fresh kill” chicken (slaughtered Sunday, delivered Monday) from Fossil Farms, New Jersey. All’s well once I fixed the kitchen’s error.
The interior was moist and succulent. The outside was a sheath of mahogany skin. The flavors were almost Indian -- a robust, mouth-exploding mix of paprika, fennel, coriander, cumin and black pepper. Cost: $20. The hearty crunch begged for Peels’ “corn n’oil” dark rum cocktail.
Rating: Potentially great, 7.5/10.
Peels is at 325 Bowery at 2nd St. Info: +1-646-602-7015; http://www.peelsnyc.com
Kyochon claims to be the originator of Korean-style chicken. There are 1,000 outlets globally. Wings -- cuter and smaller than the American Buffalo versions -- reign supreme here. They’re double fried to order, rendering out the fat and creating a gossamer, paper-mache crust that collapses in the mouth like crystallized sugar.
Sauces are brushed on. Beginners will order soy-garlic. Advanced eaters will opt for the chili glaze, whose immediate burn isn’t quite as intense as Frank’s RedHot; rather, it creeps up after a few bites with a low-grade, lingering sting. The antidote? A carafe of luscious strawberry-flavored soju. One gripe: Kyochon use Sysco-distributed Tyson chicken. They should do better. Cost: $17.99 for 15-18 wings for sit-down dinner.
Rating: Very good; 8/10.
Kyochon is at 319 Fifth Ave. at 32nd St. Info: +1-212-725- 9292.
Pies “N” Thighs
Closed two years ago, Pies “N” Thighs -- owned and operated by women -- reopened in a tiny Williamsburg alcove right by Peter Luger. The result is fried chicken that’s just about perfect. The free-range birds, from Murray’s farm in upstate New York, are cooked with so little batter it tastes as if you’re eating griveness with meat on the inside.
Pair it with hot sauce-topped macaroni and cheese -- vinegar zaps the nose like smelling salts and cuts through the creamy cheddar. The noodles? Al dente. I typically rail against cash-only joints, but I won’t here because the total cost of the above was eleven bones.
And I couldn’t even finish. Wash down with good Brooklyn beer.
Rating: 9.5/10. Near perfect. Pies “N” Thighs is at 166 S Fourth Street, Brooklyn. Info: +1-347-529-6090 or http://piesnthighs.com
I’m troubled that Seersucker in Carroll Gardens cooks up its chicken fry just once a week -- on Tuesdays -- and can sell out by 8:30 p.m.
“It’s not fair,” I told Seersucker’s manager. His response: “It’s very labor-intensive.” Perhaps that’s why the bird arrived about 30 minutes after the appetizers (stellar fried baloney sandwiches) were cleared.
The dish, a half-chicken from New York’s Bobo Farms, can feed two. The exterior was as dark as a burnt tree-trunk. The insides were white, soft and salted. The skin, a savory brittle of blackened, Cajun seasonings, collapsed without too much effort. It’s better than Momofuku’s pricey Southern-style fowl. Outstanding.
Rating: 9.75/10. Cost: $18. Minus a quarter point because the chef doesn’t make enough.
Seersucker is at 329 Smith St., Brooklyn. Information: +1- 718-422-0444; http://www.seersuckerbrooklyn.com
(Ryan Sutton writes about New York City restaurants for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are his own.)
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