Living in Seattle my choice for fried chicken is a place called Ezell’s. Honestly, it’s not as good as everyone claims. The texture of the coating is nice and crunchy, but the non-spicy chicken I had there was essentially flavorless. The spicy was, well, spicy, but not much else.
But this week, I’m in Manhattan. My friend has been bugging me to try his favorite fried chicken place, but we haven’t stopped there yet. Instead, today we found ourselves outside Piece of Chicken in Manhattan’s Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood. Tucked down a sidestreet (W 45th between 8th and 9th). To her credit, Jenny spotted it out of the corner of her eye and said “let’s go”.
A large kitchen sits behind a rectangle cut into the wall. That’s where you order, that’s where you pay, that’s where you get your food. Where you eat is your problem. We chose to eat a few feet away on a stoop, ignoring the sign that disallowed us from sitting there. Luckily we didn’t get caught.
The menu is not small, but the star is of course the chicken. You can get a piece of fried chicken for a dollar. Yep. A dollar. Jenny being from the south ordered Chicken and Waffles for us. Despite how many places I’ve eaten I’m still really dumb about lots of culinary traditions. Southern food is no exception. I don’t know what I thought chicken and waffles would be. Maybe a drumstick wrapped in a waffle? (McDonalds I expect royalties if you follow through on that.) Nope. It’s exactly what it says, three pieces of golden fried chicken and four waffles (and two tubs of syrup).
Like many non-obvious food combinations, to me chicken and waffles is evidence of evolution at work. When you have diversity (lots of different food combinations), reproduction (lots of different restaurants making dishes over and over), and selection (customers going to restaurants they like) you get evolution. And I’m sure there were countless combinations tried, but chicken and waffles stuck. And it works.
The waffles had corn meal in them. They had sort of a rustic quality about them. And the fake maple syrup (a guilty pleasure of mine) was perfect on top. The chicken was super flavorful. We had white meat. To me, white meat is the true test of fried chicken. It’s not hard to make dark meat juicy. Unfortunately, here Piece of Chicken was a little more mixed. Of our three pieces, one was dry, one was juicy, and one was in the middle. In some cases the juicy factor was different in different bites of the same piece. I will say though that the savory flavorfulness of the crispy skin did a lot to compensate.
Juiciness inconsistency aside, we quite enjoyed Piece of Chicken. Maybe we’ll get to compare it to the Korean fried chicken place my friend raves about before the week is up.