The Chicken Scene NYC – Charles Country Pan Fried Chicken

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There are plenty of chicken joints around New York, and confronting great chicken can happen when you least expect it. Its hard to give a clear review of food without it becoming a personal experience, especially when it comes to soul food, more specifically FRIED CHEA-KIN et. Pollo frito. Hashtag birds of a feather don’t necessarily flock together. So in my quest to find great fried bird, off the beaten path, I found myself in Harlem.

As we entered Charles’ establishment, I was surprised by the size. With seating for 9, 10 people max, the word buffet in the restaurants description was a bit misinterpreted. That’s on me though. It wasn’t a consideration to check the available seating and quite frankly, as I happened upon this place, taking the food to-go was the option I thought I’d follow. But a warming feeling hit me. Something a bit familiar but one of those things you couldn’t quite put your finger on. Maybe it was the smell of a wood fire wafting through the air outside mixed the frigid wintery cold. Remember now, we are in Harlem, surrounded by turn of the century limestone town homes and large apt buildings. My mind is really churning thinking about how warm that fire must be as snow began to melt on my shoulders, from the warmth of the restaurant we were now standing inside of.

As soon as you walk in, you are confronted by a large display case fulla CHEA-KIN with all the sides and other mains to the immediate right. The interior was a snap shot of a 50’s lunch counter straight out of the deep south of America.

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The traditional patterned picnic cloth table coverings. Salt, pepper, Ketchup and hot sauce bottles served as the only items to dress the table. Minimalist, I get it. But before I even get into the food review let me say, the salt & pepper was not needed. Charles’ could afford to be pretentious in that way. In the way you only find want-to-be 5 star Michelin, go fluff yourself commoner, sort of way. But here, in a place where the only pretention has to be your pre hypertensive blood work….Hold up, Im talking too much about not-chicken… moving on.

My wife joined me on this excursion with baby in tow. We ordered up the standard chicken platter, which included two sides. We both ate for $25 dollars total. We were both full at the end. And we both immediately thought, “we would tell a friend”. We had the same order, two pieces of fried chicken with macaroni and cheese and sweet yams. I opted for a breast and thigh, and the wife, all dark meat.

 

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I was immediately transported to my youth. Where I had spent every summer for the better part of 10 years, in North Carolina with my grandparents. This food was literally every family BBQ, every birthday, every major celebration from birth to death. And yes, this is Last Supper Status. Yes this is just like my gramma used to make. Every bit of it, down to the tangy Crystal-Brand-like hot sauce, I dipped the tender chicken into. The Crust, airy and absolutely perfect. Void of excess oil, while being light and flakey. It was deliciously salty and nostalgic. The spices were perfect throughout each bite.

This is old school, season the meat, season the egg, season the flour, cast Iron skillet, lard cooked, paper-towel sopping chicken.

 

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The Macaroni and cheese was on point! It is the way mac n’ cheese is supposed to taste. The macaroni and cheese had long-curved macaroni noodles cooked a minute past al dente. The cheese was evenly proportioned between each noodle filled bite with purposeful precision. Each bite exposed the sharp cheddar to my tongue reminding me of summers past and second-servings which shaped me into the chubby terror I was in my youth. Arguably in my adulthood as well….arguably. There wasn’t a sauce like you get with fancy mac nowadays. And it is not needed. The sweet yams were citrusy in an orange zest sort of way. Natural tasting and light on cinnamon and vanilla, almost to the point you wouldn’t know it was there, if you didn’t know it was there. You just know that what you’re eating taste good.

Overall Charles Country Pan Fried Chicken was like travelling back in time. This is the type of chicken that you use as a precedent for all to chicken to follow. For all chicken past. For all chicken to come in the future. 1) Tender, clean tasting meat. 2) Crispy, crusty, golden fried crust 3) large and juicy pieces that were evenly coated and spiced flawlessly. This is the part where I say it is hard to do this review. There’s something about regional food. It in large it comes from the seasonings/spices used in those places. You cannot get your dish to come out the same. No matter how hard you try. It is always going to be missing something. The flavors told a story. The depth of flavors, the unadulterated honesty in the cooking methods. It all joined together to make for quite tasty eats in the most unexpected way. This is the type of place you reconnect with family members for. Just so you can invite them out to catch up. Then smile over the anticipation of their reaction and resulting conversation of memories from long ago. If I rated on nostaligia alone this would be an easy 10, but I give an overall (8)  Clucks when factoring in presentation and all the other things that make you want to come back and eat more CHEA-KIN.

 

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Yitadee, Bang Bang Bang!!!

The Chicken Scene NYC “HOOD” ed.

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As American as apple pie, nah not necessarily but for New Yorkers on the late night prowl for cheap eats. Chicken wings reign supreme. In New York Chinese restaurants, not unlike bodegas are just as popular as shitty coffee. However when it comes to curing those hunger pangs, if it ain’t beef and broccoli then its chicken wings and French fries (fried rice if you’re feeling squirrelly). Its one of those foodie things that can’t quite be explained, because quite frankly it shouldn’t work.

It shouldn’t taste good, but it does. You shouldn’t want to go back to it, but you do. Lets start by how it usually starts out previously frozen, previously seasoned and previously floured in a processing facility in Chinatown somewhere. Do you see where I’m going with this i.e. not fresh daily.  We move on to the “old” oil, which at its youngest, has been inhabiting the deep fryer all week. Lets just call that, more seasoning. And if it needs to be expanded upon, more than chicken gets fried in that oil. At this point it seems that not such a good case is being compiled to make you even remotely curious about this deep fried delight. But oh, you’d be sadly mistaken. I chalk it up to MSG. Oooo I said a bad word. But yes, it has to be msg or crack…

How bout them wangz?!

An order consists of four whole pieces. The French fries are usually a crinkle cut. For first timers, I suggest getting it “hood”. To me, that means BBQ and hot sauce on the chicken finished with hot sauce and ketchup on the French fries. $2.00usd chicken $4.50usd w/ fries

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The chicken arrives golden brown with a tinge of yellow. Add a bit of saffron like red to mar the skin and you’ve got a classic looking piece of fried chicken. The meat is tender and seasoned well. The magic is in the crust and perfectly cooked meat. The crust is salty, flaky, and every bit of the wing, invites you to devour the skin. The fat is melted thoroughly, inducing a sticky must-lick-fingers irresistible urge. It must be noted. In the world of hood chicken & Chinese food restaurants, this order doesn’t have a drumstick option. You only get wings.

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House sauces include Hot Sauce, BBQ, duck sauce, and soy sauce. However there are some places that serve their wings with a coating of sweet chili sauce or even General Tso style. The most popular choice of compilation is a BBQ/hot sauce mix squirted over the entire order from a large clear plastic bottle that reminds you of the hotdog cart guy.

Now you have to understand, this is lowbrow chicken. This is seedy neighborhood, back laneway, hand to hand exchange chicken. If chicken could wear a pleather zipper jacket and set off firecrackes, while smoking a cigarette, honing around footscray…..it would be this chicken. Unfiltered mystery hot sauce with no name and full of Marvel adjectives to describe its flavor, like tang, zip, and pop. Drenching the chicken pieces like a veil of secrecy “cock-blocking” your sense of “I shouldn’t be eating this…and in this quantity”. Sometimes I take a shower right after this type of meal because I feel dirty. I feel taken advantage of. But I keep going back for more. This chicken is a cheap thrill that delivers unquestionable amounts of satisfaction. With each piece being lightly floured, you’re not overwhelmed by crust. The chicken is moist and cooked thoroughly, and pieces are a good size to be considered an appetizer if eaten alone. Yet, satisfying when paired with the fries or other sides.

So, to sum things up, Chinese HOOD chicken gets 3 clucks

Mary’s (Sydney)

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Mary’s is a great joint in Newtown, Sydney that we recently reviewed and loved. This review is of their CBD burger joint. Hollywood was on a business trip and found he was staying really close it and they had a chicken burger on the list! This burger is a beast and very messy, tasty and yummy. Go get it now

Hollywood’s Rating 8/10 Clucks

Address: 154 Castlereagh St, Sydney

 

Boney

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Boney is a remake of the joint Pony that has a new dish to be part of the Melbourne Fried Chicken scene. We loved the japaleno donuts. They were really cool. The chicken was good too, it was boneless a crispy fried concoction but couldve been a bit more spicy. The condiments of wasabi mayo and ginger around it were interesting too.

Hollywood’s Rating: 6/10 Clucks

Address: 68 Little Collins St Melbourne, VIC

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Cookie

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Cookie is a favorite for the chicken scene is a must go to place for their amazing Asian fusion cuisine. However their 5 spice fried chicken wasnt a big hit for our beloved Melbourne Fried Chicken as we found it very dry to our tasting. However we highly recommend going to Cookie and getting their amazing drunken noodles and their fresh crispy spicy salads

Hollywood’s Rating: 6/10 Clucks

Address: 252 Swanston St Melbourne, VIC

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The Napier Hotel

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The Napier is one of our favorite pubs that we frequent for their great Kangaroo steaks. On a hot Melbourne day we ended up going there to show our friends around and noticed that the Napier Hotel has its own Melbourne Fried Chicken offering in the form of a southern fried chicken burger so we decided to make a review of it.

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Hollywood really enjoyed the burger while The Chick thought it was flawed. What drew Hollywood was the amazing crunch and plethora of flavors associated with it. It was crunchy, hot, spicy, sweet and fresh. Each bite had a dominating sweet honey flavor or a hot and spicy chipotle mayo flavor that gave an amazing contrast.

On the other hand, The Chick didnt enjoy it as much as she thought the burger was a bit too bready and the extra thick coating of the chicken made the whole meal even breadier.

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The Napier is a good joint that we love, we recommend you visit this Melbourne staple and let us know what you think of their chicken burger!

Hollywood Rating: 8/10 Clucks

The Chick’s Rating: 4/10 Clucks

Address: 210 Napier St Fitzroy, VIC

Napier Hotel on Urbanspoon

Le Bon Ton

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Hollywood and The Chick were hanging around with some good peeps on a sunny Melbourne day and after sinking a few beers down the crave for some crispy Melbourne Fried Chicken came about. We were in Collingwood and decided to knock off another contender that we heard much about recently, Le Bon Ton!

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Le Bon Ton is a great bar with a large outdoor area and boasts lots of good Southern pride meals including lots of smoked meats. We decided to go for a whopping order of Chicken Ribs (Crispy fried & tossed in Louisiana hot
sauce with chipotle ranch), Chili Cheese Fried (Traditional Texas style beef & bean chili with sharp cheddar sauce on crispy fries), Fried Chicken (Southern style buttermilk soaked tenders with cracked pepper white gravy), The Smoker’s Lot of pit smoked meats (A mix of brisket, pork, sausage and chicken), Onion Rings (Beer battered & jerk seasoned) & the Le Bon Ton pickles (a house mix of radish, gherkin, carrot, baby onion & jalapeno) along with many many beers.

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All the food arrived at once and the overall verdict was that the chicken was very good however the dishes were on the smaller side. While the chicken was freshly cooked and properly spiced, the pieces were smaller and it seemed for our group of 5 the two orders of chicken we had left us craving for more.

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The meats were very good too however the main start of the show for us were the onion rings which were completely wiped out.

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Overall Le Bon Ton is a great joint with great food and vibes to offer, we recommend you check it out

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Hollywood’s Rating: 7.5/10 Clucks

The Chick’s Rating: 7/10 Clucks

Address: 51 Gipps St Collingwood VIC 3066

Le Bon Ton on Urbanspoon