If there is a type of food I take seriously, I would say it would have to be fried chicken. Therefore, when it comes to fried chicken, I’m very hard to please. Most folks scrunch their noses up when you say your favorite thing to eat is fried chicken because they think it’s greasy and disgusting. But the truth is fried chicken, done right, is anything but disgusting.
L and I met a couple, who I shall call A and R, at a Kimchi dinner last year and for some reason we started talking about fried chicken and not just fried chicken but really good fried chicken. It is quite lamentable that this is hard to find in Richmond which is ironic because Southern Fried chicken is one of the best. I say one of the best because I still believe that Asian-style fried chicken is the BEST (deep fried whole and chopped, garlicky soy taste). The idea of a Fried chicken crawl is born.
We all become friends on FB and for nine months nothing happens until A says that it looks like Dixie Donuts is never gonna do fried chicken so we might as well go ahead and plan the crawl.
Our initial line up was: Lee’s Famous Recipe, Dixie Chicken, Croaker’s Spot and Korean Garden
“Hungry Hubby” thought we were crazy. How could we eat so much fried chicken, right? Anyway, I lasso him to participate anyway. So our group of four become five.
Then a week or so before the crawl, A FB messages us and tells us that their friends, Keith and J, are coming into town and joining our crawl. And Keith is going to cook us fried chicken (apparently the man’s specialty) the night before to kick off the crawl. Fantastic, right?
I’ll say straight out, Keith’s fried chicken kicked ass and was the best, so I’ll leave that discussion for last and head to the fried chicken we had on the Sunday crawl.
We even had a score card handy, courtesy of A. We agree to both try white and dark meat.
Our first stop was Lee’s Famous Recipe
When you ask Richmonders where to get the best fried chicken, everyone says Lee’s. So you all can understand how excited we were. Unfortunately, it did not live up to the hype. The crispness was there but it was slightly greasy and the flavor was all on the skin. The chicken itself was moist but it was tasteless, thus tasting ordinary.
2nd stop: Dixie Chicken
This stop was rather bittersweet, because the owner told us that they were closing for good that Friday. I don’t know if that news just hit us in a way that set off emotional eating because the fried chicken tasted freaking delicious. It was crisp and the spices used in the chicken were tasty and complementary, there was flavor clear through the moist meat. Some of the crew thought that the flavoring was a tad salty but hubby and I thought it was perfect.
Dixie Chicken had no tables so we decided to tailgate it and it was fun!
Our next stop was supposed to be Croaker’s spot out on Hull Street. It turns out they do not always make fried chicken, but the man at the door gladly told us where our disappointed crew could find some.
3rd stop: Mama J’s
I would say Mama J’s fried chicken was middle of the line. It was crisp, tasty and moist but could use more flavor. They had this barbecue sauce you could top on it that was the perfect mix of spicy, sweet and sour. Too bad they don’t bottle that stuff. What impressed us more than the fried chicken was the fried cat fish nuggets below.
Cornmeal coated, crisp and moist. Perfect.
We never made it to Korean Garden. Our crew got sidetracked by the sight of cake.
We all shared slices of lemon pound cake, pineapple coconut cake, german chocolate cake and rum cake which was my favorite. We also tried their peach cobbler.
And by the end of that meal, it would be irrational to go to Korean Garden. And the guys were satisfied because they finally got their beer.
* I noted earlier that Dixie Chicken was proclaimed the winner, but it turns out some in the group preferred Mama J’s!
When I used to work downtown, the secretary always got fried chicken from this place called Chicken Box and I remembered it being quite tasty too.
So let’s talk about the Keith’s homemade fried chicken. The man set bar quite high.
The secret to Southern fried chicken is: cast-iron pan and crisco. What impressed me with Keith’s—it was not greasy at all. Now, I have not learned all his fried chicken secrets, I think cooking the perfect fried chicken warrants another post, but getting the oil to the right temperature is very important. Keith held his hand above the screen covering the pan, so I guess it’s experience also. When I asked him how he knew the chicken was done, he said he “heard” it … whatever that meant.;) So I guess I really need to try it out myself although Keith has promised the crew that he will return and give us fried chicken lessons.
Man, I can’t tell you how good this was. If you look closely at the chicken you will notice that the breading was very light , actually almost non-existent. What the seasoned flour did for the chicken was give it flavor and crispness. I hate having to peel off thick breading from fried chicken. Even if the chicken was not marinated or salted ahead of time, the taste of the chicken you get is the “chickeny” flavor of the chicken.
When I bit into the chicken, I thought: This tastes like the chicken I get from Whole Foods. I found out the next day that the chicken was from Whole Foods! Whole foods sell this air-chilled chicken which is far superior to most other chicken because air-chiling preserves the integrity of the flavor rather than the more common ice-water chilling which accounts for why most commercial fried chicken is only tasty on the skin.
Anyway, I’m off to buy my 12-inch cast-iron pan!