A piece in Bon Appétit magazine this month purports to list "The Top 10 Best Places for Fried Chicken," which wouldn't be of much note except that Resurrection Ale House, a local kid, made the cut.
Resurrection is a tidy corner pub across from the condos at the old Naval Home on Grays Ferry Avenue, deeply into the craft beer scene, a proclivity that had won it a different notoriety a few months ago; state police raided it for selling a few hundred dollars' worth of beer that hadn't been duly registered. (Well, some of it was, but the police didn't have the right manifests. Oy.)
You know, the fried chicken ain't half bad. We dropped by for lunch recently, the bartender still waking himself up. The chicken comes as two crackling-crusted dark-meat thighs, slicked with a spiced honey.
How'd he get them that crunchy? I asked the chef, Joey Chmiko. He said they're fried twice, just like his mother did it. First a dip in hot sauce and buttermilk, then a dusting in flour seasoned with Lawry's Seasoned Salt, then a dunk in 300-degree peanut oil in the deep fryer until they're 95 percent cooked. (His mother used a cast-iron skillet.) He gives them a final fry before serving to crisp them, like you'd do with good french fries.
You know, with a fruity, blond Belgian ale, that fried chicken did hit the spot. (Though the meat itself could have benefited from a longer bath in the buttermilk, or something.)
But it's the things you aren't looking for that sometimes give you the bigger kick: At Resurrection, it was the German potato salad, spiked with bits of fried chicken skin, seasoned with celery seed, dotted with scallion, and tart with a healthy sousing of apple cider vinegar (the way my mother used to make it; but with bacon). Another nice touch? The fuzzy pod of pickled okra draped over the cubed potatoes.
That turned out to be a motif of my rambles - loading up to hunt the fried chicken that has proliferated at local cafes and gastropubs and, invariably, bagging a supporting actor; what in the fishing biz they call "bycatch."
I haven't gotten back to a few crowd favorites - the fried chicken and can of Pabst that David Katz serves up for Thursday-only lunch, for instance. Or the Wednesday fried chicken at Geechee Girl Rice Cafe in Germantown. I'll take our food critic's word that the garlic-and-herb-brined Amish bird at the South Philadelphia Taproom is top-notch, though he compared the bycatch biscuit there to - ouch! - "foam rubber."
At West Side Gravy, newly installed in the old Woolworth's space on Collingswood's main drag, the fried chicken was fine, but oversalted and a bit on the overly dark side. (The house-made coleslaw, on the other hand, was a winner, as was the bacon dressing on the iceberg wedge salad.)
Chef Jay Henson's buttermilk chicken was classic at Silk City Diner, Fifth and Spring Garden, bold and meaty. (But the mashed potatoes, green beans, sausage gravy, and grilled, chile-honey-drizzled corn bread stick more firmly in mind.)
The new Wishing Well, near Sarcone's bakery at Ninth and Catharine, has a "Fried Chicken Night" on Tuesday, three courses for $19. You can get it other nights, as an entree, which I did. And it seemed decent, but I only had a bite or two: Twice they'd promised it would be served with the gravy on the side. It wasn't, and I got peevish, and left in sort of a huff. I hate it when you're promised one thing, and then get served another. There's a name for that, isn't there?
You want good fried chicken? Check out Jones, the Stephen Starr comfort-food room at Seventh and Chestnut. The fried chicken has a seasoning profile very close to Kentucky Fried Chicken (only the chicken meat seems somewhat better than in my rather dim KFC memories), and comes with exceedingly light waffles that you can ladle with a creamy, Pennsylvania Dutch-like chicken gravy at your discretion, because it is served - or mine was, at least - on the side if you ask.
At the top of the heap? Not Bon Appétit's poster boy, good eating though it was. No, Ms. Tootsie's sophisticated soul-foodery at 13th and South, where chef Michael Hardy uses a "secret family recipe" (that uses the usual ingredients) for a breast-and-wing hunk of fried chicken with shatteringly thin, crisp skin, and a sublimely, steamingly, juicy interior.
And, who knew? An amazing tropical sweet ice tea!