Long-time friends Matt Phillips and Andrew Cowan have a thing for birds: pieces of them, that is. Deep fried, crispy-skinned, juicy, flavourful pieces of barnyard birds.
Northern Chicken, a southern style, soul food joint opened in December at 10704 124th St.
The seats filled up from the get-go.
The two unabashedly vocal ex-Century Hospitality Group chefs have been tooting their own horns since making their business venture official, and they've hardly let up since.
Fried chicken is all the rage these days. The competition is fierce, so if you're going to enter the henhouse, you'd better bring the batter.
The batter on this fried chicken is as close to perfect as a batter gets. Not too thick, nice and crunchy with just enough mini hills and dales to capture flakes of finishing salt, and the right amount of tenacity to not let go when you sink your teeth into the meat.
'You won't leave hungry'
Phillips and Cowan start with fresh, whole chickens — a cost-saving method and one that guarantees consistent size of pieces. The breasts, thighs and legs are then soaked in a buttermilk brine for 24 hours before being battered and thrown in the deep fryer.
The chicken is available in regular, hot and extra hot. If you have a Teflon stomach, go for the extra hot; the masses might prefer the regular variety and opt to add measured amounts of homemade hot sauce for extra kick. Purists will enjoy the pieces as they are, for they are beautiful on their own.
The fried chicken sandwich is a handful; you won't leave hungry. Nor will you with the peameal bacon sandwich which is so good it deserves its own menu board.
Cowan says this sandwich hearkens back to his Ontario days where one would commonly find peameal bacon sandwiches alongside burgers and hot dogs at the hockey rinks.
This is a good addition to the menu. The bacon is brined for a full week and the result is a bacon so tender and juicy one has to experience it to believe it. A dollop of grainy mustard and a soft bun are perfect accompanying components.
Birds aside, some sides a bust
If there is a weak point in this operation, it is the sides, which can be inconsistent: too bland, too dry, sometimes right on the money.
The Doritos mac n' cheese is packed with flavour, but with such little sauce, it turns thick and gluey within minutes. The coleslaw is saved by the dill, but just barely. Some acidity and a bit of sweetness could take it from flab to fab.
The cornbread, on the other hand, is a delight: moist, flavourful and interesting with a honey thyme glaze. The corn and tomato salad has all the right elements: zip from jalapenos, herbaceous interest from cilantro, crunch from corn, acidity from tomatoes; the ingredients melding together in a well-rounded vegetable medley.
Sides aside, Northern Chicken rules the roost — with some bourbon, spiked lemonade and craft beers available to help wash away any solvable faults.