The last two weeks have confirmed that NYers are crazy for both fried chicken and Allison Vines-Rushing and, especially, the two in combination. There has been heat on Dirty Bird To-Go since it was first announced, every stop and start chronicled by yours truly. As a result, the menu has been taken through its paces in broad daylight*; it is a most hostile of places for experimentation, especially for the black art of fried chicken.
What we have here is some good news, but also plenty of bad news.
Good News: First day, first bird, first delivery showed up at 1:15pm, and it is good. Nice, crunchy, flakey batter that fell off as you handled it so you could pick it up and happily crunch away. The meat was firm and juicy and well flavored. I salted both the chicken and the mac but only lightly. Not sure if it was the brining or the acids in the buttermilk, but the leg was as toothsome as the breast, an accomplishment in itself. It is worth mentioning that the eight pieces, although more than enough for me and Wife, were not exactly eight parts. One of our eight pieces was half of a breast. Like all the world’s great fried chicken, the piece I ate after letting cool for half an hour was exceptional. This is definitely the stuff to drag to the parks this summer. [Augieland]
Bad News: I wanted to love it. I really did. I have profound respect for Allison Vines Rushing as a chef and human being. But based on my lunch today I would have to say the fried chicken at The Dirty Bird is not the word. In fact, it's not even a syllable. Not yet at least. My fried chicken had a layer of breading that was undersalted (or maybe unsalted) and way too thick. All four pieces had the kind of crust that came off when you took a bite. So you end up with clumps of crust and naked chicken flesh. This is not what I want in a great piece of fried chicken. [Ed Levine Eats]
More of both the good and the bad just ahead.
Good News: I had the fried chicken just now and it was excellent, sweeter than I've ever had anywhere and very good. It's rare to have fast food fried chicken where you can appreciate the quality of the meat. The 8 piece was breasts and legs which was great and worth the price. But the $3-$4 price for the sides... I appreciate the quality over quantity issue but there were about ten sugar snap peas in one container, a few chopped pieces of asparagus in the other. The potatoes and mac and cheese are good sized portions and values. The lemonade, I think there's basil in it and it's a great savory contrast to the sweetness of the chicken. The bags of 6 badass fresh baked chocolate chip cookies, they're little bigger than quarters and they have the feel and flavor of chocolate chip shortbread. [eGullet]
Bad News: So I stopped by Dirty Bird To Go for lunch today....Two thumbs down! I was very disappointed. The batter is like 5 inches thick, and it has no seasoning whatsoever. I'm the type of person who thinks that the skin is the best part of the fried chicken but this is ridiculous! I was praying to get to the meat already, and the pickins were slim by the time I got there! Also got a side of mac n cheese--have AVR and Slade ever heard of a salt shaker? I mean, again, no seasoning whatsoever, no flavor. And i was starving. I took one bite of the mac and cheese and gave the rest to a homeless guy in Abingdon Square. [via email]
*An interesting footnote: We ourselves checked-in on the Bird twice this week, on both Tuesday and Wednesday. Though she'd promised to be on-site, AVR was nowhere to be found. Quite simply, the kitchen cannot handle their insta-fame, certainly not without the main attraction on-site.
We're calling for a two-week hiatus, then another round of incredibly close scrutiny.