Monday, February 3, 2014

31 Jan 14

Tonight, blogspot readers, SouthSide took a break from rockin' around town to trying her hand at something new - being a food critic. Along with her good friend, Edonna, she headed out in the Avondale area of Chicago to see what the Honey Butter Fried Chicken hype was all about. This reviewer and her friend have heard, seen and read the raving reviews about this latest chicken restaurant craze to hit this town since the opening of the first Harold's Fried Chicken Shack, blogspot readers. After the initial visit to this establishment, blogspot readers, it's best not to really believe the hype. 

It's overrated - in a nutshell.

First thing she noticed about Honey Butter Fried Chicken was the location. It seems out of the way and well hidden ...lost amongst the few manufacturing-like buildings along the 3300 N. Elston location in which if you make that left turn off Sacramento Avenue onto Elston Avenue really fast, you might miss the corner restaurant as you zoom by. For this roving reviewer, it's not really centrally located near public transportation despite being near the Belmont and California CTA bus routes. So walking is in order if you don't have a car, blogspot readers. Once inside, this reviewer instantly got the sense of the establishment's small dining size and uncomfortable closeness with its customers. And there's no real space separating you and the front door when feeling that blast of winter air each time it opens. The dining area is right there in front with bar seating in the back ...the kitchen area where the fried chicken magic happens is sandwiched in between both rooms. The way this restaurant is designed you have to sit and eat (quickly) with total strangers around you since this isn't the type of place where you can sit and enjoy your time because (on this particular night) there was a line of customer waiting to be seated to eat after ordering at the counter.

That was the second thing SouthSide noticed about this restaurant. Not much of a sit-down-the-server-comes-to-you-with-menu place. No, blogspot readers, you order your food at the counter where the person taking your order really can't hear you because (a) it's noisy because of the loud conversations around you and (b) loud music blaring over the loud conversations at the same time. She's surprised that anyone in there could hear themselves think let alone eat their food. SouthSide and her friend could hardly hold a decent conversation during their time there ...couldn't really chat on what they wanted to discuss without others sitting beside them listening in ...or butting their two cents in, blogspot readers. The seating inside Honey Butter Fried Chicken is communal seating - meaning at any given time, you'll be surrounded by people (if you're seated in the middle of the long table) at close proximity during your time there. This is where SouthSide felt the most uncomfortable during her visit. She likes meeting new people as much as chatting with them however not at this time of restaurant setting where she felt squeezed between the area where customers either wait for one of two unisex restrooms, to be seated and/or take-away (carry-out). People waiting there truly made this restaurant seem and feel very, very small. Seating at the bar is no better. That tiny area is quite cramped with the soda machine, bar and bar seating (with mid-size long table).

Honey Butter Fried Chicken menu offers "...fresh, hormone-antibiotic free, locally sourced Amish..." chicken and brine that's "...[a] mixture of salt, sugar, spices and citrus..." featuring such dishes like Chicken and Grits and Fried Chicken sandwich along with a slim selection of sides like Creamed Corn with Thai Green Curry and Pimento Mac-n-Cheese with Garlicky Bread Crumbs (very delicious). Her friend choose to try the Schmaltz Smashed Potatoes with Chicken Fat Gravy (very bland and not flavorable) and the Roasted Sweet Potato Salad, Cilantro and Lime Vinaigrette (cold and not tasty until reheated according to Edonna) while sharing eight pieces of chicken with SouthSide. The total for the entire meal (including two sodas) came to fifty dollars. Quite overpriced in today's economic times. This is definitely not the place to bring kids, blogspot readers, unless you're willing to pay about $12 dollars for a kid's meal in which doesn't seem very appetizing when you have a picky eater with you. The sides priced at $3.50 each (or 3 for $10.50) are served in single-serving sized paper cups. You'll be eating your meal on paper plates. And if you want extra (from honey butter, corn muffins and yes even hot sauce), be prepared to pay for it too. Though the extra charge may appear small, it can quickly add up to a larger expense in the end. The menu does offer desserts and wine/beer selection but during this outing, SouthSide and her friend didn't sample from it. Yet, the menu was truly missing two important things - biscuits and cole slaw (Kale and Cabbage is not real slaw).

After being seated and waiting a short time, the food is served on unappealing metal baking trays which quickly takes up space on your table if you don't situate your sides and chicken accordingly, blogspot readers. The server did advise (since this was her first time there) to put the honey butter on the chicken. Actually the sugary-sweet tasting butter was better on the tiny-size corn muffins (somewhat dry tasting without it) than on the chicken. The chicken had enough spicy paprika on it which sort of drained the moistness out of it. This reviewer enjoyed the crunchy battered that coated the chicken but like the corn muffin, it does need a little honey sweet to keep it tasting juicy down your throat. As SouthSide mentioned earlier, this is no "sit, relax, eat and enjoy" type of restaurant (even though there was a large party that seemed to have been there for a while). So once you get served, it's best that you eat in a hurry and leave especially if there's a line of people waiting to be seated. The service on this particular night was a bit lacking one came by to see if she was enjoying the meal or if she needed something (other than if she was ready to put the leftovers in containers). Besides, blogspot readers, she was ready to leave anyway. The close surroundings (as well as being a few feet away from the unisex restrooms) had her feeling very uncomfortable in the end. Honey Butter Fried Chicken has an unseen way of hurrying you to finish your meal as quickly as soon as possible in order to keep the seating of customers constantly flowing. So be prepared to eat and then run...

In the end, blogspot readers, her experience at Honey Butter Fried Chicken didn't live up to the hype one bit. The back area where the bar is located should be used for the take-away (carry-out) customers so they don't crowd the dining area. Since it's designed as a communal dining experience, how about paying a single price per person and continuously serve chicken, muffins and sides by placing it on the table (like the Amish restaurants) instead of serving with biscuit-size metal trays. For those who want sandwiches and other selections could order it at the table from a smaller hand-held menu. The kid's menu should have more selections instead of the one. Yet, the prices themselves were overpriced for the area the restaurant is located. SouthSide would expect to pay something like that if she was dining in Wicker Park/Bucktown or Lincoln Park ...yet when located in the Avondale area, the owners should have priced accordingly or at least off meal deal packages. 

Just a few suggestions from a reviewer who enjoys a good fried chicken dinner...

Until next time, support your local scene,

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