Hot!Chicken of the Month

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ScreamingChicken
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2013/02/13 12:28:17 (permalink)

Chicken of the Month

A few weeks ago I decided I needed to be a bit more organized and a bit less random for 2013...in other words, I needed a theme that I could have some fun with.  So after giving it a bit of thought I came up with the idea of expanding my chicken horizons with an emphasis on the fried variety, and doing so on a monthly basis.  The next 12 months may bring some great finds, some clunkers, and probably a lot of "pretty good"s so without further ado:
 
January
 
I've mentioned the Winchester Restaurant at the Edgerton Oasis before and since the menu describes the chicken as "our own recipe" I figured it would be as good a place to start as any.

 
Since it was a snowy day my soup-or-salad option was the chili, and ignoring the "beans/no beans" argument it was very good.  The heat level was fairly mild, the consistency was good, and it had plenty of ground beef and pieces of tomato; it would be just fine by itself.

 
I didn't feel like fried potatoes so I went with mashed, which came with brown gravy.  Now to be perfectly honest I have trouble differentiating between the real thing and instant potatoes, but they didn't seem overly smooth and the gravy was good.

 
But I wasn't there for chili and potatoes, I was there for the chicken.


 
It reminded me somewhat of the chicken I'd had at Jack's Chicken Palace in Dubuque a few weeks earlier: crisp, hot, and juicy but with the emphasis on the meat more than the crust.  So it was a good meal but not spectacular; I don't think I'd call it a destination dinner but it would certainly be on my list if was looking over the menu or sitting at home with a taste for some fried chicken.  The Winchester serves up consistently good food (at least what I've ordered) and this was no exception, although I think I would've rather had more chili in place of the "northern style" (no bacon) green beans.
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    carolina bob
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    Re:Chicken of the Month 2013/02/13 13:31:56 (permalink)
    Brad, how did that chicken compare to what we had at Wagner's Village Inn in Oldenburg last fall?    
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    joerogo
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    Re:Chicken of the Month 2013/02/13 13:54:18 (permalink)
    Chicken of the Month Club.....Sign me up!
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    BuddyRoadhouse
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    Re:Chicken of the Month 2013/02/13 14:58:20 (permalink)
    So, when are gonna make a long weekend in LaSalle County, Illinois to hit the Fried Chicken Belt?  Ripp's, Smitty's, and The Cherry Supper Club, among others are beckoning.  And we can burn off the calories with brisk walks through Starved Rock and Matthiessen State Parks.
     
    Buddy
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    ScreamingChicken
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    Re:Chicken of the Month 2013/02/13 14:59:20 (permalink)
    carolina bob

    Brad, how did that chicken compare to what we had at Wagner's Village Inn in Oldenburg last fall?    
    Wagner's chicken was much more seasoned, especially in the coating.
     
    Now I'm far from being any kind of fried chicken expert but it seems to me that there are 3 general styles of coating: crispness secondary to flavor, flavor secondary to crispness, and an emphasis on both.  Wagner's falls into the 3rd category while the last 2 places I've been are more the 2nd, and I suspect that pan-fried chicken is often in the 1st category.
     
    I have this month's visit all lined up and now it's just a matter of finding the time.  "Southern fried chicken" is given a prominent place on the restaurant's menu and I'm hoping that's a good sign!
    BuddyRoadhouse

    So, when are gonna make a long weekend in LaSalle County, Illinois to hit the Fried Chicken Belt?  Ripp's, Smitty's, and The Cherry Supper Club, among others are beckoning.  And we can burn off the calories with brisk walks through Starved Rock and Matthiessen State Parks.
    Sunday, July 14 would be good from me as I'll be on my way home from Ohio and can kill 2 chickens with 1 stone.
    post edited by ScreamingChicken - 2013/02/13 15:01:32
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    BuddyRoadhouse
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    Re:Chicken of the Month 2013/02/14 01:04:56 (permalink)
    I'll mark my calendar and we'll see what develops.
     
    Buddy
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    buffetbuster
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    Re:Chicken of the Month 2013/02/14 06:14:32 (permalink)
    Love the idea of chicken of the month. This will be a fun thread to watch!
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    rneiner
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    Re:Chicken of the Month 2013/02/14 07:54:26 (permalink)
    Fried chicken my favorite can't wait for your reviews.                  
     
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    ScreamingChicken
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    Re:Chicken of the Month 2013/02/18 10:09:46 (permalink)
    February is a short month so to make sure it didn't get away from me I took care of business this past Saturday at Prairie Diner, in business in Sun Prairie, WI since 1967.  "Southern Fried Chicken" is not only the first listed entree but it even gets it own little box, which tells me they're pretty proud of it.
     
    The building is tucked away by McDonald's and Fuzzy's Liquor on Windsor Street, just east of the US-151 interchange.

     
    The interior may be a little dated but it was clean and comfortable.  On the other side of the wall is the counter area.

     
    I believe fellow in the kitchen is the current owner, who bought the restaurant about a year ago.  I was sitting in the corner by the "front" door, which is really the side door that leads directly into the main area.

     
    The soup of the day was a nice, beefy French onion with plenty of but not too many onions; I've mentioned it before but I'm not a fan of the onion stew that some places sell as soup.  And as a bonus the onion pieces were fairly small and soft, which is how I like them.

     
    Hopefully one of my visits will be to a restaurant that offers chicken gravy but this day I had to settle for brown gravy on my potatoes - a very good, hearty brown gravy at that.

     
    And eventually I did get to the chicken.

     
    The first thing I noticed was that the pieces were definitely smaller than usual; the breast (shown above) was the size of the thighs that many other restaurants offer.  But that in no way is a negative because it allowed the chicken to be cooked faster and the meat was tender and juicy, which leads me to believe that Prairie Diner might use young birds.  I much prefer dark meat and always save the breast for last because it can sometimes be dry but that definitely wasn't the case here as it was just as good as the other pieces.
     
    The other big hit was the crust.  It was crispy, crunchy, coarse and pebbly with a good flavor and the right amount of seasoning, although I did get one bite that seemed to be a bit salty...perhaps some salt had clumped a little bit during the mixing process.  In any case it certainly wasn't a big deal and this is the kind of crust that kids like myself love.
     
    Prairie Diner has a definite local feel as most of the customers and staff appeared to be on a first-name basis with each other, and if it was closer to my house I'd easily make the occasional stop.  In fact, the other boxed entree on the menu is hot roast beef with mashed potatoes and gravy and that's one of my favorites so I just might have to make a return visit before too long...
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    ScreamingChicken
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    Re:Chicken of the Month 2013/04/04 10:05:14 (permalink)
    My choice for March was Toby's Supper Club, a longtime establishment on Madison's southeast side.  I'd never been there before and since the menu lists pan-fried chicken I figured that was as good a reason as any.
     
    It's not a very big place and looks like it could've originally been someone's house.


     
    The interior is pretty dark and the bar is centrally located with two separate dining areas branching off.  Bar + supper club = old fashioned, which was good but not as sweet as I thought it would be (and I ordered it sweet).

     
    The soup of the day was chicken enchilada, which had good flavor without being overly spicy.  The tortilla wedge was a nice touch and dunked well.

     
    A small relish plate (I'd already eaten the pickle) and some cinnamon rolls came with dinner.

     
    Toby's chicken is pan-fried and I really liked the crisp, lightly-seasoned crust and moist, flavorful meat that wasn't at all greasy.  It'd be interesting to get the opinion of someone who's eaten at Stroud's...are you listening, Buddy Roadhouse?  I appreciated the wet-nap, too.

     
    I also ordered hash browns and they were good but unremarkable, and actually did get a little oily at the bottom.  But that was OK, as the chicken more than made up for them.

     
    3 months in and no bombs yet...hopefully it stays that way!
    post edited by ScreamingChicken - 2013/04/04 10:07:05
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    TnTinCT
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    Re:Chicken of the Month 2013/04/04 13:26:48 (permalink)
    Wonderful pics!! We are always on the hunt for good fried chicken - we have great pizza here in CT, but excellent fried chicken is a lot harder to find. Really enjoying your report.
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    mar52
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    Re:Chicken of the Month 2013/04/04 14:09:46 (permalink)
    Brad, I like how you think.
     
    Here is my chicken of the month:
     

     
    That's a chef's hat for those that can't tell.
    #12
    BuddyRoadhouse
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    Re:Chicken of the Month 2013/04/04 14:46:39 (permalink)
    I'm listening ChickenMan.  What I'm hearing is, you value my opinion so much, you'd be willing to buy me dinner at Toby's just so you can hear me wax rhapsodic about how it compares to Stroud's.  You got a deal!
     
    Buddy
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    ScreamingChicken
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    Re:Chicken of the Month 2013/04/04 15:14:29 (permalink)
    No problem.  You're a big fan of mini corndogs, right?  You can have a piece of chicken off my plate.
    post edited by ScreamingChicken - 2013/04/04 15:15:54
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    agnesrob
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    Re:Chicken of the Month 2013/04/04 18:16:10 (permalink)
    What a great thread! The only place around here that has outstanding fried chicken is my house! I would love to be able to go to a local restaurant to get some good fried chicken!
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    BuddyRoadhouse
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    Re:Chicken of the Month 2013/04/05 02:11:24 (permalink)
    ScreamingChicken No problem.  You're a big fan of mini corndogs, right?
    Only if I can get them served with LOTS of ketchup!
     
    Buddy
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    ann peeples
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    Re:Chicken of the Month 2013/04/05 05:33:02 (permalink)
    How fun, Brad! As I cannot make good fried chicken, this is a great thread to follow......always on the look out for great fried chicken!
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    ScreamingChicken
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    Re:Chicken of the Month 2013/05/12 11:01:58 (permalink)
    April
     
    There's nothing like waiting 'til the last minute so my April chicken foray took place on April 30.  I actually got TTM'd at my first choice but fortunately I had a backup plan: Halverson's Supper Club, north of Stoughton on US-51.

     
    Back in the 1920's and '30s there were a few cabins on the property, and this is the last remaining one (no longer in service, in case you were wondering).  Look at me being all artsy-fartsy with lens flare.

     
    Naturally, being on the shores of a large lake meant access to ice and Halverson's had an icehouse until 1975, when it was torn down to make room for an addition to the restaurant.

     
    A true Wisconsin supper club is somewhat dark inside.  Too much light and it's just a restaurant.

     
    Halverson's chicken is broasted and I opted for the 4-piece dark meat plate.  Dinner starts with a warm, fresh loaf of bread and it would've been easy to eat it all; I'm surprised I was actually able to exhibit some self-control and leave about half of it.

     
    When French onion soup's on the menu it's tough to turn down.  Unfortunately Halverson's version contains more onions that I prefer and therefore the broth was a little sweet, but otherwise it was perfectly executed with cheese over a slice what I suspect was day-old bread.

     
    The chicken wasn't disappointing in any way but while it was very good it was just - and I mean just - shy of the chicken from Prairie Diner and Toby's.  Personally, I would've liked just a touch more salt in the breading but it was crispy, juicy, flavorful, and thoroughly cooked...maybe I'm just too picky.  The house special side dish is a parmesan potato cake and I really liked the firm, slightly toothsome shredded potatoes and "I'm here but I'm not going to get all up in your grille" cheesiness.  As you might expect, Halverson's makes a good fish fry potato pancake as well.  And I also liked the vegetables although I couldn't quite pin down the cooking method; they were better than steamed but didn't seem to be quite pan-roasted.  Regardless, the broccoli and cauliflower were excellent, and I hate carrots.

     
    Next up...a visit to Oregon, or perhaps Ft. Atkinson.  But not today; it's Mother's Day and you couldn't pay me to go out to eat!
    post edited by ScreamingChicken - 2013/05/12 11:06:54
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    ScreamingChicken
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    Re:Chicken of the Month 2013/05/30 11:35:48 (permalink)
    May
     
    Over Memorial Day weekend we had a family function in the Chicago area and it was suggested by a couple of Contingent members that it'd be an opportunity to visit a landmark in the world of fried chicken: Dell Rhea's Chicken Basket in Willowbrook.

     
    Joliet Road used to be part of US-66 and for many years the Chicken Basket served hungry travelers, and this heritage is noted by plaques in front of and on the building.  In fact, my in-laws (who joined us) had eaten there several times "back in the day".


     
    The dining room probably has 25 tables, give or take a few.
     
     
    No porcine porcelain here! 

     
    I ordered the chicken dinner and it comes with a trip to the soup and salad bar, so I helped myself to a cup of chicken dumpling soup.  It had good flavor and the dumplings were soft without being mushy.

     
    Since we were the first people through the door when it opened at 11am we had to wait a bit for the first batch of biscuits.  They're crumbly as opposed to flaky and broke apart easily, but they were warm and slightly salty.

     
    The chicken is breaded instead of battered and the breading has a grainy, coarse, sandpapery texture without being overly craggy or knobby.

     
    And the chicken inside was perfectly done and quite juicy.

     
    The chicken basket comes with fries and slaw so I chose the dinner ($5 more) in order to get mashed potatoes, gravy, and green beans.

     
    The recommendation was spot-on, as the well-seasoned chicken was outstanding all the way from the crust (excellent in its own right) to the bone.  The potatoes were the real deal and the chicken gravy was nice and thick, and the beans were given equal rights instead of being treated as second-class citizens.
     
    Our waitress was very personable and efficient, and was even able to stop by to chat for about 10 minutes or so.  After my mother-in-law mentioned that they had been there back in 1961 we learned that it's not at all uncommon for the Chicken Basket to serve multiple generations of families, whether they're those of former employees or long-time patrons.
     
    I lived in the southwestern and western suburbs for 4-1/2 years without ever setting foot inside; the closest I ever came was when we had our wedding rehearsal dinner at the Holiday Inn just north on Route 83.  This was definitely a case of better late than never!
    post edited by ScreamingChicken - 2013/05/30 11:40:00
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    mar52
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    Re:Chicken of the Month 2013/05/30 12:35:02 (permalink)
    I almost missed this! 
     
    I love the shelf full of chickens.
     
    Here's my entry:
     

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    mar52
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    Re:Chicken of the Month 2013/05/30 12:35:52 (permalink)
    I want that chicken dumpling soup.  Were they like spaetzle?
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    ScreamingChicken
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    Re:Chicken of the Month 2013/05/30 15:47:36 (permalink)
    Yes, they were very similar.  And just as good.
    Unfortunately I didn't pay attention when I ladled my soup and wound up with entirely too much celery, which means "anything more than zero pieces".
    post edited by ScreamingChicken - 2013/05/30 15:49:22
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    agnesrob
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    Re:Chicken of the Month 2013/05/30 18:12:09 (permalink)
    What a great looking meal! This is a great thread!
    #23
    ScreamingChicken
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    Re:Chicken of the Month 2013/06/25 11:07:09 (permalink)
    June
     
    Between Whitewater and Ft. Atkinson lies the hamlet of Cold Spring, home to the Cold Spring Inn.  I first visited the Inn a couple of years ago for the "Drew Burger" but this time it was for the chicken.

     
    The inside is quite comfortable, with a supper club-type atmosphere.

     
    The 2 soups of the day were seafood chowder and turkey sausage gumbo.  The chowder had a rich, creamy base and was a good start, although I couldn't really identify what was in it other than "pieces of white stuff".

     
    I also liked the mildly spicy turkey sausage gumbo, which was a bit heartier than the chowder.  The turkey was pulled/shredded and I would've preferred pieces, but that's a minor quibble.

     
    It didn't take long for the chicken, piping hot and fresh from the fryer, to arrive.  The batter was very crisp (I wound up leaving quite a few crumbs) and the meat itself was cooked through and juicy, but I would've liked it better if it had a bit more seasoning.

     
    The menu describes the fries as "Brew City", which is a brand of frozen coated fry that's becoming pretty widespread.

     
    Overall the meal was pretty good but not quite on the level of my 3 favorites so far, and eating here just a couple of weeks after Dell Rhea's probably didn't help.  But while I might not consider this to be "destination chicken" I certainly wouldn't recommend against it.
     
    I was the only person in the restaurant so getting good service wasn't a problem, but even so I should point out that my waitress was very pleasant and had a good sense of humor and conversation skills despite appearing to be under 20.
     
    With 6 months gone and 6 months to go I've reached the midway point, and it's looking like the amount of seasoning in the chicken and crust is the biggest factor when determining who makes the "A" list and who comes up short.
    #24
    mar52
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    Re:Chicken of the Month 2013/06/25 13:48:03 (permalink)
    It would have been hard for me to decide between the two soups.  The gumbo looks great.
     
    That chicken is how I like it.  I like a thick batter that crunches when I bite into it.  Was the chicken juicy underneath?
     
    Summer is here!
     

    #25
    agnesrob
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    Re:Chicken of the Month 2013/06/25 21:46:50 (permalink)
    Hard for me to have gumbo anywhere because my husbands is so good. The latest most popular favorite here is his turkey and sausage gumbo.
    Again, I love this thread!! My husband says my fried chicken is so good but I would love to go somewhere and have it made for me!!
     
    #26
    ann peeples
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    Re:Chicken of the Month 2013/06/26 04:54:46 (permalink)
    Brad-love this! I always look for good fried chicken as I cant make it and Bob doesn't like it.
    Agnes-I make a mean gumbo as well, but love when I find a good one at a restaurant-Wintzells in Mobile makes a fantastic version!
    #27
    ScreamingChicken
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    Re:Chicken of the Month 2013/06/26 09:43:55 (permalink)
    mar52That chicken is how I like it.  I like a thick batter that crunches when I bite into it.  Was the chicken juicy underneath?
    Yes, it was just fine.  Fortunately all the chicken I've tried so far for this thread has been properly cooked.
     
    If you like the looks of this chicken you'd like what's served at Nick's in Madison.
    #28
    CajunKing
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    Re:Chicken of the Month 2013/06/28 20:01:15 (permalink)
    Brad - Unfortunately when you add Chicken or turkey to gumbo and let it simmer very long the meat breaks down into threads like that.
    It is a toss up would you rather have chunks of chicken or turkey that arent flavored by the gumbo or have strings of poultry that melt in you mouth with the other flavors.
    #29
    CajunKing
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    Re:Chicken of the Month 2013/07/12 17:26:51 (permalink)
    Since Brad is on a roadtrip and thus our dinner together wont qualify for this thread I will add this:

     
    Fried Chicken Dinner
    Bonaparte's Retreat
    Napoleon, IN
     
    It is a true SE Indiana fried chicken, the skin was crispy and peppery the meat was tender and juicy.
    #30
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