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Rip's

311 N. Main Ave., Ladd, IL - (815) 894-3051
Posted By Michael Stern on 5/7/2013 5:21:00 AM
Why is Rip's fried chicken so extraordinarily good? Bill Rounds, the man whose grandfather started the place, says, first of all, you need to start with fresh chicken, not frozen nor cryovacked. He gets it twice a week, freshly killed. "We can do that because we have such a big turnover. Poultry is especially hard to keep. Beef can age; fish always smells; but good chicken spoils easily. Everything depends on freshness.

"When we get it, we fine-tune it. We trim it, cut it, remove 60-70% of the skin. Then we brine it. There is an extreme amount of work that goes into good chicken before it gets battered and fried. Our recipes are simple, we don't have a lot of ingredients. But each step along the way is crucial."

Details matter. The oil used by Rounds' grandfather is no longer available, so he has devised his own oil, blending three different kinds. Granddad got his flour from one supplier for more than half a century; but that supplier moved to Canada. Rounds says, "Now we need to blend our own to get the spring wheat quality for its lightness."

The payoff is chicken with significant crust, but no doughy softness – crust that is just-right salty, each bite a savory crunch. Even white-meat breasts are insanely moist and full-flavored down to the bone. Pieces where the batter has clumped, absorbing chicken fat flavor as well as frying fat, are some of the most sumptuous bites imaginable. And yet, miraculously, this chicken sheds no oil. The pallet of white bread on which it arrives is dry and intact even after every scrap of meat has been dispatched. While forks are available, no one uses them. This is chicken you want to touch as well as eat.

Then there are crunchies. After each time the cook pulls a batch of chicken from the bubbling oil, he then sweeps through the oil with a big screen, retrieving a great tangle of squiggly skin and fried batter that have detached from the large pieces. The crunchies are hot, rich, reminiscent of cracklins or gribenes, but pure, fat-crisped batter laced with the flavor of chicken that has fried in the same oil. They are served crisp and hot along with a cup of tart dill pickle chips. Betha, the bartender, showed us that the custom is to fold a pickle chip around a little cluster of crunchies, creating a finger taco. This is fried-food-lovers' heaven!

A great side dish: crisp-fried al dente mushrooms, their earthy rankness nearly truffle-strong. Catfish and whitefish are fried on Fridays. The only other things you need to know are that Rip's is always crowded and that while you wait in line for table, you can drink beers from the bar.

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Scorecard

5 - Overall: Legendary - Worth driving from anyplace
Overall: Legendary - Worth driving from anyplace
Quarter Light
Fried Mushrooms
Crunchies
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Reviewers Photos [Upload Your Photos]

Crunchies come with every meal, accompanied by a ramekin of pickle chips. They are one of the great fried foods on earth: chicken-fat-flavored, deep-fried batter.
"Crunchies come with every meal, accompanied by a ramekin of pickle chips. They are one of the great fried foods on earth: chicken-fat-flavored, deep-fried batter."
Michael Stern





For all of $5,25, Rip's Quarter Light meal is a great bargain. It also happens to be some of America's most delicious fried chicken.
"For all of $5,25, Rip's Quarter Light meal is a great bargain. It also happens to be some of America's most delicious fried chicken."
Michael Stern


Mushrooms, purchased locally, are battered and fried whole.
"Mushrooms, purchased locally, are battered and fried whole."
Michael Stern


The best part of the chicken? The crust-coated, fat-infused skin, of course.
"The best part of the chicken? The crust-coated, fat-infused skin, of course."
Michael Stern


How to eat crunchies. Grab a pickle chip and use it as a mitt to gather up a jumble of the luxurious fried fat, forming a mini taco. The contrast of tart pickle and luscious chicken is dizzyingly delicious.
"How to eat crunchies. Grab a pickle chip and use it as a mitt to gather up a jumble of the luxurious fried fat, forming a mini taco. The contrast of tart pickle and luscious chicken is dizzyingly delicious."
Michael Stern


4:05 at Rip's. The first wave of customers has just been seated, and everyone is waiting eagerly for their chicken to fry.
"4:05 at Rip's. The first wave of customers has just been seated, and everyone is waiting eagerly for their chicken to fry."
Michael Stern


Rip's is one of two fine fried chicken restaurants in Ladd. Across the street is Lanuti's. Each has its loyal fans. We like them both, but Rip's is an everlasting love.
"Rip's is one of two fine fried chicken restaurants in Ladd. Across the street is Lanuti's. Each has its loyal fans. We like them both, but Rip's is an everlasting love."
Michael Stern


A fried-chicken destination since the 1930s, when the fried chicken was given away to encourage people to drink more beer!
"A fried-chicken destination since the 1930s, when the fried chicken was given away to encourage people to drink more beer!"
Michael Stern


This sign is across Main Ave. from Ladd's. Believe it!
"This sign is across Main Ave. from Ladd's. Believe it!"
Michael Stern



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