Parson’s Chicken & Fish – 2952 W. Armitage Ave – Chicago, IL
I do realize that fried chicken is not the best food for you, and your arteries and heart usually cry out for help after you eat it. I can justify it any way I want, there’s probably no really good excuse for splurging other than saying it’s a guilty pleasure. And if you’re going to have a food that’s a guilty pleasure, than you may as well look for the best around. And Parson’s is definitely in the conversation, if not at the top of the list.
While fried chicken is clearly a long term staple of southern cuisine, and has been a popular food choice for years and years, it’s definitely in a bit of a “food fad” phase right now. With the openings of Parson’s and Honey Butter Fried Chicken last year, and the recent opening of Leghorn last week, you get the feeling there’s a “cool” factor surrounding the breaded crispy poultry treat, something that may or may not be there in a few years. That being said, while the fad may die down, places like Parson’s and HBFC will likely be staples in the Chicago area for years to come.
Sara and I were looking for a spot to have lunch a few weekends ago, and decided to swing by Leghorn for a bite – the website and facebook pages suggested it was open, which was odd, because at the time, I figured it would be getting more buzz (like the buzz it’s getting now). So we were obviously surprised to find a locked door and blacked out windows when we arrived at Leghorn. By that time, we were on a mission for fried chicken, so we headed up to Parson’s for a bite.
Parson’s is clearly a restaurant built for the warm weather. The inside, which is a fraction of the size of its huge outdoor patio, has maybe four or five booths and a handful of seats at the counter/bar. The decor feels like it’s straight out of the 60’s, as does the menu a bit.
We started out with an ordered of the Parson Hush Puppies, which were perfectly fried – nice and mealy on the inside, with a crisp shell. Scattered in with the cornmeal are scattered pieces of ham hock with the right amount of saltiness, and a bit of cream cheese that soften up the texture nicely. The hushpuppies are served with a Harissa aioli, which was just ok. It added a touch of flavor, but lacked significant spiciness.
Certainly the hush puppies were good, but the real star here is the fried chicken. It’s perfectly seasoned, crispy, firm battered skin with a deep, darker brown that’s not overly greasy, The batter itself seals the skin nicely, resulting in a piping hot, moist, tender inside. Some may find it a bit salty, I think the brine is great, with a flavor that’s got a very deep richness that lingers in your mouth for awhile. This may not be favorable for some, but I love it.
Sadly, the fish fritters were not on the menu – either permanently (hope not) or just on account of the season. Looking forward to the patio reopening – it’s a great spot for drinks and grub when it’s warm out. If you’re a fried chicken geek, the dish at Parson’s is different – whether it’s better or worse is up to you. I personally dig it more than HBFC, but with the caveat that I was sick when I ate at Honey Butter, so I’ve got another visit due in the near future.