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Critics Split On Honey Butter Fried Chicken

By Anthony Todd in Food on Oct 21, 2013 2:40PM


Food criticism is, obviously, a subjective art. Critics attempt to minimize the damage by going back multiple times, inviting guests for extra perspectives and trying things that they wouldn't normally order, but, at the end of the day, reviews are all just a series of snapshots of a restaurant at the moment the critic happened to arrive. That being said, most of the time, critics come to something of a general consensus on a new restaurant. Not so with Honey Butter Fried Chicken, one of the most anticipated restaurants of fall.

The first "review" to arrive, days after opening, was from RedEye critic Michael Nagrant, who called it "maybe the best fried chicken in Chicago."

The formal RedEye review followed, with Kate Bernot calling Honey Butter "zesty," "delicious," and having a generally positive experience. "It requires a lot of attention to detail to create memorable fried chicken, and Honey Butter Fried Chicken nails each step of the process."

Well, as of last week, the bloom is off the rose—or, in this case, the crust is off the chicken. Two more major reviews came out last week, from Time Out Chicago and The Reader, and neither of them particularly liked the chicken.

At Time Out, Amy Cavanaugh says of the namesake chicken, "you should get everything else on the menu instead." It's not that the chicken is bad, it's just not superlative. "It’s good fried chicken, salty and sweet, but something (besides the bones), felt missing. The butter significantly softens the coating, so while the meat is juicy, the exterior lacks a nice crunch. A shake of Co-Op Rum Barrel hot sauce doesn’t add the heat I wanted, just a peppery flavor. In all, it’s an enjoyable dish, just not one I’d rush to have again." On the other hand, Cavanaugh gave the restaurant four stars, mostly because of the amazing sides and great desserts.

The big shocker of the week was from Mike Sula at the Reader, who called the restaurant "well intentioned but problematic." He doesn't love all the sides, thinks that de-boning the chicken is a bad idea and concludes by saying that diners shouldn't go until the lines die down. His headline? "Life's too short and the line's too long at Honey Butter Fried Chicken."

Now's the time when we're supposed to weigh in, of course, though we have to admit an obvious bias. We've been working with Honey Butter since its inception, and were fans of Sunday Dinner Club before that. That being said, on the occasion when we visited, the chicken was pitch-perfect, the sides were delicious (especially the macaroni and cheese) and the line was cheerful and moving fast. Given the fact that, a month into service, the restaurant still has lines stretching down the block, we doubt that any criticism can really make a dent.