First Look: Frying Chicken With The Roost At Their New Storefront Shop
By Lisa White in Food on Mar 28, 2014 3:15PM
Coming from a Southern family where you hear tales of your ancestors being able to kill a chicken with one hand before frying it up for Sunday dinner, I was basically born with a drumstick instead of a rattle in hand. While I love the popularity in fried chicken that has been happening in food trends the past few years, it's also led me to a lot of mediocre chicken. Dry chicken, lack of seasoning or too thin or thick crust and lack of crunch can ruin the best bird. Like many Southern classics, frying chicken is a simple yet easy to mess up task passed down for many generations. And through my eating adventures in Chicago, I've found one favorite Southern gent that knows his way around a bird. Serving up two piece meals, sides and sandwiches off his bright green truck, The Roost has been making the food truck rounds in Chicago, leaving greasy napkins strewn across office lunchrooms. Now The Roost will soon have a roost of its own, with a new storefront location set to open next week.
Owner Joe Scroggs picked up the art of frying chicken and biscuit making from his family growing up outside Chapel Hill, N.C. He worked in restaurants around the area and in Charleston, S.C. before packing up and heading out west to Oakland, Calif. But as life does, Oakland wasn't where Scroggs was meant to be and while trekking back towards North Carolina he decided to stop in Chicago and visit some old friends. He fell for the city (as many of us have) and ended up sticking around. He originally worked in consumer research for the food service industry, showing him a different side of the food business, but after planning The Roost he quit his job and opened up the truck. It originally served two options, spicy or herb offered up with a biscuit and coleslaw and other rotating sides. Now over two years later the mean green machine has been retired for a new bigger and brighter red outfit and Joe is about to open the door at The Roost Carolina Kitchen, his first off-wheels venture.
Nestled on Irving Park between Ashland and Southport, the cozy storefront seats 30 and will stick with a basic menu and the occasional specials. The shop will be BYOB and have a cooler to keep your beer chilly while your chicken is fried up. Which will be done fresh, the buttermilk soaked chicken and breading station sets right at the front of the kitchen. The menu includes bone-in options and traditional sides (coleslaw, mac and cheese, hand cut chips) and cobbler for dessert. Hillbilly tacos, a favorite on the truck, will join the daily menu. We can't wait to try them, Joe's description immediately had our brain comparing it to Torchy's trailer park taco in Austin and that is a very good thing. But the pièce de résistance is the buttermilk biscuit fried chicken sandwich. Usually only served on the truck for breakfast, it will be available all the time at the shop. I've already raved about how delicious it was since it was one of my picks for the best thing I ate last year on Chicagoist. While we were checking out the new space, Joe made our chicken loving dreams come true and invited us to make a batch with him.
First up we made the biscuit dough, which is a simple buttermilk recipe. The key is to not overwork the dough or you end up with a tough biscuit. After popping the dough in the oven Joe took the chicken out, which marinates in a buttermilk brine overnight with various spices. This helps keeps the chicken moist and is the only way I make fried chicken at home. (If you aren't brining your chicken, you are missing out.) After getting tossed in a mix of flour and spices, the chicken heads to the fryer. The key, as Joe demonstrated, is to check on the chicken and when it looks ready check the internal temperature. Out came the golden buttery biscuits that we sliced up, the chicken landed on top and we melted a slice of cheddar cheese on top of it all because why not? Similar to most Southern food, it's a standard and simple recipe but whats important is quality ingredients and taking care in cooking it right. And what you get in return is hefty and juicy chicken breast with a nice crunchy crust and a kick of heat, sandwiched between a slightly tangy buttery buttermilk biscuit. It's seriously one of the best versions of fried chicken I've found this far north and a true example of good classic Southern cuisine.
Thanks to the new storefront, you no longer have to find The Roost rolling around town to get your chicken fix. The new shop opens next Tuesday, April 1. They'll be open starting at 6 a.m. on weekdays (since the store will already be loading up the truck for morning breakfast at that time) and plan on staying open until 8 p.m. Weekend hours will be 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. The Roost Carolina Kitchen is located at 1467 W. Irving Park Rd. Follow The Roost online or on Twitter for more updates.