Weekly Dish: Northern Chicken + Popeyes - two takes on fried chicken BY GRAHAM HICKS FIRST POSTED EDMONTON SUN: TUESDAY, JANUARY 03, 2017
10704 124 St.
11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday and Tuesday
11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Thursday to Sunday
Food: 4 of 5 Suns
Ambience: 4 of 5 Suns
Service: 4 of 5 Suns
Dinner for two (excluding beverages and tip): basic, $15; loaded, $30
Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen
3773 17 St. NW
Food: 3.5 of 5 Suns
Ambience: 2.5 of 5 Suns
Service: 3 of 5 Suns
Dinner for two (excluding beverages and tip): basic, $15; loaded $25
A tale of two fried chicken joints – as different from each other as different can be, but both making darned good fried chicken!
Northern Chicken, located on 124 Street’s restaurant row, is as trendy as down-home trendiness can be. Three big boys with obligatory mountain-man beards, ball caps and aprons man the open kitchen and the cash counter.
There are picnic tables at the front, funky plastic red chairs inside, hipster art on the walls among scattered TV screens. The sound system is rockin’ the blues, playing George Thorogood and his ilk.
One most appealing factor about these new, trendy down-home spots: They are very clean and well-ventilated. At Northern Chicken, there’s no hint of cooking oil in the air.
Northern Chicken’s chalkboard menus feature whisky and beer boards. But the middle chalkboard is all about chicken. Good ol’ deep-fried, crispy crunchy, hot steaming chicken – the kind Colonel Sanders once had a monopoly on, now challenged by every Korean, independent trendy and now new restaurant chains like Popeye.
The chicken itself – two pieces for $11 with brown beans on the side – is classically deep fried, with a delicious salty, crunchy crust well-attached to the meat, i.e. not falling off like worn-out siding.
The taste is mostly in the dark brown crust, the chicken itself being hot and moist, but not flavour saturated. It’s a refreshing clean taste for fried chicken, not the least bit greasy.
The accompanying beans are a golden brown, coddled in a light tomato sauce with a delicate piri-piri style spice. Only a few tiny bits of pork are mixed in with the beans. The pork is not missed.
Northern Chicken is in the middle of Edmonton’s latest restaurant row. On 124 Street between 107 and 108 avenues, are nine restaurants – Daravara, Koutouki, Nuovo Bistro, Solstice Seasonal Cuisine, Washoku Bistro, Duchess Bake Shop, Clever Rabbit, Simply Done Café and Tiramisu Bistro.
The first Edmonton franchise of Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen opened in early December out in the east end, off the Whitemud on 17 Street.
The fast-food outlet is stereotypic, the air heavy with grease, no atmosphere whatsoever, plastic everything … and really good chicken!
I’ve been by this place three or four times, and it’s always packed, with folks willing to wait in line to order, waiting to pick up, waiting for a table to come vacant.
Why? Because the chicken is really, really good!!!!
The secret is two-fold. Popeyes claims to marinate all its chicken for 12 hours in a light Cajun/Tabasco sauce, and you can tell – the meat itself is much tastier than most deep-fried, mass-cooked chicken.
And the crust is delicious, with a corn-flake crunch - not too thick, not too thin, just right. Indeed it is a magnificent recipe upon which has been built some 2,500 outlets world-wide. Do eat it as soon as possible. Deep-fried chicken does not travel well.
Other than the chicken, Popeye’s is as corporate as they come – standard fries, brittle onion rings, not bad biscuits and a surprisingly good, ultra-smooth mashed potatoes. No sauces come with the basic two-piece chicken, not even butter to go with the biscuits. But good chicken!