Although fried chicken has always taken a back seat to steaks and barbecue as one of Kansas City's signature dishes, the dish has had its moments of past glory (The Wishbone, Mrs. Peters Fried Chicken). And the pan-fried bird at Stroud's is still firmly perched on its iconic status. There's even a new venue in town, Rye, serving excellent deep-fried chicken - and not just any ol' fried fowl, but free-range Amish, hormone- and antibiotic-free chicken. The Rye fry isn't inexpensive - $12 for a half-breast, leg and thigh, no sides included - but it's a succulent, moist and gorgeously crispy take on the Midwestern classic.
Another new restaurant, Pig & Finch in Leawood, also has fried chicken on its menu, but only as a Sunday night special. It sounds like a terrific deal: three pieces of deep-fried bird sided with a hefty mound of Yukon Gold mashers and gravy, old-fashioned green bean casserole, a buttermilk biscuit and raspberry jam for $13.
So what's the problem?
The chicken, for starters. The battered bird had either been deep-fried in old grease or had been sitting in the frying basket too long: The crust was excessively greasy and a dark mahogany brown - it slid off the chicken after the first bite - instead of a light and golden evanescent armor.
The three pieces were none too meaty either. If the big, juicy chicken pieces at Stroud's are the Arnold Schwarzenegger of local fried chicken, the Pig & Finch selection was the DJ Qualls version. No wonder the side dishes - a hefty hunk of mashed potatoes and enough green bean casserole to feed a family of four - look like veritable mountain ranges next to the trio of scrawny, overcooked chicken parts. The golden buttermilk biscuit looked beautiful and might have been terribly tasty, maybe, if it had been hot.
On the other side of State Line there's a different kind of fried chicken special - served every day - at Niecie's Restaurant (6441 Troost). The $4.99 special includes two nice pieces of chicken, a choice of two side dishes and a choice of corn muffin or buttered roll. Maybe not so good for your waistline, but magic for your wallet.