Yesterday at lunch began my joint quest with my friend Eileen to find the best fried chicken in New York. I don't remember how the idea originated, except that Eileen, an effervescent former design director of beautiful coffee-table books, suggested it after a recent session of our writing group. I think she'd seen a thing about fried chicken in New York (either this one on Korean versions, or this massive round-up of all kinds). No matter: it sounded good to me. I like fried chicken, I like Eileen, I like goals.
We decided to inaugurate our chase at Amy Ruth's, one of those famous Harlem soul-food joints that have been around forever. We could've started anywhere, obviously, some haute place, some hipsterized take, but the stunning 19th-century architecture in the vicinity of Amy Ruth's gave us an extra reason to trek up to Malcolm X Boulevard. So we had a walkabout, gazed at the stunning buildings (and some not so stunning), then sat down at the restaurant. Eileen had the President Barack Obama, which is chicken fried, smothered, baked, or barbequed. (Obama happened to be on CNN on the restaurant's TV while we ate, speaking in Nashua, New Hampshire.) I had the Rev. Al Sharpton, or fried chicken with waffles—a favorite of mine.
We both agreed the chicken was a little dry (possibly because we ordered white meat), but it was tasty all the same, with perfectly crispy skin seasoned with spices I know not. It was very much the kind of fried chicken you can find all over the South—or all over the country, really. Nothing spectacular, but we enjoyed it and had a good time.
The sweet tea, however, was another story. I've had plenty of the sugary iced beverage in my travels and extended moments of existence in the South, but none of it prepared me for the veritable shot of smack that Amy Ruth's sweet tea is. Seriously—it put me in a diabetic shock that took me hours to recover from. If there was corn syrup in there, Michael Pollan would so not be happy.