Deep Fried Chicago: The Rocking Horse
The Rocking Horse in Logan Square has all the "bar and grill but still mostly a bar" bases covered. Sticky tabletops and the faint, lingering aroma of stale beer at all hours of the day? Check. A mostly black decorating scheme clearly optimized to the forgiving darkness of night? Double check. And most importantly, a menu of apps, wraps, sandwiches, and burgers, all designed for efficient alcohol absorption? We're in business.
Four varietals of Chicken Wings ($9.50) await your selection. Spicy BBQ was my server's immediate, almost instinctual favorite, and my corresponding selection. The wings are fried crisp, tossed in a blend of house buffalo and store barbecue sauces, and quickly finished on a hot grill. This tripartite process pays off in spades: the big, meaty wings are moist and crunchy, and the caramelization and smoke from the grill intensifies the spicy-sweet sauce. House bleu cheese makes for an inspired dip for what just might be my new default order.
Obvious care goes into the neatly crimped Fundido Won Tons ($8.50 for daily selection), and they sound great in theory. But in practice, each bite is a rush of chorizo grease and little else. There is surprisingly little flavor from the orange ground sausage and chihuahua cheese, and the side of sour cream does little to provide the dish with any lightness. May I suggest roasted poblano, salt, and perhaps some acid in the form of salsa?
I've already extolled the graces of the Buffalo Chicken Wrap, but I'll be damned if lightning hasn't struck twice in the form of the Hand-Breaded Chicken Sandwich ($9.00). The chicken is hard fried and heavily peppered—think chicken fried steak—and the bun is oversized and pillowy. The included lettuce, tomato, red onion, and pickles are all great, but grab a side of mayo and those pickles, and you're well on your way to a respectable local option to the fallen crowd favorite.
Are seasoning blends made for pale, limp fries, or vice versa? I pondered this age old chicken and the egg question as I devoured the Cajun Fries (included with burgers, sandwiches, and wraps, or $4.00 as a side). I'm still not entirely sure, but I do know the codependency works. The salty, finger-coating spiciness kept me coming back for more, while the fluffy bunchability of the spuds themselves made for a comforting reminder of the oven baked Ore-Ida of my youth.
As Logan Square's dining options become increasingly upscale, I'm glad a place like The Rocking Horse is still putting out solid, frills-lite bar food. And as long as you're sticking with chicken, I can vouch that you'll leave happy, too.