Say you want to open a restaurant. How do you make sure you have enough customers when you open the doors to prevent closing them after a few months? One way is to build up hype for the concept based on the success of your previous ventures (hello, Parson's). Another is to build up hype the old fashioned way: by rolling up your sleeves and slinging a dish so good that word of mouth spreads like wildfire, the demand elevating from a loyal clamor to a dedicated roar.
In opening Honey Butter Fried Chicken, Josh Kulp and Christine Cikowski of the Sunday Dinner Club chose the second route. According to Josh, the brick and mortar spot in Avondale is about 10 years in the making, when the Dinner Club transformed from a side project to this pair's full time job. These "referral-only" dinners, each centered around a theme, have garnered a cult following: With barely any prodding, the woman in front of me in line couldn't stop gushing about them: "they won't serve you anything bad." And boy, is she right.
First, the chicken. It's good. Really, really good. Josh has always been averse to fried bird, so when they decided to include it in a Sunday Dinner Club menu a few years back, he wanted to make sure it packed more than a greasy crunch. A spice laden buttermilk brine ensured it was plenty flavorful, while a healthy shake of smoked Hungarian paprika post-fry added enough complexity to appease his palate.
The honey butter side of the equation involves a dubious origin story that I am duty bound as a food writer to promulgate forward: one fateful night, during staff meal, a hapless cook accidentally dropped a morsel of fried chicken into the butter vat. Not wanting it to go to waste, he fished it out, and before they knew it, the rest of the cooks were shamelessly dipping their chicken in butter, too. True or not, it's a damn good story, and as good an explanation as any for why butter dipped chicken has now become a thing.
The rest of the menu is solid as well. The creamy slaw is enhanced with kale and dried pomegranate seeds. The mac & cheese is of the pimento variety. Still, the food is not so much pushing the envelope as nudging it along, and it never veers too far from the familiar. This is accessible food, prepared well, and served by an ever-smiling, far from pretentious, staff. I could get used to this sort of treatment.
It's too early for a full blown review, but at first blush, I like what I see at Honey Butter Fried Chicken. Click through the slide show to see how specific dishes stacked up, but as long as your order includes fried chicken in some capacity, you'll leave happy.