Digging into the cluckin' awesome world of our favorite fried food.
The idea of doing one thing very well is a great formula to follow, especially for mom and pop food purveyors. The more menu options a little hole-in-the-wall has, the more freezer space I assume they keep, which is why I tend to avoid places with two separate menus consisting of two different cuisines and so on. If you have 15 plus items under your appetizers, I assume that the fried pickles come from the same cold dark place as the chicken strips. The latter of which I have never ordered from anywhere. I'm anti strips. I don't even have kids yet, but one rule I already have in place, should they ever arrive, is no chicken strips after age five.
So you can imagine the skepticism I had one day while driving by a new place on 79th St. with chicken strips in its name. If not for the "Friday Fish Fry" advertised in the window of Farmhouse Chicken Strips, there's a good chance I would of kept on rolling.
I immediately realized this was a brand new spot, and the owner, Matthew, confirmed that the restaurant had just opened a couple weeks before. We started talking and I learned that Matt came to the city from Phoenix where he was a very successful slinger of strips. He had the vision that these were something that could catch on elsewhere and came to Chicago knowing nothing about it except that it was a good place to get a franchise up and running. Without having tried a strip from Farmhouse, one might wonder who would see opportunity in something available on most every fast food and delivery menu in town.
I wondered the same thing, until my first taste of a Farmhouse Chicken Strip. These are made based off Great Grandmother Mildred's farmhouse recipes from Zanesville, Ohio. The key to her beloved home cooked meals? Simplicity. Farmhouse gets all their chicken fresh from the Wisconsin Co-Op. They're marinated in a buttermilk blend for 24 hours, before being hand battered and fried to order. The result is a chicken strip that I'd happily allow my kids to eat—up to and through their teens if they so wanted. The coating is spiced just right and the meat is so juicy it might as well be dark. Four come to an order, which includes a side of slaw and some standard service fries that get kicked up with a special seasoning. The dipping sauces are all homemade. At $6 for four strips, this is a much better lunch than you're getting at any fast food outlet.
They menu doubles in size on Fridays to make room for a Fish Fry. Three pieces of hand-battered cod ($9) come with an apple vinegar cole slaw, fries, and their homemade tartar sauce. Having spent my college days in Wisconsin, I'm pretty familiar with a fantastic fish fry, and this is one of them. They manage to get the crust as crispy as crackers, while the flaky cod inside of it doesn't suffer one bit from overcooking. You'll want to get there early to try this as the regulars have already made it their routine Friday lunch.
As of today, the second location of Farmhouse will open this summer in the South Loop. After that, you can expect to see them elsewhere across the city, as it sure seems like a great start-up for someone looking for something simple with low overhead and lots of potential. I wish them the best of luck.