After reading the I Like Food post about Soul Kitchen and Stephanie Gaddy's fried chicken I was curious but frankly not very hopeful. Since Hattie's seems to be the gold standard for fried chicken in this region I have maintained very low expectations regarding the dish, counting on trips back to the regions that do it well for my indulgence.
Move over Hattie's, Soul Kitchen has arrived.
Don't get me wrong, Hattie's is not evil or anything like that, but here's the thing: Hattie's chicken has a crust. It seals in the juices by becoming impervious because it's so thick. Yes, it's flavorful, although always fried to a degree (in my opinion) that brings on a bitter flavor. The inside of the crust has always left me with an impression of slight sliminess.
Ms. Gaddy's batter is light, and while sealing in the moisture so that the chicken is perfectly tender, it doesn't form a crust that can be easily broken away from the meat, it forms something like a tempura coating. She and I agree perfectly on what the seasonings should be and I'm happy for them to remain secret. Between the balanced seasonings that harmonize with the chicken and the light and crispy coating that sort of shatters into flakey goodness when you bite, it's some heavenly chicken. It's been fried to a classic golden with maybe a teensy bit of brown here and there but no bitterness, only savory wonderfulness that adds a j'nais c'est quoi to the dish I have not found in this region before.
This is a photo from the Soul Kitchen website - I think it captures the golden color beautifully.
The sides are classic accompaniments: yams, mac and cheese, cabbage, collard greens - I'm amenable to all of them, but I go for the chicken.
If you know what I'm talking about, get yourself to South Pearl, just a few doors south of the corner of Madison and Pearl. As soon as you get inside the mini mall there you'll have no trouble following the aroma to the chicken.
Right now it looks like carry out only -- I'd love to see a table or two set out in the center of the building so that we could enjoy a dine-in experience.
I'm tasting my way through the menu and have never had room for the banana pudding yet, which I suspect is a sublime experience. I might have to make a special run.