Sunday, March 15, 2009
It wasn't much of a battle and only included one challenger, but Amy Ruth's clearly owns the title. I don't know of any other spots on 116th that get busy with the fried fowl- east side is all Spanish and further west is mostly African, but who knows, they might get busy.
On a whim I wound up at Amy Ruth's Saturday night. Having eaten at Doc's the other day, recently opened by the Amy Ruth's founder Carl Redding around the corner, I felt it was only right to see who freaked the feathered friend better. A friendly competition between the former and latter. Would the recipes be the same? Clearly not.
The dine-in experience is completely different from take-out but I will try my best to be as objectively subjective as possible. At the end of the day it's the taste that shines through. Amy Ruth's was eaten in-house, fresh out the frying pan, while Doc's is take-out only. You could still eat it immediately, nulling the freshness and heat argument, but I probably ate it 20-30 minutes later. It was still warm. To read about Doc's fried chicken go HERE.
Amy Ruth's served a large breast with wing attached. A huge piece of chicken taking up close to half the plate. I was a bit disappointed there were no legs, but after one bite any sourpuss sentiment was out the window. A golden brown shell surrounding white moist, tender, and tasty chicken. I emphasize the tasty, because a lot of times the flavor is in the fried shell, and the chicken loses flavor as you go in. Amy Ruth's must marinate their chicken because an inch and a half into breast and there was spice and flavor. And still moist. By the end of the meal I was glad the breast was served and not legs and thighs, because the enormous surface area provided endless cracks at the crispy, oily and salty shell. Fuck potato chips, I should stack fried chicken.
The chicken was accompanied by candied yams, collard greens, and a slab of cornbread. It took me about 10 minutes to figure out what was in the yams to give it that extra special flavor. Coconut milk. This hasn't been researched or proven, but the taste was too spot on for my tongue to be lying. It was sweet on sweet and it worked. The greens were turkey based and did the job. I had one bite of the cornbread so I can't really comment. I was too focused on the rest of the meal.
Everybody else at the table (4 people) ordered the fried catfish dinner with mac and cheese and the greens. I felt like I was getting punked when I show up late and the chicken comes out. Next time I will most definitely get the mac and cheese. My meal was placed over the phone and when I asked how the m&c was, the response was "standard" so I took that as nothing great, when I should have interpreted it as the THIS IS WHAT YOU ORDER WHEN YOU'RE HERE standard. Another instance of Dallas Penn not looking out for the kid. First death by avocado and now this. Anyway, I had a bite and that shit is superb. A thick layer of cheese on top of a dense mixture of macaroni and flavor. I know I've said I can mess with bland m&c, but fuck that, I rather have this. In terms of the catfish, praise from all 4.
The sweet tea is on point at Amy Ruth's. I'd say the sweet tea battle ends in a tie. Both tasted the way they're supposed to. No dessert because I was full, the coconut yams satisfied my sweet tooth, and we had to bounce. The majority of entrees are $12 to $15 with several closer to $20. Parties of 5 or more have an 18% gratuity tacked on. I read on the website that Friday and Saturday night dining is assessed an 18% service charge. I'm not sure if that's double for a party of 5 or more. Inquire within.
The main inconvenience here is the wait. At prime time you're almost guaranteed to see a mob of people waiting outside to be seated. I didn't wait yesterday so I won't be spewing any vitriol. The kid's sort of a VIP. Or just late. This place is a destination so act accordingly. This is where Doc's might be able to capitalize and the masterplan is becoming evident. The wait is an hour, people hear about Redding around the corner, and boom, point for Doc's. Even if the fried chicken isn't nearly as good, there's enough to work with. I'll do some more research.
I'm sort of ashamed it's taken me so long to return here (Several years ago was my first and only visit). It must have gotten better as the years progressed. I tend to shy away from trendy or popular spots, but the food seems too good for me to remain a stranger.
113 W 116th St. between Lenox Ave. and Adam Clayton Powell Blvd. (7th Ave.)
New York, NY 10026
Subway- 2/3 to 116th Street- walk 50 feet westbound, or B/C to 116th and walk almost 2 blocks eastbound
Mon- 11:30am - 11pm
Tue - Thu- 8:30am - 11pm
Fri- 8:30am - 5:30am
Sat- 7:30am - 5:30am
Sun- 7:30am - 11pm