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Oct 1, 2003 10:30 AM

Roast Chicken

  • v

Dickson brought the topic of roast chicken the other day. I meant to respond to his post, but I got rather obsessed with certain political developments. So, these comments probably do not directly match his original comments. I have two things to say.

First, I believe that while Chicagoans seem oddly un-phased by roast chicken, we are quite blessed with great roast chicken. We were recently in Los Angeles and had roast chicken at Zankou, one of the most famous of roast chicken in LA. Zankou itself was a great meal, but the chicken was not nearly as good as my Chicago favorites. It seems odd that Chicagoans will use roast chicken as their bistro measurment, but have little interest for great semi-fast food chicken.

Second, in the vein of noting and exploring, and further popularizing our roast chicken offerings, Wiv and I were discussing a roast chicken taste-off. We will set a date shortly for this. Please e-mail me if interested in participated.

Contenders include:

- Mr. Pollo
- Flying Chicken
- Colombian Chicken place near Fullerton and Kedzie
- New chicken place opened by El Llano people and mentioned in last week's reader
- Pollo Chon/Papa Sabrosoa
- Tropical Taste


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  1. Your list suggests that you would include jerk chicken (or does Tropical Taste have roast also?). What about Chicago's own contribution to the world of roast chickens, chicken Vesuvio? And for fun, Costco? Do Broasted (R) chickens count?

    2 Replies
    1. re: JeffB
      Vital Information

      Tropical Taste is the Domican place on North near Central Park. They do not have jerk chicken. Perhaps you are thinking of Tropic Island.

      As to including jerk, broasted, vesuvio, etc. I say no. It is not a chicken tasting.

      Costco? Well, I think it would be worthwhile to include at least one supermarket chicken.


      1. re: Vital Information

        Geeze, I'm so addled with restaurant memories that I can't even keep the names of my old Humboldt Park favorites straight. My apologies to the nice Dominican ladies. BTW, I like them as an underdog, but the safe money's on Pollo Chon. We agree about Zankou, also.

    2. I think CocoRico's Amish Roast Chicken is a worthy candidate. Easily my favorite, tho I have only tried one other on your list.

      Cocorico Rotisserie
      5428 S. Lake Park ave.

      4 Replies
      1. re: ab
        Vital Information

        Does Cocorico have the game anymore. That was a big thing a few years ago, and then it pretty much fell off the face of the board. It would be a great addition to the roast chicken tasting, especially for geographic and ethnic diversity.

        Also, is Metropolis or whatever its called on Armitage still there. I used to like their chicken, although not nearly as much as some of the others. It should still be a contender.


        1. re: Vital Information

          Metropolis is still there. When I ordered it a while back, though, I was underwhelmed-- I mean, it was fine for a Tuesday night, but I would put it behind pretty much all the S. American places on your list that I've been to. Could be that was a fluke, of course.

          1. re: Mike G

            I live close to Metropolis and get their chicken fairly often-more for convienence than for great taste. It's fine for a quick, easy meal, but nothing special. When Metropolis was first opened by Erwin Dreschler(sp?), who now owns Erwin's on Halsted, it was something special. It changed hands long ago and need not be included on "THE LIST."

          2. re: Vital Information

            They still offer game. At least, they still have a menu posted w/ all the offerings and per pound pricing. I have not ordered any myself, tho I've been hoping the right opportunity arises so I can order a nice leg of lamb or some bunnies.

            The Chicken is superb! Really an interesting place, the ovens they use are one-of-a-kind in Chicago I'm guessing (definitely some type of European oven). French side dishes and desserts compliment as well.

            I know they were closed this weekend when I stopped by for a sandwich, but it appeared to only be a minor remodeling (so I hope).

            I'll have to put Metropolis on my list.

        2. h

          For good measure, it would be interesting to see how the roast chicken from these contenders match-up to a home-cooked version of the wonderful, famed roast chicken with sage bread salad recipe from Zuni Cafe in S.F. Incredibly time-intensive, but a for those who love a great roast chicken, it's a definite must...


          2 Replies
          1. re: HungryHoward
            Vital Information

            Funny you should mention the Zuni dish. Exactly what the Condiment Queen served out for Rosh Hashanah. Truly great. And she worked her ass off for hours to make a dish that seemed so simple.

            1. re: Vital Information

              A great dish at all times of the year, and a good thought for RH. Great to see that the Condiment Queen's hard work was successful!

              Back in my kitchen, only after making the dish the second time did I recognize how essential it is to brine the chicken overnight, and in the process, produce the great flavors.

          2. I take the liberty of excerpting a paragraph from a recent post I made on Hopleaf. Go for the chicken, stay for the beer.

            "Your devoted reporter ordered the roasted half chicken, served on a bed of fresh fava beans, sweet corn, cherry tomatos, and new potatos. I frankly cannot remember being served a juicier, tastier chicken in a long, long, long time. I am most definitely not a partisan of fava beans, but this presentation--in a garlicky broth (they must buy garlic by the truckload here)--was superb. (There was also a whole mess of arugula leaves on top.) Really outstanding chicken. It was pressed and nearly, but not totally deboned. Just wonderful, exquisite chicken."

            5 Replies
            1. re: Gypsy Boy
              Vital Information

              I ask this because I do not know the answer, but my thinking in this roast chicken taste-off was to limit the adventure to, essentially chicken specialists/semi-fast food places. It is one of these slippery distictions that is not well thought out, but my initial thoughts were to exclude bistros or anything else approaching "regular" restaurants. Tell me which catagory you think Hopleaf falls into.

              The primary reason for this distiction, and also a bit why no vesuvio's are in the mix, is logistics. Do you think Le Bouchon and Toresoul or something like that can take a group of traveling hounds who, amongst several will order one chicken. Included in this, is the idea that the chicken will be readily available. Vesuvio's usually take 45 min or so.

              On the other hand, if people really think this should be a complete roast chicken contest, perhaps we can have teams and rounds the way the SF people have treated their dim sum challenge. Personally, however, I prefer the one day, chicken specialist, places we can easily get in/out of approach.


              1. re: Vital Information

                I, uncharacteristically, fully agree with The Mayor of Chicago Chowhound, Vital Information, that our Chicken Hunt should be limited to "essentially chicken specialists/semi-fast food places" The logistics of ordering from 'regular' restaurants would make a one day/afternoon event infeasible.


                1. re: G Wiv

                  And allow me to agree as well. If you open it up to places whose business is not focused on carryout chicken, you pretty much open it up to everything. I think you need to look at good, cheap, carry out roast chicken.

                  And I eat Boston Market, as I said in my post, but it is a manufactured food which misses the mark for good roast chicken in terms of taste (the salty mairnade is all you taste) and crispiness, as it seems to go for some form of moist tenderness, which results in it always being much more greasy. It relates to roast chicken as its sister chain, Chipotle, relates to burritos. It may satisfy a similar craving, but it ain't the real deal.

                  Count me in.


                  1. re: G Wiv

                    I agree on the quick/carry-out vs. 'traditional' sit-down restaurant distinction. In fact, I will make it a point to attempt to sample each entrant I try via strictly take-out. This will not color the reviews, then, as each meal will be eaten in the comfort of my own home with my own beverages.

                    I think I'll start tonight as this now gives me a great reason for swinging by Mr. Pollo on the way home for a 1/2 chicken and green sauce to accompany tonight's Cubs game.

                  2. re: Vital Information


                    While I do not think that Italian Beefs travel well enough for a central tasting, I believe that pehaps no hot food travels better than roast chicken (excluding long-cooked stewy things like chili or menudo). On the other hand, I agree that the tasting should be limited to quick chicken specialists, selling chickens that are meant to leave in the first place. If you expanded to white tablecloth places, you'd have a huge number of Italian (Stefani's comes to mind, excellent wood-fired oven rotisserie bird), Greek, French, and "Chicago" (Gale St. Inn) places to contend with. Maybe contrary to this, I offer two other establishments that are known for, or claim they are known for, roast chicken: Mellow Yellow and BJs. Too bad Taza closed, it could've been a contender.

                2. I would respectfully suggest that Flying Chicken be deleted from the list of contenders. Desiccated is the word that comes to mind when I think of their chicken and I know that other Chowhounds have had similarly bad experiences.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: MAG
                    Vital Information

                    Granted, it has been over a year since I have been there, but I have never found the chicken at Flying Chicken anywhere close to awful. But we will see in our little showdown.

                    1. re: MAG

                      I was only at Flying Chicken once, and became convinced that the place must be a front for a drug or money-laundering operation. The lack of attention to food and customer was so complete.

                      I'm afraid I have to agree with MAG-- my chicken was dry and overcooked, and the roast potatoes were inedible.

                      I guess sometimes I feel guilty for only giving a place one chance to win my business, but first impressions are so hard to change.