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Disappointing fried chicken

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Melanie Wong Jan 9, 2001 06:02 PM

What's the big deal about Powell's Place fried chicken? I stopped by Co-A Powell's Place #2 on Vallejo by the police station last night to pick up some soul food before heading home for "Jazz" on PBS. #2 is co-owned by Carl Payne, champion cable car bell-ringer and retired gripman. I'd already been warned that the sides were weak but this is supposed to be the best fried chicken in San Francisco.

I like canned green beans, so these weren't a problem. But the red beans and rice had no flavor at all, lacking even in salt. The warm corn muffins were nice - moist and lightly sweet.

The chicken itself was just average. Juicy enough with a not too heavy batter and good size pieces (3 thighs and a drumstick for a dark meat dinner), but way too greasy. If this is the best entree, I'll pass on trying the rest.

It continues to puzzle me that somewhere like this gets the buzz, whereas S&B Soul Food in San Mateo is unknown. Guess S&B will continue to be my little secret --- one I share with Dusty Baker and Jerry Rice whose autographed pics are on the wall.

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    Limster RE: Melanie Wong Jan 9, 2001 09:09 PM

    I had a fairly decent chicken at the Powell's Place in Hayes valley about a year ago. Is this the same operation? The chicken was fine, but not much to rave about. What I enjoyed more was the dessert of banana cream pie - not a slice, but a small pie with a nice flaky crust.

    4 Replies
    1. re: Limster
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      Melanie Wong RE: Limster Jan 9, 2001 09:20 PM

      Same menu and under the ownership of Emmit Powell too.

      The little sweet potato pies looked tempting last night, but they were in the refrigerator and I thought they might not be fresh.

      I don't get the hype.

      1. re: Melanie Wong
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        Mike Zurer RE: Melanie Wong Jan 11, 2001 01:19 AM

        I give it a third negative. I've been a couple of times, and it has never really satisfied...

        However, Hahn's Hibachi on Haight has some pretty damn tasty fried chicken. Fresh chicken taste, savory breading. A long time employee of the owner agreed to take over management the Haight Street location only on the condition that he be allowed to offer a menu of soul food in addition to the Korean BBQ dishes. When I chatted with him about it, he said he used to work at the Castro street branch, and was constantly trying to get them to try out his specialities, but only when the Haight branch floundered did he finally have enough leverage to puch it through. And I'm glad he did. Sides are pretty good too. There's also got various fried sea critters available. It's not cheap, but portions are generous.

        -MZ

        1. re: Mike Zurer
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          Melanie Wong RE: Mike Zurer Jan 11, 2001 04:41 PM

          Thanks, Mike. Another multi-culti experience to revel in on Haight. I haven't been to any Hahn's Hibachi - think there's one on Polk that's walking distance for me - how's the Korean menu?

          Yesterday I was training at Hayes & Vine and wandered two blocks over to see if I could pick up a sweet potato pie at the original's Powell's Place. No sweet potato - these sell out quickly, and the counterman's obviously tired of the question. So I settled for banana cream. They get deliveries 3 times a week. I think this one wasn't at the peak of freshness as the meringue top was weepy. But it was still very tasty. The banana filling was more like a grainy egg custard and intensely flavored. Even though soaked through some, the crust had held up well and was still flaky. So I think I might return for the pie and skip the chicken.

          1. re: Melanie Wong
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            Mike Zurer RE: Melanie Wong Jan 11, 2001 07:20 PM

            I only have had the Korean food there once - I remember liking it, but thinking it was a little too slick. A friend of mine of Korean extraction eats there all the time, but he doesn't swear it's great, he just likes it.

            -MZ

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      B Kaplan RE: Melanie Wong Jan 11, 2001 04:48 PM

      I think S&B in San Mateo closed several months ago, either that or they moved, because there is a new restaurant there on B street. Has S&B relocated? They did have pretty good food (though I'm from Memphis and it's hard to compare to Ellen's Soul Food in Memphis for great fried chicken, greens, etc.).

      2 Replies
      1. re: B Kaplan
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        Melanie Wong RE: B Kaplan Jan 11, 2001 05:11 PM

        Oh no! I haven't been to S&B for a year. Just called the take-out number hoping it would forward, and it's the new restaurant at the same address. They're closed now but I'll try to get the story. Gotta find that peach cobbler again!

        I'm Calif.-born and bred. The black churches in Salinas used to sell meal tickets door-to-door for fundraisers and would deliver plates of food to your house. That's how I developed a taste for sweet potato pie, greens and chitlins.

        1. re: B Kaplan
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          Melanie Wong RE: B Kaplan Jan 11, 2001 06:59 PM

          Brian at the restaurant in S&B's former location says they've moved to Stockton and are operating under the same name. Any chowhounds in Stockton to check out the action?

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          Jennifer RE: Melanie Wong Jan 11, 2001 10:54 PM

          I'm from Kansas City and nothing can compare to Stroud's fried chicken but here are 2 East Bay restaurants that come close. Both are in a 1960s food and decor time warp (that's a compliment).

          Walker's Pie Shop in Albany on Solano--been around since 1964. Original owners recently sold to employees but it's still good. Fried chicken comes w/ soup and salad or jello (!) and wonderful hot fresh rolls and vegetables and potato and pie.

          Casa Orinda also offers good fried chicken and amazing Western decor from the 40s.

          Someone (Melanie?) was searching for sweet potato pie. Have you tried Doug's BBQ on San Pablo in Emeryville? Great BBQ too--even have goat and lamb.

          6 Replies
          1. re: Jennifer
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            Melanie Wong RE: Jennifer Jan 12, 2001 05:50 PM

            Thanks for the recommendations - good to hear from one who knows the real deal.

            I've been meaning to try Walkers since I was an undergrad at Cal and haven't done it yet. I assume Casa Orinda is in Orinda? Harkens back to when folks used to ride horses down the street.

            1. re: Melanie Wong
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              Jennifer RE: Melanie Wong Jan 13, 2001 09:55 AM

              Yes, Casa Orinda is in Orinda (take the "downtown" exit--it's across from the theatre facing 24.) When you walk in you will see how right you were about the horses.

              1. re: Jennifer
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                Melanie Wong RE: Jennifer Jan 14, 2001 01:48 AM

                My sister lived in Orinda during the late 70s and there were still quite a few horses then.

                1. re: Melanie Wong
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                  susan blair RE: Melanie Wong Mar 22, 2001 05:29 PM

                  I live in Orinda now and, horses or no, the chicken cutlet at the Casa Orinda is beyond delicious. It is fried chicken for those who prefer no dark meat or bones and it is lovely. Served with mashed potatoes and gravy too.

                  1. re: susan blair
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                    Melanie Wong RE: susan blair Mar 22, 2001 05:51 PM

                    Thanks for another data point on Casa Orinda. You and I are at polar opposites. ONLY dark meat for me, and eating with fingers and working on the bones is half the pleasure.

                    1. re: Melanie Wong
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                      Susan Blair RE: Melanie Wong Apr 18, 2001 10:10 PM

                      The cutlet is one choice for fried chicken lovers but they also have the regular kind - pieces with dark meat and bones. My husband loves it.

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