REVIEW (w/foodie porn flix and pix!): Ad Hoc, Street, and BarBersQ - the Fried Chicken Trifecta
For foodie porn flix and pix click: http://myculinaryadventures.blogspot.com
A preview of coming attractions – a platter of fried chicken at Ad Hoc:
People up here are always baffled by how far I’m willing to drive for food. The Nappans are always shocked that I do food shopping in Berkeley (it’s cheaper!) and the people in San Francisco can’t understand why I would drive from Napa to the city for dinner. In Los Angeles no one thinks twice about rejecting a potential squeeze because they may be considered geographically undesirable but a true foodie worth his or her salt will drive anywhere for a good meal.
How far was I willing to drive (one way) for good fried chicken?
Ad Hoc (11 Miles):
Ms. Diva Princess was in the city for a few days and informed me that she would be coming up to Napa to stay with me for a day or two. It’s only the best for my little Princess so I made rezzies at Ad Hoc. It didn’t really matter what was on the menu that night since all Princess needs is a bottle of wine to make her happy. Nevertheless, I was thrilled to discover that it was fried chicken night since I’ve been hearing of its infamy for months.
Some balk at paying $48 per person for fried chicken but how many of those dinners are served with a white anchovy salad?
And French Laundry garden vegetables?
I totally dug this fried chicken. The execution was perfect: nice and crispy without being greasy. The batter had a nice kick to it. Princess remarked to mumsy that she was unimpressed with Ad Hoc since they “only served fried chicken” but she obviously forgot that she raided my refrigerator the next morning and ate three beautiful pieces and left me the dregs – those dregs still tasted pretty damn good the next day.
Fried chicken is normally served on Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday of each week.
Street (46.9 miles):
When I told mumsy that I was going to drive into the city for a fried chicken specific dinner, she said, “When you were really skinny you wouldn’t go near fried chicken.” Well, I’m not really skinny anymore and I’ll now drive 50 miles for it.
I was initially a little skeptical about the fried chicken at Street. I had read that it was skinless and I wondered if the chicken would be dry. I was pleasantly surprise when I took my first bite: although it was not really juicy, the meat was not dry at all. The coating was crispy, well seasoned, and not at all greasy. Everyone really liked the fried chicken but I have to say that this chicken needs to be eaten right away – it wilted tremendously on the ride home (ok, ok, it was a long drive and I got hungry) and wasn’t as good left over the next day.
The sides were a carboholics dream: fresh shucked sautéed corn; mashed with gravy; and if you are feeling indulgent, you can splurge for the sour cream corn bread - and I suggest that you do. I wasn’t too enamored with the coleslaw though, it had too much celery seed in it and it also tasted like the acid in the dressing was Meyer lemon which gave it a somewhat weird flavor like slightly sour (not in a good way) mixed with lemon ice cream.
Fried chicken is served only on Sunday nights.
BarBersQ (5.2 miles):
The unveiling of the BarbersQ fried chicken (Pepper approved!):
After reading about fried chicken night at BarBersQ in Napa my expectations were really high. The chef, Stephen Barber, took a foodie road trip throughout the state of Kansas researching fried chicken, and his efforts have paid off: I had an excellent meal. I was a bit worried at first since I got the dinner to-go but the chicken stayed very warm and crispy in its container on the ride home (it’s obvious that this chicken is fried to order). This fried chicken dinner was my favorite of the three due to the well seasoned and crispy crust (they use a flour coating as opposed to a batter) and the fact that the meat was uber juicy. And it tasted great the next day.
Although my favorite mashed were at Ad Hoc, BarBersQ gravy was fabulous – it had such a rich, deep flavor. The meal was also served with collards. These I had an issue with: they either had sugar in them or the restaurant used a very sweet vinegar to flavor them. I guess it’s a matter of personal taste but I prefer a savory chile spiked vinegar on my greens. Since I wanted to go into a carb coma, I also ordered a side of macaroni and cheese which was fairly good.
Fried chicken is served all day Sunday.
6476 Washington Street
Yountville, CA 94599
2141 Polk Street
San Francisco, CA 94109
3900 D Bel Aire Plaza
Napa, CA 94558
6476 Washington St., Yountville, CA 94599
I had a different experience at BarBersQ this Saturday 1/30/10.
The fried chicken was good, but contrary to the reviews here, oddly lacking in flavor. The crust was crispy, but under-seasoned. The chicken itself was not flavorful, not juicy, and on the border of being dry. Drizzling with the vinegar did help a little. I guess they were just having an off night.
Service was uneven. Everything started off well, but the hostess was very eager to turn our table. She kept glancing over to our table, when people would ask how long the wait would be. I would have gladly given up our table if our server wasn't noticeably absent. At one point, the hostess replied to a waiting party "Well, we didn't know they would be ordering dessert." I didn't know we'd have to ask the busboy to see the menus again, didn't know we'd be served lukewarm coffee, didn't know were only told a fresh pot would be brewed but it was forgotten... on and on. Again, maybe an off night.
The key lime pie was awesome though. Not sure I'd return. I have to find fried chicken joints closer to home ;)
I'm glad I'm not the only one that drives many miles to get the chow! Fried chicken is one of my husband's favorite foods. We'll be in Vallejo at the end of the month for business, and we spend the night with my aunt in Napa. The perfect opportunity to try BarBersQ! We'll probably get the chicken to-go on our way in from Vallejo on Saturday night. Can't wait!
Hi BV. Fancy meeting you here! When I was at a seminar in Monterey, I drove to Redwood City for lunch (to check out a restaurant on my hit list), drove back to Monterey, then drove to San Jose for dinner (to check out the 99 Ranch Market shopping center). Must be the L.A. car culture.
According to Mapquest I drove 33.98 miles for BarBersQ fried chicken
Good heavens, I can't imagine anyone making better mashed potatoes. As you said that gravy was fabulous – fabulous, fabulous, fabulous.
Seriously I've never had better in my life. I'd buy the $14.95 chicken dinner just for that gravy. I'd pay that for a couple of containers of the mashed potatoes. I think that because the chicken itself is so flavorful, the gravy from the pan drippings (I'm guessing from the roast chicken they make) is everything good about gravy.
As mentioned, the thing I liked about the fried chicken is that the chicken itself was full of flavor. Initially I thought it was a little salty but I liked the thin coating that clung to the chicken like Glen Close to Michael Douglas in Fatal Attraction.
The greens were the best I've had in the Bay area, full of smokey flavor with lots of bits of ham hocks which added a sheen to the collards. I agree with you that the sweet note in the vinegar was a distraction and maybe there could be a touch less. But still, I practically licked the takeout container.
Speaking of vinegar ... they give you a little container of it. I could not imagine what that was for. The greens didn't need more ... obviously not mashed potatoes. So I goggled and found Michael Bauer's blog which says it is to dip the chicken.
Will try that when I have the leftover cold chicken for dinner tonight ... it was a big eating day in Napa ... I have a leftover Hog Island grilled cheese sandwich for lunch ...ok, I really drove to Napa for the free Hog Island oysters, but as long as it was Sunday ... fried chicken for dinner.
Anyway, Bauer says the chicken is fried in lard ... and there is a lovely picture of it frying in a cast iron skillet on the blog.
As you mentioned the owners traveled to Kansas to try the fried chicken at the Brookville Hotel and Stroud's. Bauer writes ...
"When they returned they revised their recipe a bit. Like me, they don't use buttermilk, however the chicken is brined (something not done in Kansas) and then coated with flour, salt, pepper, and a hint of cayenne, onion and garlic powder. The secret, of course, is that it's fried in lard, which produces a beautifully browned and crunchy exterior."
BarBersQ is a less harsh looking and cold place at night with the lights lowered and filled with diners. However, bring out your glasses (or bring a flashlight) to read the menu in the low light. The tables are still too close together for me but there are a few that are set off from others, so if I ever eat in the restaurant I'd reserve one of those.
Here's another blog about the fried chicken and other dishes. BTW, the photo of the restaurant makes it look way more spacious than it is.
Anyway, thanks for the tip. I hated BarBersQ the first time I was there. This makes me see the place in a different... well, softer ... light. They deserve that Michelen mention just for the gravy.
Great report and pix of the chicks. Congrats on surviving all that fried chicken. If you get the craving when in Berkeley, T-Rex has had positive reports
6476 Washington St., Yountville, CA 94599
3900 D Bel Aire Plaza, Napa, CA 94558
2141 Polk St, San Francisco, CA 94109