Barberton OH, home of Serbian Fried Chicken
If someone had told me yesterday morning that I would eaten a dinner that included fried chicken, french fries. A weird melange of rice, tomatoes, and paprika, plus a decent size serving of dumplings in a paprikash sauce, and a bottle of root beer and walked away from the table without being bloated and suffering from an attack of GERD, I would have said you were crazy. But that's what happened to me last night, when I tried Barberton Chicken as part of my never ending quest to avoid chain food when I travel on business.
I picked the Belgrade Gardens because it was apparently the originator of the concept. I was a little worried reading some reviews I found via google, because some people were claiming the place had gone downhill. When I drove up (at about 7 PM, the parking lot was not very full. But when I went in, there were plenty of diners, apparently at busy times this place really gets busy.
Though I was tempted by the chicken Paprikash on the menu, I ordered the classic Barberton chicken dinner (as least according to wikipedia) -- fried chicken, fries, "hot sauce" (the rice and tomato blend) and cole slaw. Plus, I ordered a small portion of dumplings. Myh verdict: Not bad, the chicken was nice and juicy, but not quite as good as my benchmarks for fried chicken -- the Dan Dee Country Inn in Frederick, MD and the Kosher Bite in Baltimore. The breading could have had a little more seasoning and both the chicken and fries were a bit greasy. The cole slaw was what they call in Jewish delis a "health salad" (i.e. no mayonnaise), and I liked it. The "hot sauce" was good, as were the dumplings (but they could have skimmed off more of the grease from the sauce, but that might just be cultural differences, it was good anyway, and I had to control myself to keep from ingesting the unhealthy fat after having ingested enough unhealthy stuff in the chicken and fries. Their private label root beer was OK, but I've had better, and think it was a bit overpriced.
Now how did I keep from getting stuffed and bloated? Easy, I ordered the "small" portion. Instead f getting half a chicken, like in most places, I got a small drumstick and a small thigh, for $7.99. Of course, if you are 25 years old and do heavy manual labor, they also sell large portions. But I sure appreciated a restaurant that doesn't shovel calories in your face, and it left me enough room to get a nice mango ice cream cone at the little stand in Canal Fulton in my way back to Massillon.
Anyway, a nice little outing, and I'm glad I went there, though if I go back, I'm going to try the chicken paprikash.
401 E State St, Barberton, OH 44203
re: Diane in Bexley
John T Edge wrote the book on fried chicken. Literally. He's a big fan of Barberton style chicken. He covered it in an article for Attache. I've never had it, so I don't know whether the differences from other types of fried chicken are substantial. But there are certainly distinguishing characteristics. It's not just any kind of chicken that happens to be cooked by ethnic Serbians.
The article is archived here: http://web.archive.org/web/2006021602...
Unfortunately, all of the Barberton chicken restaurants use hydrogenated lard, so I don't expect to be trying it any time soon.
Michael Symon serves a Barberton style chicken at one of Bar Symon. I don't know whether it's intended to be a faithful rendition or a loose re-interpretation. It's cooked in natural lard, so if you're curious about Barberton chicken and leery of hydrogenatation, his chicken may be an acceptable substitute.