In NYC, the Blue Ribbon brand has turned into a veritable mini-chain with restaurants spanning a variety of cuisines and levels of formality including high-end sushi, casual southern-influenced cuisine, and a modern American brasserie. Possibly the most hype has been about their very popular Brooklyn Bowl location, where they serve an array of fast casual pub food to the bowling masses.
At Brooklyn Bowl, people go absolutely crazy for the fried chicken. This exact chicken recipe from that menu has since become the primary focus of the Blue Ribbon empire’s latest spin-off, Blue Ribbon Fried Chicken. This East Village spot opened to a ton of press and buzz, so my expectations were understandably set high.
The shop was well-designed and felt enormous with high vaulted ceilings and large glass walls overlooking the busy East Village streets. It was a very bright space and was kept immaculately clean. This was no greasy-ass fried chicken dive, hole-in-the-wall.
Although the restaurant focuses on fried chicken, there actually are a number of other offerings on the menu such as chicken wings, chicken burgers, sides, and more.
I knew on my visit I had to sample their namesake — the fried chicken. I had read that their fries were nothing special, so I didn’t even bother with a combo and opted for a single side piece of fried thigh meat. Along with the fried chicken, I was also drawn to a dish called Liver & Onions and ordered that as well.
I watched as the kitchen individually shook red powder over every single piece of fried chicken which seemed like a good sign flavorwise. And once I received my platter, my mouth began to water just by looking at the crispy, fried crackly nooks and crannies covering the exterior of the thigh meat. To get that texture, I hear they bread the chicken with crumbled matzoh meal — pretty brilliant.
So, I grabbed a seat and bit right into the fried chicken with a satisfying crunch, but immediately felt the entire sheet of fried skin detach from the meat while releasing scalding hot greasy liquid onto my hands and into my mouth.
The meat inside was very moist, but it was definitely pretty unnerving to see the all of that oil pour out of the breading. Also, this fried chicken was oddly flavorless especially considering the amount of presumably flavorful red powder I watched them shake onto each piece.
Not a great start, but I crossed my fingers and moved onto the Liver & Onions that I was equally as anxious to experience for myself. I had high hopes for this dish too. As a Jew and lover of creamy, silky, and chunky chopped liver I figured this would be a no-brainer.
I was hoping for whipped nuggets of liver with a smooth and creamy interior and a crispy exterior crust — the ideal mix of creamy and crunchy combined. What I got instead were soggy, lukewarm, sponge-like hunks of liver that were barely crispy and came topped with soggy, charred onions. There was absolutely none of the creamy crispy contrast I was dreaming of and the onions came out tasting bitter. Honestly, these onions were borderline offensive.
The sauces, however, were the saving grace of my meal.
Every table was stocked with a bottle of Wildflower Honey, Honey Mustard, Chipotle Honey, BRBBQ Sauce, and Habanero Hot Sauce. By smothering every single bite of fried chicken and fried chicken liver with these sauces, I was able to salvage each of the rather underwhelming dishes. I was particularly fond of the flavored honey varieties and used a ton of the Chipotle Honey.
In conclusion, I was pretty disappointed by the over-hyped food at Blue Ribbon Fried Chicken. Next time I’m in the mood for fried chicken I’ll probably head to the better and comparably priced Dirty Bird To-Go. Actually, I found eating at this casual restaurant was really more of an excuse to drink a ton of honey than anything else.
Know a place with serious fried chicken that I need to check out? Let me know in the comments below.
Blue Ribbon Fried Chicken
28 E. 1st St. New York, NY 10003