Northern Chicken has been open for less than a week and it's already generating quite the buzz among Edmontonians. I guess fried chicken has that kind of effect.
The restaurant may be brand-spankin' new, but chef/owners Andrew Cowan and Matt Phillips are hardly rookies in the game. After holding a number of fried chicken pop-ups at various restaurants across the city, they've found a forever home in the space once occupied by reLiSH Gourmet Burgers (right beside Washoku Bistro) on 124th street.
Closed Wednesdays, they're open the rest of the week starting at 11:00 a.m. to about 10:00 or 11:00 at night. We arrived around 6:00 on Thursday evening and were able to snag one of the last free tables. There was still plenty of bar and counter seating available, and the crowd seemed to die down around 7:30, so plan your trip accordingly.
Northern Chicken operates somewhat like Famoso's old concept of counter-ordering and full service. You pick and choose any table when you walk in, and when you've decided on what to eat, you place your order at the counter. Once that's done, you're given a little table number/marker so staff can easily find and hand-deliver the food to you. We found service to be nice and quite helpful, as staff were always on hand to explain or check in with us.
The menu is all comfort food classics inspired by the South. There's emphasis on fried chicken (obviously), but those who are gluten-free can also indulge with beer can chicken. Chowder, wings, and sandwiches (spicy fried chicken, roasted BLT, and peameal bacon) make up the rest of the main menu. To round out your meal (ie. to get your daily dose of vegetables), a variety of sides are also offered. To name a few: coleslaw, creamed corn, potato salad, cornbread, etc etc. And yes, cornbread is a vegetable. It has the word corn in it, does it not?
We started off with drinks -- one lemonade ($3.00) and three iced teas ($3.00/cup). Both made in-house and both remarkably un-sweet. I found it to be a good balance against the rich and fried foods we were consuming.
If you're feeling more adult, they also have beer and bourbon on hand.
The fried chicken is available in original or hot, in quantities of two, three, five, or ten pieces.
We got 5pc of the original ($20.00) to share, which arrived on a metal pie plate with a side of baked beans. I know you're all interested in hearing about the fried chicken, but the baked beans were a surprising highlight. They were sweet and had an almost creamy quality to them. You can upgrade the beans to another side (for a small charge), but they're definitely worth trying even if you're not a big bean fan.
As for the chicken, there was a drumstick, a thigh, and a few other miscellaneous pieces. The meat was relatively moist with a nice even crispy skin. I think the seasoning is kept quite simple because I didn't taste too much going on, but SC, the KFC lover that she is, thought it was good.
We also got 5pc of the hot ($20.00), which along with the cup of baked beans, came with a slice of white bread and some pickle rounds. I believe the only difference between the hot and the original is some hot sauce basted on after the chicken had been fried.
I'm a self-admitted weakling when it comes to spicy foods, so I did find the hot to be a bit too spicy for me (as in cough-inducing spicy). But I can see the appeal it has for others. Maybe I just have to toughen up my taste buds.
As for sides, we got an order of their honey thyme cornbread ($5.00) which was basically the size of a brick. The cornbread was a touch dry but the honey soak that they ladle over certainly helped in that respect. AL wasn't much of a fan, but the rest of us thought it was okay.
Last but not least, we ordered a small serving of their Dorito Mac "N" Cheese ($6.00). It's quite rich so the small was a good size for us. I found the noodles to be on the softer side but I actually prefer them this way, especially in mac & cheese which is supposed to be stick to your ribs comfort food. I was also surprised at how they've managed to encapsulate the dorito flavour so well throughout. It garnered a thumbs up around the table. Definitely worth trying.
If you're seeking comfort food (as in the kind that makes you want to take a nap directly after), Northern Chicken is your kind of place.