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The Search for the Perfect Fried Chicken at Buttermilk and Bourbon

5/15/2021 2:00 am

Scrolling through the feed of endless content, my finger stalls as I’m confronted with the text of “Boston’s Best Fried Chicken” over a video of white sauce being drizzled over a crispy fried chicken. My mouth salivates as I eagerly close out of Instagram and open Google Maps, searching up the name of the restaurant. “Buttermilk and Bourbon: Destination for quirky New Orleans-inspired dishes by a local star chef plus a lively lounge,” my phone reads as I flag the restaurant on my Want-to-Go list on the app. I type “Boston’s best fried chicken” in the description and type save. The folder increases from 272 to 273 locations. I swipe up, reopening Instagram and continuing my scroll online.

I’ve been assembling a list of restaurant locations and things to do in Boston since my freshman year at Boston College. I always try to explore and try new places, and I place a great importance in finding recommendations for places to eat. Often my folder grows with saved locations that look great, but I will never eat at. I have been meaning to visit Kane’s Donuts—supposedly the best donuts in Boston—ever since freshman year, but still have never managed to make it there. Regardless of my history, I had a deep desire to go to Buttermilk and Bourbon, and I knew that I would make it there. One day at least.

3/11/2022 at 2:30pm

I forgot about Buttermilk and Bourbon until spring break, when my girlfriend decided she would take matters into her own hands and finally got us there. Ari found a reservation for lunch at 3pm (dinners were booked) and surprised me with the news. An hour later we were sitting on the T, a half hour ahead of our reservation. Eagerly I looked over the menu with Ari, entranced in the options.

“We have to get the fried chicken, that’s a given” I say to Ari, “but I think we should also get their signature warm honey glazed biscuits.” 

“Eh I’m not too sure,” she responds back as the loudspeaker muffles out some statement. “I don’t like biscuits that much and they didn’t even look that good online. Maybe we should get the mac and cheese.” 

As we finalized our order of the house special buttermilk fried chicken—thighs of course—along with garlic herb mac and cheese and fried beignets to finish, the T came to a stop as passengers started flooding out of the doors. Confused, I asked another passenger who said “T’s down. Apparently, there’s a fire on the tracks.”

Next thing we knew, we were waiting in line for a bus to take us toward Newbury Street, with 10 minutes until our reservation. Rather than wait, we decided to walk the 30 minutes and call the restaurant to explain our situation. 

Starving and exhausted, we stumble down the stairs into the dimly lit entrance covered in scaffolding, almost looking like we weren’t meant to be there. We glance at one another and head inside, and are met with a rustic, but cozy restaurant that is surprisingly busy at 3:30pm. While being guided to our table, we pass by a group eating oysters and drinking martinis. Must be nice. 

As the waiter places down our mac and cheese, I am drawn toward the smell. Spiced garlic fills the air, and I glance at the dish. The mac and cheese is plated in a round skillet, noodles topped with a chunk of short rib and lightly garnished with scallions. Upon digging my fork into the bowl, I am met with a soup-like consistency of broth at the bottom. After indulging in a bite, I am met with a shock of pleasure. The dish tastes less of traditional mac and cheese, and almost instead tastes of a garlicky beef stroganoff with cheese. In all my dining experiences, I’ve always found mac and cheese to be subpar, with the taste never living up to the look of the dish. Yet, this mac and cheese tastes nothing like the ones I had before; it was meaty and soupy, but in a good way. It wasn’t what I expected, but that made it even better. The short rib fell apart immediately, and the crushed ritz crackers melted with the liquid of the dish. Ari and I gobbled the dish down before our next plate was delivered.

The chicken arrives at our table freshly fried, steam rising out of the crispy exterior. The plating is simple, just two fried thighs and a ramekin filled with white barbecue sauce—as recommended by our waiter. As I cut into the chicken, some juice dripped out of the meat, indicating that this thigh was cooked to perfection. I’ve tried making fried chicken at home, but the meat has never stayed this juicy before. As I bite into the chicken, I’m surprised at the flavor of the dried exterior. It tastes almost like seafood, and fairly salted. I glance at Ari, and she has the same puzzled look on her face as I do. 

“It kind of tastes like calamari,” Ari says, and I have an aha-moment where the flavors finally make sense in my head. Yes, the chicken tastes like calamari, that’s what it is! It wasn’t bad at all, in fact after the surprise of the first bite I really enjoyed the flavor. The seasonings were rich and the flavor was so unique. The cooking is New Orleans-inspired, and I figured that’s what made this chicken stand out from the other fried chickens I’ve had in the past. 

The white barbecue was the star of the show because it didn’t overpower the flavor of the chicken, but perfectly complemented it. The sauce tasted like a spiced honey mustard; it was sweet, salty, and rich. It was complicated in flavor, but the sauce matched beautifully with the fried chicken. I dipped every bite of meat in the sauce, and it made the experience even more enjoyable. After eating the chicken, I pulled out my phone and search up a recipe of the white sauce, to which I found out the staff calls it the “crack sauce.” They couldn’t be more right.

Lastly, the waiter brings out the plate of beignets, and despite how full I already am, I’m eager to dig in. I quickly grab a hot beignet and take a huge bite, and then almost immediately cough up the powder sugar that I just inhaled. Ari immediately bursts out laughing and then asks if I’m okay. I nod and catch my breath as I sip on my water. After my coughing fit, I retry the beignet, which tastes closer to a sweet biscuit than a puffy deep fried beignet. While it was not what I expected, I still happily ate the beignets while Ari was disappointed in them. Judging by the fact that I didn’t order the honey-glazed biscuits as an appetizer, these biscuits satisfied my earlier craving.

Buttermilk and Bourbon met and exceeded the expectation that I had simply because of its unique approach to classic Southern dishes. Turn a mac and cheese into a stew? Check. Make the fried chicken taste like calamari? Check. Have the beignets taste like sweet biscuits? Check. With each dish, Ari and I were pleasantly surprised by the new flavors and techniques of each plate. 

On the T ride back to Boston College, I opened up Google Maps and changed the location of Buttermilk and Bourbon from the Want-to Go-list to My Favorites.

Cover Photo Courtesy of Logan Soss

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