The Bird is the Word - Blue Ribbon Fried Chicken, Las Vegas
For a really good piece of fried chicken, I would do just about anything. No really, anne-ee-thingah. First born? You got it. Dispatch and sacrifice baby puppies? Hand me the hatchet. Sell my soul to the devil? Well ... alright, that might be my limit.
My mother's fried chicken is my nemesis. My white whale. What Captain Kirk was to Kahn ... as her mother's fried chicken was to her. I watched my Momma cook fried chicken my whole life and I still can't get mine to taste as good as hers. Maybe it's because as she was making it, I listened to her complaining that she could never get her fried chicken to taste as good as her Momma's.
It's more than the shatteringly crispy skin and hot, moist flesh. It's the memories associated with enjoying an exceptional piece of fried chicken that hooked it's chicken claws into me as a child and refused to let go. It is ULTIMATE COMFORT and the reassurance that I was loved, cared for, and well-fed.
Disclaimer: Fried chicken is not a food that folks who are watching their waistlines (of which I are one) can or should indulge in with any regularity. But from time to time, I let the craving get the better of me and set out on a brief quest for fried chicken - whether that be on the streets or in my own kitchen. I have yet to settle whether or not I've had "the best fried chicken ever" - Momma's aside, of course.
I do have ample access to several "best fried chicken ever" recipes I'll be taking a closer look at in the near future: Thomas Keller's citrus-brined fried chicken (an iconic dish at The French Laundry), Adam Sappington's fried chicken that put The Country Cat on the map, and Sean Brock's fried chicken recipe from his Heritage cookbook. And while Sean admits it's not how they make fried chicken at Husk, I'd try any of his "this-is-how-I-cook-at-home" recipes because he's Sean Brock (anyone out there besides me find it charming that he laughed more than he spoke on the Charleston episode of "Parts Unknown"?)
But before I head for the kitchen and leave you to fend for yourself, I'd like to share my experience at two fried chicken joints I had the chance to try out on a recent "day-trip" to Vegas.
Wait, whaaaaaa? Who goes to Vegas and doesn't even stay one night? That's crazy. Well, it's better you find that out about me now rather than later. And it's easy to hang out in Vegas for just one day when you suck at gambling and have spoiled rotten dogs waiting for you at home.
I honestly did not know that Blue Ribbon was a thing until I checked out Eater.com's most recent Vegas heat maps. If you're unfamiliar with Eater's heat maps, become familiar. Pronto. I found out quickly that BR is very much a big thing in New York, home to the original location of "World Famous Chicken" founded back in 1992 by the Bromberg brothers. It is so much of a good thing they shipped it out to Las Vegas - a place known for it's acceptance of all things in excess. The perfect place for an over-the-top chicken sandwich to hang out and not make too much of a scene.
Well, Vegas has its secrets, but this chicken is making a mess of a scene.
The concept is simple: a fried chicken recipe focusing on pristine ingredients, including a super-secret spice blend developed by Bruce and Eric Bromberg, cooked from scratch. It's not rocket science but when your focus is on making one thing exceptionally well, people tend to want that.
You can get wings, tenders, drumsticks and boneless thighs, but your first time out, just please get the original "Blue Ribbon" chicken sandwich. If you're a white meat dude order it with the traditional tenders, but I opted for the boneless thigh which they pounded thin. This deliberate pounding produces a lot of chicken real estate which is really what you want. Don't lie. You want a mile of crispy chicken same as me. The thing hangs obscenely outside the pillowy white bun and you don't care who sees it. You WANT everyone to see it!
Go for one (or more) of the large selection of hot sauces BR has on hand for you to sample. If you've done the right thing, you've got plenty of chicken hanging out of your sandwich to dip with. I tried several but Wasabi Honey was my fav.
There are additional sandwich offerings, as well as salads and sides (give the adobo corn and hush puppies a try), but don't walk out without that sandwich. And be sure to take advantage of the beer and wine list. This is Vegas, after all. Who cares if it's lunch?
*Next week's fried chicken installment: Natalie Young brings "southern-style soul food and fine Chinese together" with her second downtown Vegas restaurant, CHOW.