Yes, I’ll admit it. I’d been in Seattle for years, and I had never tried Ezell Stephens’ chicken — a favorite nosh of Oprah Winfrey and throngs of localites with a yen for crispy Southern-fried bird.
As the result of legal battles with his ex-business partners, Stephens can no longer call his eateries Ezell’s. But his hungry fans are following their noses and appetites to the several emporiums in his chain Heaven Sent Fried Chicken, including the Lake City branch, where I recently had my first taste of divinity.
Did Ezell’s special recipe live up to all the hype? Yes indeedy.
The menu: The main event, of course: the perfectly crusty-on-the-outside, fresh-and-juicy-on-the-inside chicken pieces, fried in batches all day — so mighty tasty, yet so pleasingly non-greasy.
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The chicken comes with regular crust (surprisingly unsalty) or a spicy crust, with a pinch of heat to it. A la carte chicken orders can range from a single leg or thigh ($2 each) to a 25-piece family serving ($45.50). We stuck with the dinner deals ($6.65-$11.45), which offer a two-, three- or four-piece combo served with two small sides (coleslaw, potato salad, corn, etc.) and a pillowy white roll made on the premises. (Barbecue, honey and other sauces are available add-ons.)
What to write home about: Apart from the superstar chicken, two sides stood out: the real mashed potatoes with gravy, and the sweet and smoky beans (both $1.30-$4.70 a la carte). Among the homey desserts (all made on site), the creamy sweet potato pie was a little piece of heaven ($1.95), but the peach cobbler ($4) is delish, too.
The setting: Clean, bright, plain little place in a strip mall, with friendly counter service. This is mainly a takeout joint, but it has several tables for those who can’t bear to delay gratification.
Summing up: A three-piece white-meat dinner ($9.65); a three-piece dark-meat dinner ($8.65); a two-piece white-meat snack pack ($5.20); two orders of cornbread ($1.40); a side of macaroni and cheese ($1.75); a side of baked beans ($1.30); a slice of sweet potato pie ($1.95); a small peach cobbler ($4); and three soft drinks ($5.55) came to $39.45 before tax and tip, and fed three amply.
Misha Berson: firstname.lastname@example.org