Some people know how to make a home, even at a restaurant.
Bruce Cougan, owner of Harry’s Chicken Joint, is one of them.
We’re not in the door three minutes when he turns down the baseball game on the radio and starts quizzing my son about ultimate Frisbee. He sends over sauces for us to sample, and within 20 minutes, he’s giving us a rough recipe for the crunchy fried chicken that he just pulled from a cast-iron kettle on the stove: brine it in buttermilk for a day, dredge it in herbed flour, another quick dip in buttermilk, dredge it again, stick it in the smoker for a bit, then slowly fry it until it’s deep brown.
The result: succulent chicken with just a hint of smoke, encased in a thick, salty, savory crust that was refreshingly light on the grease. The quarter chicken takes about 15 minutes to cook, so if you’re in a rush, call ahead and Cougan will get it started early for you.
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Since opening in early March in the site of the old Meander’s Kitchen on California Avenue Southwest, Cougan’s been tweaking things, slowly adding items to the menu and hours to the operations. Harry’s may soon be open Sundays for family-style dinners.
Think Bird, not Beethoven, and you won’t be disappointed.
The menu: As you might expect, fried chicken is the main attraction, served as a hefty leg and thigh portion ($8), or as fried, skinless boneless strips with dipping sauce ($8). Also, a sweet pulled-pork po’boy made with cherry and maple infused smoked pork shoulder served on French bread with coleslaw, onion jam and red pepper aioli ($7). A grilled smoked-cheese sandwich slathered with onion jam and pepper aioli and served with cream of smoked-tomato soup ($7) is currently the only vegetarian offering on the main menu. You could make a meal from any combination of the tasty sides: ($2.50 each or two for $4): truffle-infused potato salad, sweet vinegar-based coleslaw, creamy mashed potatoes with fried gravy, black-eyed pea soup, cream of smoked-tomato soup, baked beans and biscuit and gravy. “Vintage” sodas — think Bulldog root beer — are $2.
What to write home about: The chicken, of course. Although Harry’s puts a love in the dipping sauces, the chicken held its own without them.
The setting: A solid neighborhood joint, cozy and casual, where you’ll be welcomed and well fed. A mix of seating for about 21 includes eight counter stools, a booth, two two-tops and a communal table with chairs for five.
Summing up: A quarter of a chicken ($8) with potato salad and coleslaw ($4 for two), a pulled- pork po’boy ($8) with black-eyed pea soup ($2.50 for a small cup), and chicken breast strips ($8) with mashed potatoes and gravy ($2.50) came to $42.23 including tip.