Before fried chicken became fast food, it was something special in the South. Making it was a time-consuming enterprise. And the crunchy, salty, juicy, greasy-in-a-good-way indulgence was saved for Sunday dinner and church picnics.
We don't have to wait till Sunday to try Walrus and Carpenter's fried chicken, but it should be treated with reverence. The smokehouse and gastropub, which opened in Black Rock in Bridgeport this summer, makes fried chicken the way you've prayed for. A brown-paper-lined aluminum tray bears four plump, crisp, mahogany hunks of chicken. This is eat-it-with-your-hands food. The coating shatters beneath our teeth, tasting of salt, pepper, thyme, a trace of celery salt. The chicken, brined in buttermilk and fresh herbs, is moist and bursting with flavor. A ramekin of sriracha-honey sauce, drizzled over the chicken amps the flavor. We tried the sauce on the flakey, black pepper biscuit, too.
Salt and pepper ribs ($15) balance the flavors of pork, smoke, and simple spice. Slow-smoked over cherry and maplewoods, the tender meat pulls from the bone with a tug of our teeth. It's served with a ramekin of tangy mustard sauce, and a slice of cornbread. The yellow, course-grained cornbread is moist and just-sweet-enough, the top glistening with honey butter.
Tender beef brisket, dry-rubbed with spices, has the essence of smoke. Along with coleslaw and cornbread, it comes with "green peppercorn jus," a gastro-pub touch. House-made sausage ($7) is smaller and shareable. Cheese oozes when we cut into the hearty, pan-grilled jalapeno and cheddar sausage.
Sides are portioned for sharing. The baked mac and cheese ($6) is classic elbow macaroni baked in cheesy white sauce, topped in homey browned bread crumbs. The sautéed kale ($7) is sautéed in garlic and olive oil.
We didn't delve into the small plates menu, but it offers 13 dishes, ranging from Montreal's trendy fries-gravy-and-curd poutine to smoked wings to foie gras with kumkwats, chiles and toast. Walrus and Carpenter also offers the "Notorious P.I.G." a three-course sampling of apps, pig, fixin's and dessert for four ($120).
Beer is what to drink with such highly seasoned food. Walrus and Carpenter has an all American drinks program that features a large craft-beer list and small-batch distilled spirits
Chefs often have a reputation of being ego-driven. Walrus and Carpenter's chef Adam Roytman honors an American cuisine by doing it right and not getting in its way. We say a prayer of thanks.
Walrus and Carpenter is at 2895 Fairfield Ave., Black Rock, Bridgeport. Hours are Wednesdays 5 to 10:30 p.m.; Thursdays 1:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m.; Fridays and Saturdays 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m.; and Sundays 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Information: 203-333-2733 and walruscarpenterct.com.Copyright © 2015, CT Now