We shall start with the facts I knew and remembered. I was going there for two things only. Perhaps the two greatest reasons one should ever leave their house: fried chicken and pie. How could you go wrong? Turns out you can’t.
Before we get too far into it, I have to mention that as I try to work on this all I can think about is that ID Discovery show “Southern Fried Homicide”. I barely saw one episode but the title is catchy. You really have to see the commercial. When they say the title with an accent it is really funny. I know they are telling stories about murder but with an opening like that it’s hard to take it seriously. But of all titles that channel has: Wives with Knives, Blood Relations, Twisted, etc. this might be my favorite. Maybe I just like ANYTHING that has the word fried in it. Yeah that is probably it. Wow I even surprised myself that time.
Since I had never been here before I didn’t know what to really expect and I hate that. I am a planner and a very visual person and my nerves start to go awry from the start. This place also didn’t take reservations which I hate. A word of caution there is another restaurant, a chain that also has a N.Y.C. location with a similar sounding name that takes reservations so if you are using Open Table or another online system beware. The restaurant is Hill Country Barbecue. It might also be delicious but was not what I wanted this day.
For this day my companion and I were meeting a dear friend that I am close with, who I met in college, who was in town for the day. I thought this place would be nice to try and give us a chance to chat while we ate. The menu had a variety of fried chicken dishes and interesting sides. There were many choices for desserts including milkshakes and coffee. Pies were available whole or by the slice. Even though I had glanced on and off at this menu for weeks before I went, I hadn’t a clue what I was ordering. I was going to wing it when I got there. Did I mention I was a planner?
I was anxious to get there, save seats, and survey the place. I was to get my pictures in before my friend arrived so I could focus on her and not just my review. I got there a few minutes before noon so they were still serving breakfast and I was holding out until lunch. While there weren’t exactly many choices it was still rather hard to decide what to get.
For starters there were two kinds of fried chicken- the Hill Country Classic Recipe and the Mama El’s Recipe. I didn’t even notice that sign at first. The former is described as classic fried chicken with a signature shake. The latter is skinless and crispier. Then you have to decide if you want a piece of chicken like a breast, thigh, or drumstick, or have your chicken on a sandwich, or even in the form of chicken fingers.
Once those decisions are made it is onto the sides. That is no easy task either. There was cheesy fried mashed potatoes, pimento mac and cheese, buttermilk biscuits, fire and ice pickles, carrot-n- raisin slaw, and coleslaw, just to mention a few.
Now it was time to move onto the pie. I knew I was only getting a slice to try. These were the signs I read, anything else they had I didn’t notice because I was already overwhelmed. The first one that caught my attention was the Apple Cheddar because I couldn’t imagine what that tasted like. Also because I was thinking of my other favorite apple pie (http://thequeenoff-ckingeverything.blogspot.com/2013/07/for-love-of-blackbird-four-and-twenty.html) and wondering what it would be like to compare the two. There was also Salted Margarita, Bourbon Pecan, Banana Cream, Crème Brulee, Cowboy, Coconut Crème, and Double Cherry.
When my friend arrived and we approached the counter I couldn’t figure out what to order. When you walk in it is pretty big upstairs and they even have seating downstairs. You seat yourself, go up order your food, and they give it to you right there kind of like on a lunch line, you pay, and then you are off to eat. I liked that style. I also liked that this place was clean, everyone was helpful, and that in hour or two I spent there I was so impressed by how many people came and went. The line would get crazy long but the service was so fast that no one really seemed to wait a long time. So because of that no one had to wait for a place to sit. This was a Saturday afternoon in Midtown Manhattan and that is saying a lot. This also gave me a chance to relax while I ate and no pressure to hold on to my table because I had no intention of getting up immediately after I ate. I had two missions that day.
Finally we just shouted the first words that came to into our mouths. We decided to try a little bit of everything. This is what we ended up with: two chicken fingers, a breast, a drumstick, biscuits, mac and cheese, mashed potatoes, and a slice of pecan pie. It is the least amount of food I have ever ordered when three people were eating. I was so proud of myself.
Each of us took a bite of a different kind of chicken at the same time first. Each was made from Mama El’s recipe. I was tempted by the bigger crunch. I didn’t really get a crunch as I was eating the tenders. They were sort of thicker than I like but had a nice, simple flavor. When I tasted the breast that was much better, the inside was so moist and the batter had a “clean” taste for lack of a better word. By that I mean it wasn’t over complicated with spices, it tasted like buttermilk but not too much. It certainly wasn’t greasy and tasted like proper southern fried chicken should.
As for the sides, the biscuits were good but a little too dry so they were crumbling all over the place. The mac and cheese was good but a little too spicy for me. By far the best thing was those cheesy fried mashed potatoes!!! I should have guessed. They didn’t have an overwhelming amount of cheese or crunch from being fried. They mostly looked like really mashed potatoes they just happen to be literally the best ones I have ever tasted and I could easily walk around with a cup of them in my hand like it was a yogurt for breakfast.
We took a break then to chat and digest which was easy to do because we really didn’t eat a lot. Then we all tried that Bourbon Pecan Pie. I would like all of my friends in New Orleans, a city I love beyond words, to ignore this next part……….
This was the best pecan pie I have ever tasted! It looked like any you have seen and the top was heavy with those rich pecans but the bottom was light!! Instead of biting into that sticky, filling that you can’t get off the fork with just one bite, this flew right off, more like a moose. It was such a pleasant surprise. That was the dangerous part and the second food in this place I could binge eat. Thank God I didn’t order a whole pie. I am now terrified to try any of their others. I suppose you could say the pie took the cake.
Considering what an easy location this is I am now thinking I will be walking in for a slice of a pie on the go every now and then. You know to see how business is doing and report back.
I had heard of a similar restaurant serving both fried chicken and pies that is in Brooklyn, appropriately called Pies and Thighs. But when I looked it up again I don’t think I am in big hurry to go there. I think I have gotten my full of this combination for now. But I hear good things.
As for my final thoughts on Hill Country Chicken I am satisfied with my experience. I would go back. In terms of fried chicken it was good but nothing will EVER top the all time greatest fried chicken I had at Gus’s in Memphis (http://thequeenoff-ckingeverything.blogspot.com/2011/06/for-rock-n-roll-ribs-and-reflection_7249.html). As for New York City I also recommend Blue Smoke (http://thequeenoff-ckingeverything.blogspot.com/2012/08/for-bbq-blue-smoke-style.html) which now has a downtown and uptown location. There is also nothing like have a piece of fried chicken and a waffle and for that you got to go to Harlem and visit Sylvia’s (http://thequeenoff-ckingeverything.blogspot.com/2012/10/for-sylvias-queen-of-soul-food.html). Whatever you do just don’t get that flavor in Lay’s potato chips. I finally found a salty snack I am not willing to eat.
As you can no doubt tell from the photos here this place put a lot of thought into their decorations. I love a place that runs with a theme. I didn’t even notice the wishbone door handle until I was leaving. I loved the giant star in the back which of course made me think of Texas. I was not surprised that when I went on to their website that the owners were inspired to start this restaurant because of their Texas background and the delicious food they grew up eating.
I am so thrilled they decided to share!
For Hill Country Chicken (be careful not to confuse it with Hill Country Barbecue):
For Southern Fried Homicide:
For More Fried Chicken: