Once again I am checking off something from my 2015 to do list (http://thequeenoff-ckingeverything.blogspot.com/2015/03/for-year-5-2015-2016-to-do-list.html). This time it was a restaurant in Brooklyn that has developed quite a following. Buttermilk Channel opened in November 2008 with Chef Ryan Angulo previously of The Stanton Social (http://thequeenoff-ckingeverything.blogspot.com/2012/04/for-french-onion-soup-dumplings-stanton.html), a very dear favorite of mine, which coincidentally I will be revisiting again soon.
This restaurant is on a quiet street in downtown Brooklyn taking up the corner spot. There were a bunch of tables outside for when the weather finally warms up. From the outside you wouldn’t even notice the address or name of the establishment until you are right in front of it. There in the window and on the banners down below is the name, simply, plainly, calmly. There is no show boating and that tone would be the same inside.
Upon walking through a lavender draped curtain you enter the world of Brooklyn’s notorious chicken and waffles. This is the only place I know of in Brooklyn that offers this special pairing. It is a pairing I am always in favor of. There are a few classic restaurants that make this meal a standard of food lovers everywhere. It was time I tried the version closest to home.
Every time I hear about this restaurant the words immediately following are that describing the chicken and waffles and that I have to try them. I knew that I would whenever I did go. I saw more pictures of this meal and rave reviews for as long as I can remember. It was the sole reason for my visit.
I was early for my reservation but that wasn’t a problem. My table was ready and waiting for me. They had a few people already seated and plenty more would be following. By the end of my time there the whole place was packed. The people I passed had big smiles on their faces. They knew they were in for a good time.
The whole place is nice and relaxed. The décor while charming isn’t over done. The lighting was perfect and the waiters calmly walked food back and forth. When you visit a restaurant that gets this volume of traffic it can rub off into the atmosphere. That was not the case here at all. I loved it. The staff was amazing and I even loved the trendy hipster bartender. I felt like I was in a movie in the best possible way.
Since I had read up before my reservation I knew besides my entrée that I wanted to try the homemade pickles. I have a general affinity for pickles and I couldn’t resist seeing what these homemade ones would taste like. Evidently I also feel this way about olives too (http://thequeenoff-ckingeverything.blogspot.com/2014/12/for-pizza-done-robertas-way.html).
The first thing to arrive to our table was the bread. Here you get honey, sea salt garnished popovers. They were atypical for sure but I liked getting something that was a signature to this restaurant and not the standard day old bread you can get just anywhere. Mine went down without a hitch.
When these pickles were placed on my table I dug right in. I am obsessed with the light green long ones (spheres) that usually taste like a cucumber when you see them in a diner. So that’s the one I reached for but the taste caught me by surprise. It was tangy with a hint of spice I didn’t recognize. That didn’t stop me from having another one. However the chip shaped ones were way too bitter for me to get down. Plus there was so many, I guess for a party of three we really needed a half of order, oh well.
My fried chicken did look pretty when it arrived. I was also starving at that point so I couldn’t wait to sink my teeth into the perfect bite of both chicken and waffle. The waffle seemed so small next to the three large pieces of chicken I received.
The waffle was described as a cheddar waffle but I didn’t taste the cheddar at all. The waffle was however delicious and vanished quickly within a few bites. The syrup that came with it was also delightful not too sweet or thick.
As for the infamous chicken I got to say I was a little disappointed. It was spicy, not traditional spicy but had a burning sort of sensation from whatever the skin was seasoned with. As for the meat it was moist but I feel like the flavor was off there too. It wasn’t falling right off the bone, with each bite I sort of felt like I was forcing myself to eat it and enjoy it. It was good just not in my top three experiences of all time. I have been and now I am done.
There was also a side of coleslaw; you guessed it that was homemade too. It turns out that is the best slaw I have ever had. It even surpasses any other kinds I had loved in the past. I don’t know what it was about it; there was tang to it but also a sweetness. The crunch was also on point. I ate my entire portion and probably could again any day of the week.
My dining companions had the burger and the grilled steak. Both said their meals were okay but nothing out of the ordinary. Apparently I did order correctly.
For desert, and there is always room for dessert; I had the goat cheese, cheesecake with key lime marmalade. We also tried the pecan pie sundae that Frank Bruni has a passion for. In his review of Buttermilk Channel for the New York Times Bruni wrote: “Desserts that might be $10 at less cost-conscious places are $7, a steal when it comes to the pecan pie sundae, a blockbuster and gut buster as filling as it is irresistible.” In any review I have read about this restaurant this sundae stands out. There seems to be no one that can resist this original version of a southern staple. I thought it was good but very sweet but better than any pie versions I have had (with the exception of Hill Country).
My cheesecake was the perfect serving size in a small mason jar. Instead of a crust there were crumbles on top. This was a nice treat more savory than sweet. The goat cheese they used is probably the purest version I have ever had. In a larger serving size it would have been too much. But this size cleansed my palette.
The only other place I have had fried chicken and waffles was back in 2012 at the original Queen of Soul Food, Sylvia’s restaurant (http://thequeenoff-ckingeverything.blogspot.com/2012/10/for-sylvias-queen-of-soul-food.html) in Harlem, New York. When it comes to the fried chicken and waffles combo I pick Sylvia’s over Buttermilk Channel even though the latter’s waffle was better the meal as a whole was better at the former.
When it comes solely to fried chicken in N.Y.C. I would go with Hill Country for flavor and consistently. Blue Smoke used to be good but the last time I was there I wasn’t impressed with the service or the food.
I have to say my favorite, last supper quality, fried chicken sadly does not come from my empire state. Rather it comes from the fried chicken promised land, Memphis. They say, “If you haven’t been to Gus’s you haven’t had fried chicken”. I have to agree. It’s the best I have ever had. The flavor, texture, crispy, and fall off the bone meat will make you sit there until your burst open or they close their doors, whatever comes first.
There are two other fried chicken/waffle heavens I plan on going to, just not any time soon. That is because one is in Atlanta, Georgia and the second is in Los Angeles, California. In the ATL it is Gladys Knight Chicken and Waffles Concepts. The one in L.A. is of course Roscoe’s House of Chicken and Waffles. These places have been around forever and are legends in their cities as well as for us foodies who like to travel.
According to their website, the name “Buttermilk Channel” is a historical reference to the water between Brooklyn and Governors Island. The legend is that long ago farmers use to take a boat ride from Brooklyn to Manhattan in order to sell their milk in another borough. Apparently the ride was so rough it could churn the milk into butter.
Now if they could make fried chicken appear on my dining room table before I even crave it that would be something to write home about.
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