Hill Country Chicken: Texas-Inspired Fare in the Flatiron District

“A fresh fried chicken joint.”  Hill Country Chicken marketing claim

Hill Country Chicken (photo by MJ Byers)

BY MJ BYERS 

Eatery:  Hill Country Chicken, 1123 Broadway, New York

So it’s the second stop of the great fried chicken quest, this time at Hill Country Chicken in the Flatiron district.  This relatively new joint is a bit higher end than other fried chicken fast food eateries, but a bit too casual to be fairly characterized as “casual dining.”  Its clean eat-in kitchen inspired dining room has plenty of space for the lunch crowd but, at the end of the day, the format here is really fast food meets cafeteria.

Classic fried chicken at Hill Country Chicken (photo by MJ Byers)

There are two fried chicken recipes on offer at Hill Country – “classic” (skin on) and Mama El’s (skinless).  I actually like that these guys have made the effort to save you the extra calories that come from the skin, but skinless fried chicken is a bit controversial among purists.   And, just to make things more complicated, the breakfast “chicken & waffles” offering involves chicken strips instead of proper pieces of chicken.  So, we’ve got a lot to talk about…..

Mama El’s chicken recipe, Hill Country Chicken (photo by MJ Byers)

To make a long story short:  the Hill Country chicken is good, not great.  Here’s what works:  it’s really juicy, and that’s vitally important.  Plus the quality of the meat is top notch.  Where the classic falls down is the breading, which is oddly thin and keeps this from being melt-in-your-mouth fried chicken.  The Mama El’s version fares slightly better on this measure, with the cracker-crumb breading making the crust more robust – even without the skin.  Hill Country also sprinkles a seasoning blend over top both versions, which I just can’t get behind as it’s really additive to the flavor experience.  Quick notes about the side dishes:

  • Buttermilk biscuit:  Ok; more dense than I’d prefer and a bit on the dry side.  The flavor profile was somewhat buttery but not brilliantly so.
  • Mac & cheese:  Decent flavor and texture, certainly better than the runny, bland stuff you get at other fast food places.   Unfortunately, serving temperature was a bit on the tepid side.
  • Cheesy Fried Mashed Potatoes:  I’m a mashed potato purist, so wasn’t really digging on these.  Even if I weren’t, I don’t think I would rate them.

Mac & cheese at Hill Country Chicken (photo by MJ Byers)

Husband and I returned for breakfast, to see how the chicken & waffles stood up to the competition uptown.  The breakfast version of the chicken is made with the Mama El’s breading without the annoying sprinkled-on seasoning.  Chicken strips are never quite as good or juicy as pieces of chicken but – as chicken strips go – these were ok (using high quality meat helps), though a bit bland.  Where the Chicken & Waffles dish shines, however, is the waffle – fluffy, a bit sweet from the dusting of powdered sugar on top, a little crunchy at the edges.  The dish comes with sides of syrup and molasses butter – the latter of which is divine on the waffle.

Chicken & Waffles at Hill Country Chicken (photo by MJ Byers)

Bottom line:  if you’ve got a fried chicken jones and plenty of time, head to Sylvia’s in Harlem – it’s way better and not all that much more expensive. If you’re time-constrained, Hill Country Chicken is a more-than-decent option.

Price:  Classic or Mama El’s Chicken Breast – $5.50.  Chicken & waffles – $9.50.

Destination Meal:  Yes, if you’re really craving yardbird and don’t want to travel uptown.  Try the waffles – really tasty.

Fat/Calorie Worthy:  Probably.

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1 Comment

  1. whaleshark says:

    I love the Mac and cheese. So creamy and really mouth-watering recipe. The chicken rolls also looks great.

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