You may have noticed that my food reviews tend to be favorable. Sure, I panned Di Fara pizza, dunked a few doughnut places, and even snipped Blue Ribbon Fried Chicken. But, for the most part, I’ve been favorable because I’ve sought out – or already enjoyed – the places I’ve written about.
Unfortunately, I cannot be quite as kind to Hill Country Fried Chicken. The kitschy decor is forgivable. But the fried chicken was so, well, less than I had hoped for.
I’d been to Hill Country BBQ, and frankly wasn’t all that impressed. It was like a few venture capitalists went to Fette Sau and – rather than reveling in the glory that is there – decided that they could make mint by trying to replicate it in midtown Manhattan. But the quality – and the care – that makes Fette Sau an ethereal, transcendent barbecue experience simply isn’t there at Hill Country.
I tried Hill Country Fried Chicken because it looked like a place that fried a mean chicken. That whole downhome, 50s southern diner vibe seemed tailored to the classic southern fried chicken.
Nope. Once again, marketers and moneybags delivered an image but fell short on the product. The fried chicken at HCFC was the typical “I’m an overly talented and soon to be very important chef so I want to make my own take on fried chicken” chicken.
Why do people confuse different with good? Charles Manson was unique. Indeed, he was a pioneer. But that doesn’t make him good.
The bird at HCFC was juicy, I’ll give it that. But ridiculously over-spiced. You know that joke…”it tastes like chicken”…well, not really. The seasoning overpowers the chicken. And maybe that’s all part of the plan, to get you to peel the skin off and eat a dripping chicken breast. Does my cardiologist have a stake in this restaurant?
There’s a reason fried chicken is one of the most popular and celebrated American dishes. If you are going to make it, make it good. If you want to make a name for yourself, invent something new – don’t try to co-opt something that is already great, because that ain’t going to work.
If you actually prefer this seasoning-centric take on fried chicken, my recommendation would be to opt for Blue Ribbon Fried Chicken instead of Hill Country Fried Chicken. Not only is the place nicer and cleaner, but the fries will be warmer – and somewhat delicious. HCFC failed on all marks. As for me, I’m still sticking with the Colonel…though I have one more place I want to try.