I’ve been looking for an opportunity to feed at the Bobwhite Lunch & Supper Counter in New York’s East Village for some time. It’s located over on Avenue C, between 6th and 7th Streets near Zum Schneider, in an off-the-beaten-path area that still retains some of the neighborhood’s grittier past in the face of creeping gentrification.
Let me begin by pointing out that the Bobwhite Counter is not the name of a band (though maybe it should be). However, I should note that they do have great taste in music, which is something you don’t often find in this fine city of ours.
Also, this place isn’t owned by someone named Bob White. A Bobwhite, according to the restaurant’s Web site, is a type of quail that – like many Southern culinary and cultural traditions – has largely disappeared in the face of modernity and expediency (like much of the East Village). It’s an interesting metaphor, if a bit of a stretch. Though the restaurant aims to rekindle some of those traditions, serving Southern-style food that is local, seasonal, and sustainable.
The fried chicken? It may indeed be the best I’ve ever tasted. I grew up on the Colonel, and KFC’s original recipe – despite all its commercialism – is still hard to beat. The fried chicken at Bobwhite is just as delicious but with a crispy, crackling, flavor-packed skin that doesn’t abandon the meat at first touch. And that meat is juicy, but not greasy. Each piece I had was cooked to perfection.
The fried chicken supper comes with a side salad and a biscuit. That biscuit was the best damn biscuit I’ve ever had the pleasure of stuffing down my gullet.
Normally I’m not a big biscuit guy, because most tend to be so dry and heavy, like compressed styrofoam waiting to expand inside your stomach and consume precious space that could have been filled with more flavorful Southern delicacies. I had even developed a theory that biscuits were served to drive drink sales, which are typically a high-margin item for restaurants.
Not the Bobwhite biscuits. These things were light and perfectly balanced. They could make a French pastry chef renounce his citizenship and get a Confederate Flag tattooed across his professionally waxed chest.
My nephew and I also got the mac cheese side, which was merely OK. Given the earth-shattering quality of the chicken and biscuits, maybe our expectations for the mac were too high.
The Bobwhite Counter is small. And they do have a traditional counter, along with a few tables, and narrow counters facing the windows looking out on Avenue C. We opted to sit in the window and, between the soundtrack and the parade of pedestrians, it’s a pretty good show.
If you have to wait for a spot (and it’s worth it), I encourage you to linger next door at the ABC Beer Company. It’s similar to Park Slope’s Bierkraft in that they have a fine selection of high-end beers for sale in coolers up front with food and tables in the back. You can browse the selection or head into the back and start your culinary adventure with a pint and some meats, cheeses, and breads. It might make a good post-meal stop as well.