Sunday, August 24, 2008

My First Visit to Church in 25 Years

Church's Chicken that is.

What? Did you really think I meant a *gasp* church with pews? Well, I guess if I took a whiff of the trash receptacles at Church's, I'd be saying "pew."

After some discussion about spicy fried chicken, Popeye's, and southern cooking on Serious Eats, I was encouraged to check out Church's again as it had been at least 25 years since I last patronized one of their restaurants.

Why so long?

Church's disappeared in Hawaii after several years, at least the one location that I knew of on King Street or maybe it was on Beretania Avenue. As a family, we didn't care for Kentucky Fried Chicken because it was too salty. When Church's opened up, that was where we got our southern fried chicken.

When Popeye's opened up on Keeaumoku Street, we exclaimed "Wow - love that chicken!" and became die-hard fans of their chicken, mashed potatoes, and cole slaw. My father and I loved the spicy chicken, a unique menu item in Hawaii, and would eat it with pickled jalapenos. It was a bit much for my poor mother. My mother made sure we ate healthy, but because we enjoyed it so much, this meant we would eat fried chicken once every few months instead of once a year or less.

At the end of the meal, my mother and I would shred the leftover chicken, wrap 2-3 ounces each in plastic wrap, and place them in a container to be stored in the freezer. I would use one serving along with vegetables to top my ramen, or we would use several for an amazing side dish of spicy chicken long rice. Excellent with rice!

What I recall of the dish was a sukiyaki type base incorporated into long rice, shiitake, chicken, ginger, and green onions, which I won't add since I don't like it. I actually prefer it with mai fun instead of the thick, sloppy long rice that's often used at restaurants. I prefer my noodles with texture.

Back to Church's.

We went to the nearest Church's, a White Castle - Church's Chicken restaurant. It took a while to get our order right. Bug was getting irritated.

We wanted a 10 piece chicken meal because it included 2 family sides and biscuits. Apparently, there was a sale going on for 10 pieces of chicken for $9.99, but from what I understood you could not choose your pieces. I am a drumstick girl and Bug is a breast guy (*roll eyes*). We asked for the 10 piece meal for $18 several times and the cashier kept talking about the sale. The sides would have been $4 each separately, plus the cost of the biscuits.

Anyway, after that got resolved, we were disappointed that the person who packed our sides laid them down sideways and gave it to us. They were in little translucent bags of their own, but come on! The gravy and the cole slaw dressing seeped into the bags as we carried it to the car.

The mashed potatoes and cole slaw, the major reason we picked the more expensive option was average. The cole slaw was better than the mashed potatoes. There was a faint sweetness to the mashed potatoes and gravy that I did not care for. I guess we should have taken the hint from the cashier. :)

The biscuits were pretty good. You could taste honey with every buttery bite. They'd be better if they weren't so damn dry.

The chicken...the chicken was extremely moist, and the breading was crisp and tasty. The spiciness was definitely present and it wasn't extremely salty. Yay! It was a little peppery and had a more complex flavor than your average fried chicken. The chicken received three thumbs up from Bug. He actually compared it favorably to his beloved Super K-Mart fried chicken; something he has never done before until now.

Without a doubt, Popeye's has the superior side dishes, and good chicken to boot. It's too bad we have to travel a distance to get to a store; part of the reason we've only gone to one 3 times in 10 years. When we did go, we just got chicken, mashed potatoes, and cole slaw. The dirty rice and gumbo were a bit expensive for the serving size...I do not remember it being quite that expensive in Hawaii.

We'll definitely be back, and will most certainly skip the sides, and order a couple of biscuits separately. If we really want cole slaw and mashed potatoes, there's a KFC less than a block away.

- Cassaendra

Church's Chicken

5151 Pearl Rd
Cleveland, OH 44129
216 398-5155

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