Much like the little black dress or the perfectly shaken martini, roasted chicken — in all its crisp-skinned, golden browned glory — never goes out of style. Whether roasted on a rolling rotisserie or in a wood-fired oven, seasoned with an Italian or Latin American flair, prepared simply or complexly, all forms of this classic dish have the superpower to comfort with rich flavor and heady aroma. So as winter finally descends, find a foil to the deep freeze. Here are 10 spots across the country that serve up some deliciously comforting roasted chicken.
The NoMad, New York, New York
Perhaps the most lavish bird of the bunch, The NoMad’s Whole-Roasted Chicken for Two features foie gras, black truffle, and brioche, and it is plated with seasonal accompaniments — currently cauliflower, lentils, and currants. Pair it with a Le Poulet, the Belgian-inspired brown ale Brooklyn Brewery created just for this occasion, and relax in one of the restaurant’s warm, darkly wooded spaces. The fireplace, with its marble mantle direct from a French château, is particularly inviting on a freezing winter evening. Make a reservation at The NoMad.
Fork, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
This beloved contemporary American restaurant in Old City has received 15 Best of Philly awards from Philadelphia Magazine and for good reason — the supremely fresh ingredients and inventive flavor combinations continue to impress (to wit: the delicately handmade chicken liver ravioli with pickled swiss chard, ginger, and coriander, or bright vitello tonnato with raw veal, tuna, and capered cucumbers.) But on frigid winter nights, the classic Lancaster Farm Chicken, served with dirty rice and herb salad, is unbeatable. Make a reservation at Fork.
Isla, Austin, Texas
Chef Roman Murphy’s Cast Iron Lime Chicken spends a full 48 hours in a bright bath of orange and lemon juices, garlic, vinegar, and spices, for a decidedly island-inspired twist on the classic at this Caribbean cantina in Austin’s Warehouse District. Pan-seared and then oven-roasted, the juicy result is paired with a side dish — choose from elote, Cuban beans, rice, or caramelized sweet potatoes, among others. Add a Prickly Pear Margarita or spicy Cantina Mule, made with tequila, lime juice, jalapeño, and ginger beer, to really get into the Island spirit. Make a reservation at Isla.
Kapnos, Washington, D.C.
Chefs Mike Isabella and George Pagonis make good use of the wood-fired grills at his modern Greek restaurant on D.C.’s 14th Street Corridor, spit roasting whole animals like lamb, goat, and suckling pig to smoky perfection. The chicken is seasoned with a traditional blend of Greek spices, cooked rotisserie-style over the hickory fire, and served alongside lemon potatoes. If sitting next to a lamb on a spit weren’t enough, start with a “kegged” spiked lemonade and shareable mezze plates or spreads served with fresh, stone-baked flat bread to fully channel a Greek feast. Make a reservation at Kapnos.
Xico, Portland, Oregon
The aroma of hot corn tortillas delightfully permeates Portland’s Division Street Mexican eatery. You can sample them, freshly stamped from the housemade masa, with any number of perfectly spiced dishes, including the Chicken Dinner for two. Organic chicken is brined in a bath of hot and sweet chiles, dusted with ground avocado leaf and more chiles, and then basted with house chile vinegar while it slow roasts, rotisserie-style. The fiery, fragrant dish, accompanied by black beans, Mexican rice, red onion escabeche, and house salsas, is guaranteed to liven up any dreary winter day. Make a reservation at Xico.
Untitled, New York, New York
Normally, fried chicken edges out its roasted counterpart by the sheer fact that it’s fried. In fat. But not at Untitled, Danny Meyer’s latest pillar of perfection at the recently relocated Whitney Museum. In a crisp, sun-filled space, tuck into the dish of remarkably tender Roasted (on a rotisserie) and Fried (post-soy garlic marinade) Chicken with kale and radicchio — and wonder how each bite tastes better than the last. Make a reservation at Untitled.
Tanta, Chicago, Illinois
Opt for a half or whole Pollo a la Brasa at chef Gastón Acurio’s lively Peruvian place in Chicago’s River North neighborhood. Both sizes of the Peruvian-style Amish Roasted Chicken — super-flavorful with hints of garlic and lime — come with a feast of cannellini beans, rice, salad, potatoes, and several spicy sauces for dipping and drizzling. For an even more authentic experience, go beyond the pisco sour (although that’s pretty outstanding here, too) and sample one of the other myriad house specialty cocktails made with the traditionally Peruvian-produced spirit. Make a reservation at Tanta.
Glen Ellen Star, Glen Ellen, California
The wood oven at this cozy, rustic spot in Wine Country churns out all sorts of incredible dishes — vegetables, such as sunchoke “tagine” with preserved lemon and smoked paprika oil, white pizza with guanciale and arugula, and the beautifully browned Brick Chicken. Always on the menu but with varying accompaniments, chef Ari Weiswasser’s current version features tandoori-style lentils, persimmon mustard, and Gravenstein apple vinegar. Housemade ice cream — in flavors like brown butter pecan, vanilla maple bourbon, and cinnamon toast crunch — require that you save a little room for dessert. Make a reservation at Glen Ellen Star.
Menton, Boston, Massachusetts
For a distinctly elegant take on the classic comfort dish, visit Chef Barbara Lynch’s Menton in Boston’s Fort Point neighborhood. The Poulet Farci is stuffed with a chestnut Italian sausage and cooked under a brick, a method chef de cuisine Scott Jones describes as honoring traditional Tuscan cooking. The tender result is served with chestnut and ham puree and an apple cider jus, exquisitely plated for a double dose of artistry. Make a reservation at Menton.
Tosca Cafe, San Francisco, California
At April Bloomfield and Ken Friedman’s North Beach Italian eatery, the menu advises the Roasted Chicken for Two will take an hour to arrive on your table. While you wait, take in the recently restored landmark dive bar, once the storied stomping ground of Jack Kerouac and Hunter S. Thompson, sip on a Negroni, and order a plate of the crispy pig tails. When the chicken finally appears, stuffed with ricotta and pine nuts, sitting atop grilled sourdough and a creamy pool of Marsala wine sauce, dig in and admit you’d wait double that. Make a reservation at Tosca Cafe.
Regan Stephens lives in Brooklyn, New York, and when she’s not writing about food or beer, you might find her taking in all the great things about the city (restaurants, museums, plays!), reading on her Kindle, or eating ice cream. Probably the last thing. Say hi on twitter @reganstephens.
Photo credit: Lazzarone Photography (Glen Ellen Star); Ben Russell (Untitled).