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Restaurant Reviews --> A Visit To Crispy Bird!

A Visit To Crispy Bird!
David Hoover's Take on Fried Chicken

Crispy Bird has been around long enough that the advantage of our writing a review now is that an ocean of ink, ranging from Indianapolis Monthly to Yelp has been spilled debating David Hoover's take on fried chicken. So, by the time we stopped in on a Friday in late March, we knew that Julia at Indianapolis Monthly loved the experience but felt that the chicken missed the gold standard set by Gray Brothers Cafeteria in Mooresville.

Yelp was another interestingly mixed bag with 35 of 106 reviewers giving them 4 to 5 stars, and 71 giving the only 1 to 3. Obviously, Indiana residents are passionate and have no neutral opinions about fried chicken. I was raised on the north side of Indianapolis so my gold standard was Hollyhock Hill where the fried chicken was always enjoyed for holidays and special occasions and left an indelible memory of how fried chicken should taste.

And more recently, Linda and I discovered Eagle on Mass Ave and their excellent fried chicken led us to dub them "the hipster Hollyhock Hill." David's chicken has a different take with a thick, deep brown crust that Indianapolis Monthly's reviewer called an "exoskeleton" that keeps the brined chicken surprisingly tender on the inside, but seems a major departure from traditional Hoosier fried chicken.

Crispy Bird is located at the center of the Martha Hoover/Patachou empire at the southeast intersection of 49th & Pennsylvania. The space is bright and airy with an exposed ceiling, big windows, a polished concrete floor and unfinished knotty pine walls, accented with interesting prints of chickens. All those hard surfaces means that it does become something of an echo chamber even when it is only a third full. Why are all of Indianapolis' new restaurants like Hedge Row and Provision so loud, or just we getting old and cranky?

I will dispense with the overtly negative part of the review now. The wine list appeared to have been inspired by an arrogant Manhattan sommelier, but no Manhattan somm would only have nine wines on the list. This list was so obscure that I had to Google some of the wineries. They had two sparkling wines, including a "Greek Rose?" and only three white wines that included one French Chardonnay, a Gruner Veltliner and an Alsatian Pinot Blanc. At least they all work pretty well with the food.

The red selections, without a hint of wine that might actually pair with fried chicken, included an Austrian Zweiglt, a rustic Chilean mission blend, and at least something recognizable, a California Zinfandel. I can pretty much guarantee that maybe 2% of Crispy Bird's customer have ever heard of Zweiglt or Gruner Veltliner. The only redemption was a Spanish Grenache Rosé that actually paired very well with chicken. I'm sorry - it is a personal peeve of mine when restaurateurs don't take their customers tastes into consideration and create a list to show off their knowledge of obscure wines. At least give us a Pinot Noir! Rant over....

Our service was impeccable, with our server knowledgeable and friendly, with all dishes presented in an appropriate and timely fashion. It was service you would expect in an evening, fine-dining setting.

We were intrigued by the description and ordered their special of the day, pimento cheese stuffed Morel mushrooms. They were a trifle messy but incredibly delicious.

Linda had the chicken leg and thigh combo served with the apple-infused slaw and house-made pickles at $12 which she pronounced "very good." And from the size of the pieces, we can only assume that the breed, American Freedom Ranger from Gunthorp Farms in Lagrange, IN, are very, very big chickens. 

I had the fried chicken sandwich, only $10, a large boneless breast with ultra crispy crust, served on a Brioche bun, topped with slaw and spicy aioli...a daunting 6" high sandwich that, while I saw guys around me using both hands to compress, I wound up eating with a knife and fork. Very good with a nice combination of flavors. 


And since we hadn't ordered enough food, we also shared the mac and cheese, which like most of the menu was highly untraditional, served in blocks that had been seared on all sides and served over melted cheese. Not your traditional creamy mac and cheese, but very good, and made with a Manchego-like Spanish cheese called Malvarosa, and a Steckler's aged cheddar from Santa Claus, Indiana. Not exactly Kraft mac and cheese, but very tasty. And it was a bargain at $8 since it easily fed two.



We knew we liked the place as soon as we saw the front window with the slogan "What The Cluck," and there were plenty of other interesting things on the menu that might bring us back, including a chicken liver tart, and fried Carolina gold rice, with crispy chicken skin and a slow poached egg. Overall a very nice lunch or dinner since the menu stays the same. 



Crispy Bird

115 East 49th Street
Indianapolis, IN 46205
(317) 744-0000