There are the hot new spots, on the tips of the tongues of foodies around the state, in hip locales with designs that tap into the most recent trends. Often the food is a hyped-up, yuppified version of classic working-class and immigrant food: tacos, banh mi, and that old favorite of the American South, fried chicken. But elsewhere, far from trendy downtown blocks, tucked in the back of strip malls and in the city hinterlands is where the original — and best — versions of these foods are located. Locals know. The rest of us have to discover.
For fried chicken, one of the best places in the state is found in a nondescript strip mall, hidden behind a dollar store on Route 10 in Southington. Hen House Bar-B-Q serves simple, no-frills fried chicken, and much, much more. While there are various fish options, barbecued chicken and ribs, and a classic “from the grill” menu with burgers and melts, I go for the fried chicken.
My usual order is the breast-and-wing combo from the dinner menu: two decently sized pieces of chicken served with coleslaw, a dinner roll, and a heap of fries ($7.49). The chicken is thrown into the deep frier right after ordering, so when it comes to you about 15 minutes later, it tastes fresh and juicy. If your usual association with fried chicken is of pieces that sit under a hot lamp for too long and come out over-crispy, too salty and dry, allow Hen House to reawaken your understanding of what fried chicken can be. Like fast-food chains, you can stop by Hen House on your way home from work and pick up a whole family dinner’s worth of food.
Like the chicken, the atmosphere of Hen House is low-key. Furniture and decorations that appear to be from the 1970s adorn the space, which consists of a handful of booths. It feels a bit as though you are invited into someone’s home, which fits with the home-cooking vibe of the place. It has a lived-in feel, having been open since the late 1980s.
This article appeared in the March 2018 issue of Connecticut Magazine.
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