Move over, Ravens and Orioles, a new bird is taking Baltimore by storm: the chicken. Although chicken might not be a beloved Birdland mascot, it’s certainly a rising star on menus throughout the city. For years, culinary gurus such as Anthony Bourdain have rolled their eyes at the original white meat, labeling it tasteless and forgettable, but Charm City chefs have recently taken advantage of chicken’s endless versatility to create memorable dishes.
“The way chefs look at chicken has changed quite a bit, and it’s much more sophisticated today,” says Linwood Dame, co-owner and chef of Linwoods. “There are so many different ways to work with chicken, but it’s difficult to get right, so you’ve got to do it well.”
If there’s one place chicken is consistently cooked to perfection, it’s France, where the bird has been a cornerstone in the kitchen for generations. Luckily for all of us across the Atlantic, French transplants such as Steve Monnier, the executive chef at Chez Hugo, offer to-die-for chicken dishes.
One of Chez Hugo’s most popular plates is the poulet roti au foin pour deux, or the whole roasted chicken for two.
For Monnier and his team, serving such a dish is a painstaking, six-day process that includes carefully selecting chickens from local farms, marinating the meat for hours, slow-roasting the bird on a bed of hay to give the dish a true farm-to-table feel, and cooking different cuts in the oven to make sure every bite is tender and flavorful before reconstructing the pieces to compose a whole bird.
“It seems simple, but you have to make sure the meat is juicy and the skin is crispy,” says Monnier. “This takes a lot of technique.” It’s a far cry from the overlooked poultry of the past, and restaurants throughout Baltimore are offering more and more chicken dishes that soar miles above expectations.
Roasted Half Chicken
The Brewer’s Art
At this Mt. Vernon restaurant, a pan-roasted breast is accompanied by a confit leg and thigh. A watermelon salad, pistachios, and salsa verde provide counterpoints to the richness of the meat.
Petit Louis Bistro
The whole roasted bird for two is a star at this Roland Park staple, but its lighter chicken fare—succulent grilled breast served over fingerling potatoes, with grilled red onions and zucchini and a drizzle of pistou sauce—is just as delicious.
AC’s Famous Fried Chicken
Rye Street Tavern
At this upscale Chesapeake-style spot, ordering the fried chicken—crispy, golden-brown, and packed with flavor—is a no-brainer. On the other hand, choosing between the Southern style, served with buttermilk biscuits and whiskey pickles, or the spicy Jerked version, plated with charred pineapple and Hawaiian rolls, is quite the challenge.
Korean Fried Chicken Breast
Jazz + Soju
In classic Korean technique, this chicken is twice-fried in soybean oil, leaving tender meat covered in a light, crispy shell. This Riverside kitchen’s signature dish melts in your mouth and is tossed with one of two sauces: soy garlic or spicy.