Hill Country Chicken: Hill Country Classic Fried Chicken

Live music. Amazing red velvet cake. Butcher-style self-service. To-die-for brisket.

A list of words and phrases I conjure when Hill Country is mentioned.

Cold food. Long, poorly managed line. So-so chicken. Lack of desired sides. Mush.

A list of words and phrases I have used to describe Hill Country Chicken.

Is this review over?

No.

I first read about Hill Country Chicken on a random tasteless blog (could have been serious eats). Oh, Hill Country is bringing on fried chicken, I thought. Sounds delicious.

Then New York reviewed its opening, which meant only one thing to me: it’s go time.

When we arrived at Hill Country Chicken, I should have immediately known better. The bright lighting and folksy music emitted a vibe unlike its parent barbecue establishment. Old-style tables and chairs with squishy seats furnish the two-level restaurant. (I didn’t get a chance to check out the basement.) I would have preferred utilitarian furniture if it meant big taste.

Hill Country Classic Fried Chicken

Dashed were my hopes. My dining partner did the honor of ordering our food and standing in a slow-moving queue for about 20 minutes. By the time the food reached our table, the chicken was cold and, in turn, unapettizing.

We tried breasts, thighs, and legs of the Hill Country Classic recipe, which has a heavy-handed spicy flavor but unimpressive flat texture that cannot compare to, say, Popeye’s. I wonder what Mama Els’ fried chicken tastes like. Too bad I’ll never find out.

For sides, we attempted to order the blistered corn salad, but it was out of stock already. (Aside: We got there around 6:45 PM on a Friday. Why were they out of sides?). We opted for the inedible carrot-n-raisin slaw (slimy, rum raisin-y) and horrifying-looking cheesy fried mashed potatoes, which were, at the very least, edible (though greasy and left largely uneaten).

Cheesy fried mashed potatoes

I wouldn’t recommend this place, though I’m sure you’ll want to try it out. Instead of bothering with Hill Country Chicken, eat at your local Popeye’s or straight up get your meal ticket at Hill Country proper. This place is only Hill Country in name, not in quality or organization.

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Addition to Taylor’s Ham: “good restaurants”

Do you love the Cheap Eats issue of New York magazine? How about TONY’s eats lists? I can’t live without them. (Or I can, but it’d take me longer to find the actually good places to dine. I neither have all the time or money in the world. Every hint helps.)

That’s exactly why I’ve created “good restaurants,” a new page on Taylor’s Ham that lists the good restaurants where I’ve eaten. I welcome you to check out and to recommend places I might try. You can access it from the home page (next to “about mmmcupcake” on the navigation bar).¬†Bookmark and share it with your closest friends and most distant acquaintances.

Buon appetit!

Corner Burger: Poutine & Turkey Burger

Ah, poutine. Fried potatoes + cheese curds + gravy = seriously delicious. I encourage you to seek out poutine, wherever you are. However, you won’t want to look at this photo before eating poutine because it might make you think twice about ordering it.

So, Corner Burger. Situated amidst a row of swanky boutiques and restaurants, Corner Burger feels less like Park Slope than, say, New Jersey. Memorabilia of various strains line the walls. A TV showing sports bears the onus of the small dining room’s centerpiece.

Maybe the place isn’t all-that-and-a-plate-of-potatoes, but the food ain’t bad.

poutine!

So, the poutine. Light brown gravy and crisp-enough french fries support gobs of amazing cheese curds. It’s salty as hell, but we devoured this in no time.

What about this corner burger? Well, to be honest, I ordered a turkey burger. Total smash. Turkey burgers can be dry, tough, tasteless. None of the above here! It tasted like chicken souvlaki and was as tender as a burger cooked medium. Their big on toppings–and so am I–so I ordered avocado, cheddar, and chipotle mayo between a squishy white seeded bun. Perfection.

My dining partner went for the beef burger with similar toppings selections. Not disappointing, but not at the top of my list. (Cough, Shake Shack, cough.)

turkey burger pre-assembly

If you’re aching to walk down Park Slope’s 5th Avenue (Beacon’s Closet! The Chocolate Room!), stop by Corner Burger for a poutine snack or substantial turkey burger. I hear the onion rings are to die for. Yumm-o.

Tortilleria Nixtamal: Tortillas

Tortilleria Nixtamal tortillas

tortillas from tortilleria nixtamal

Sure, Whole Foods wheat tortillas are edible. Mission are preferred, in most cases, where taste and texture are prized. But you haven’t tried tortillas until you’ve been to Tortilleria Nixtamal in Corona, Queens. Buy ’em by the pound (14/lb.). They’ll warm your fingers as you day dream of their potential on the 7 train.

I first learned of Nixtamal from New York Magazine. Ho-hum, I thought. What’s the big deal about tortillas? Then, Autumn Makes & Does raved about them. Now, I’ll inoculate you with Nixtamal fever, the most delicious threat to Queens’ public health since Avian flu. (They’re not a threat unless you make the below meals several times per week.)

So, the tortillas. Fresh, mildly corny, perfect. Here’s how I used them:

 

 

 

 

Tortilleria Nixtamal tortillas

soft tacos and quesadillas

 

1) Quesadillas – In my cast iron skillet, I heated a tablespoon of vegetable oil and allowed one tortilla to sizzle for about one minute. I placed a hand full of cheddar and Monterey Jack cheese on its center and placed another tortilla on top. Cooked until slightly shrunken in diameter and light brown on both sides.

2) Soft tacos – There’s a taco truck near the 52nd St. 7 train station where I always see people waiting patiently for their delicious chorizo and pollo tacos. Patient, they are, since the tacos are meticulously crafted by two taco artisans, a woman (the cook) and man (the assembler). An aspiring taco master myself, I cooked up a lime chicken filling for our tacos and heated up a few tortillas in the cast iron pan.

homemade salsa

Homemade guacamole, homemade salsa, cheese, sour cream and cilantro topped ’em. I think you’d agree that you’d patiently wait for these flavorful tacos.

3) Huevos Rancheros (or something like that) – I only like fried or scrambled eggs, so, from the get-go, I know my huevos rancheros are anything but authentic. Black beans and hash browns sat alongside jalapeno scrambled eggs. I distributed cheese over the eggs and spooned the homemade salsa on top. Again, I heated the tortillas in the pan and cut them into quarters, making softer, flimsier versions of Tostitos. Sour cream on the side. Done and delicious.

Tortilleria Nixtamal tortillas

my huevos rancheros

Buy tortillas from Tortilleria Nixtamal and buy often. If you aren’t interested in cooking your own tacos, you can sit down and eat there. And! When you’re done eating, you can walk to Flushing-Meadows Corona Park to check out the Queens Zoo, New York Hall of Science, Queens Botanical Garden, and the Queens Museum of Art. What are you waiting for?

McDonald’s: McCafe Frappe

I hate McDonald’s. It isn’t their politics or reliance on corn as the shining star of every product. (We all make our own dietary decisions, after all.) Simply put, McDonald’s food makes me violently ill. I’ve avoided setting foot in one for over a year, but I had to try the¬†McCafe Frappe.

Why the Frappe? Well, it looks like one of those faux coffee drinks advertising has tricked me into needing. Is there a better answer? Rest assured, it wasn’t one of these ineffective McDonald’s ads that swayed me.

For those of you who don’t live in New York City aka Land of Calorie Counting, I’ll clue you in. The small Frappe is a whopping 450 calories. On Frappe day, plan your meals carefully.

So, the taste. My partner in crime said he didn’t think the caramel would taste different from the mocha, so we opted for the caramel Frappe. Like a caramel Frappuccino but sweeter and creamier. A small suggestion of coffee filled my straw, but I’m not convinced “McCafe” is the appropriate descriptive umbrella under which this beverage belongs.

It left me feeling heavy and too-full. But I wasn’t violently ill. In that case, you might want to try it.

Park yourself at Burger Garage in LIC

Every good post begins with a completely original title. There you have it. This post will be amazing!

A much needed burger joint has arrived to Long Island City, Queens. Jurors, fret no more. Your days of visiting the Court Square Diner for a cheeseburger deluxe are over. And for the Manhattanites out there, this joint is worth a (short) trip underwater.

So, the burgers. Tender, thinner, outstanding. As you can see from the menu, there’s endless toppings options. I like this. My burger had lettuce, onion, ketchup, mustard, mayonnaise, cheddar cheese, and pickles. Oh, and it was a double.

Burger Garage nods to big brother Shake Shack with their wax paper wrappers. A nice touch that made me wonder, Is this as good as the Shake Shack? Not quite, but delicious nonetheless.

And the extras. I wouldn’t recommend the fried onion strings which taste more like fried batter than onions. The french fry girth is a contentious matter. I happen to prefer McDonald’s style fries, but I enjoyed Burger Garage’s thicker potatoes.

As you can see, they only offer canned soda, which displeases me. I love fountain soda. We tried a thick thick black and white shake on the way out — because I hadn’t quite burst through my clothes — and thoroughly enjoyed it.

I recommend Burger Garage, if only because it’s close to PS 1 and will allow you to boast to your friends, “Sure, I’ve been to Queens. They have a Citibank building there.”