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Chicken House (or some such) on Elston

Chicken House (or some such) on Elston
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  • Chicken House (or some such) on Elston

    Post #1 - July 24th, 2004, 2:28 pm
    Post #1 - July 24th, 2004, 2:28 pm Post #1 - July 24th, 2004, 2:28 pm
    As it is probably quite clear to regular LTH readers, C2 and I are V.F.D.* at Papa's Cache Sabroso, on Division. Over the past year or so, we have become pretty friendly with the owner, Victor, and his lovely wife, Nancy. During our visits, it is very common for us to chat at length about the business, the neighbourhood, Puerto Rican food in general, the competition, etc. So, it came as quite a surprise when Victor revealed to us, last week, that one of his older brothers, "Johnny Taco," has a similar operation, on North Elston. Initially, Victor seemed rather reluctant to disclose much detail, but in the end, we were encouraged to try his brother's spot, specifically for the chicken, and report back with our impressions.

    Last night, C2 and her friend, Helen, met me at Chicken House,** on North Elston. For the sake of comparison, we ordered the same items that we are most familiar with at Papa's. Namely, the whole roasted chicken, yucca, tostones, and a white cheese/steak jibarrito. In addition, and as there were three of us, we also ordered mofongo*** and a plate of maduros.

    C2 generally considers the jibarrito to be a sort of appetizer, so she asked that this be brought out as soon as it could be made available. It arrived cut in three segments for easy/equitable distribution. To my palate, it didn't seem a whole lot different than that offered at Papa's, with one exception. The plaintain had not been flattened or crisped to the degree that it normally is at Papa's. For me, at least, this presents a huge problem. You see, I cannot generally tolerate bananas or plantains. It was the manner in which the plantains/tostones were cooked at Papa's that made me a convert. So, overall, I wasn't too happy with this sandwich.

    The chicken arrived next, plated with a small bit of salad and ringed by several tostones. This was immediately joined by a bowl of yucca topped with onion. I thought that the chicken was decent, but not nearly as enjoyable as Papa's. It was sufficiently browned, moist, and flavourful. But, to me, there was a dried herb taste that I didn't really care for. I was quick to compare it to the taste of Greek chicken, suggesting that maybe they used dried oregano or thyme in the marinade/baste, but C2 had what was probably a better hunch. She suspected the use of a commercial poultry seasoning, as there weren't any visible signs of dried herb. The tostones were decent, as well, but as C2 noted, they lacked the "garlicky punch" and "finish" of Papa's tostones. The yucca, on the other hand, was a real disappointment. I did not think that the yucca had been cooked long enough, and whereas Papa's onion and butter topping consists of nicely carmelized rings of white onion liberally seasoned with butter and garlic, these onions were barely softened. The butter and garlic seemed hardly detectable.

    Not being a fan of either mofongo or maduros, I shall refrain from further comment.

    Interestingly, Victor's brother, Johnny Taco, was very curious about our experience. He quizzed us a couple of times. "Is this your first time here?" "Have you ever had this chicken before?" Now, we had assured Victor that we wouldn't say anything at all about his place or our love of his chicken until, at least, we had consumed our food. So, perhaps I was reading into the situation, all too conveniently perceiving the (legitimate :D )suspicion of espionage or paranoia. In the end, and at any rate, we ended up saying nothing.

    In all fairness, the shop has only been open for a week. In fact, on the way out, they informed us that they will be having an official Open House, next Saturday. This will apparently feature their versions of lechon and pollo chon. In addition, they will have live music.

    Erik M.


    *Very Frequent Diners.

    ** I am not exactly sure of the name of the establishment. In fact, I don't know the exact address, either. It is located on the west side of Elston, just to the north of where Elston intersects Rockwell.

    *** As you may know, mofongo is not something that is offered at Papa's, unless by special request. That is why we oredered it, last night. In addition, Chicken House also offers morcilla and lechon by the pound, weekends only.