He Said / She Said: Dennis and Emily crunch through the best fried chicken

Fried chicken – and all of its crispy, greasy, artery-clogging goodness – takes us back to our childhood. For some reason or another, it vanished from our adult lives, only to be replaced by inevitably bland and overcooked grilled chicken breast sandwiches.

E: Luckily, as food-savvy adults we understand that anything can be enjoyed in moderation … right?

D: So when the choice arises nowadays, fried chicken gets the nod.

Dennis’ fried-chicken profile: Give me the flavor; no white meat here.

Emily’s fried-chicken profile: Tender meat, heavy on the sides.

Connelly’s Goody Goody Diner
5900 Natural Bridge Road, St. Louis | 314.383.3333
Mon. to Fri. – 6 a.m. to 2 p.m., Sat. – 7 a.m. to 2 p.m.

D: Why was I not informed of this place before now? A breakfast of tender Belgian waffles, eggs, hash browns with onions and cheese or rice with gravy AND half of a slightly piquant, mouth-watering fried chicken?

E: It’s safe to say that the Chicken and Waffle Supreme is a breakfast buffet for one.

D: The omission of this knowledge from my child- and adulthood is a travesty. Were I a medieval king, heads would surely roll! As it happens, I am not a king, so I will just savor all of this goody-goody and relish the fact that my son will grow up knowing of the wonders that reside on Natural Bridge.

E: We may have just discovered this North City gem, but it’s been busy serving customers since 1948, when it was converted from a walk-up A&W Root Beer stand into the Goody Goody Drive In. Owned for more than half a century by a member of the Connelly family, the diner has served hungry celebrities including Cedric the Entertainer, Ozzie Smith and former Vice President Al Gore, along with earning a hearty nod from Jane and Michael Stern in their books “Eat Your Way Across the U.S.A.” and “Roadfood.”

D: However, the menu’s bold claim that the diner’s only “five minutes from the Arch” may be a bit on the optimistic side.

Hodak’s Restaurant & Bar
2100 Gravois Ave., St. Louis | 314.776.7292
Sun. to Thu. – 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., Fri. and Sat. – 10 a.m. to 11 p.m.

D: The place itself is huge and packed and generally raucous – basically a superfun casual-dining atmosphere. The chicken is nicely prepared (crispy skin and juicy meat), more than serviceable and goes great with a cold Bud; but where it had me at hello, it lost me on my first bite. There was no flavor to the chicken. If there were spices in the batter, then they need to watch Emeril and – I could shoot myself for having to say this – “kick it up a notch.” I kept thinking, “Even the Colonel has 13 herbs and spices. I want the seasoning; I need the seasoning; for heaven’s sake, gimme the seasoning!” I do recommend the slaw. Not overly acidic or sweet, it was a crunchy, tangy dish consisting of all cabbage and very little else.

E: When Dennis brought home Hodak’s fried chicken, and I pulled my Styrofoam carryout container from the bag, the first thing I noticed was the weight: There was some serious poundage in there. But I was up for the challenge and attacked my half chicken with a vengeance, fully appreciating the supercrisp skin. No, it wasn’t as spicy as the other types we sampled, but the moderate seasoning also didn’t have a chance to detract from the delicious meat.

Romine’s Restaurant & Bar
9053 Riverview Drive, St. Louis | 314.869.1900
Mon. to Thu. – 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., Fri. – 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Sat. – 4 to 9 p.m., Sun. – noon to 8 p.m.

D: Be forewarned: This is the conversation I had 15 minutes after leaving my house for Romine’s:

Dennis: “Um, hi. Where are you located?”
Romine’s: “9053 Riverview.”
D: “Yeah, I put that in MapQuest, and it took me to a chop suey place. So, where’re you?”
R: “We see that a lot. Go the other way on Riverview about a mile and
a half.”

After everything was settled and I was back home … oh, my goodness! Was this ever worth the adventure. Nicely spiced and übercrispy skin gave way to succulent, juicy meat. Even the white meat was worth eating. This is simply delicious, soul-pleasing fried chicken, and the gravy that came with the mashed potatoes would make my wife’s hand weights worth devouring.

E: I was impressed that even after making the trip home from the restaurant, my meal was still piping hot. I quickly learned that there’s no need to salt up this spicy bird, and you can’t go wrong with any of the delicious sides we tried, from the green beans to the baked potato. All factors combined, this was my favorite of the fried-chicken joints we sampled.

Porter’s Fried Chicken
3628 S. Big Bend Blvd., Maplewood | 314.781.2097
Mon. to Sat. – 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Sun. – 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.

D: I grew up in Shrewsbury and all throughout my childhood there was a HUGE tray of Porter’s fried chicken at every big gathering. I never did thank my parents – or anyone else’s parents, for that matter – for always eschewing the more widely known three-letter joint for this infinitely more tasty chicken. What better way to make amends than to surprise my folks with a big box of our collective past for Sunday dinner? Stoooooopid Lowery, call first!

Since my mom was gone and my dad had eaten already, those of us who tried to do the thanking did the feasting. Porter’s had the most discernable inherent heat of these four establishments, but it was only nice comfortable warmth. Note to self: Always eat fried chicken with my sister, as she brazenly discards the skin.

E: Porter’s is tucked away in a low-profile strip mall. There was a small seating area, although most people on that Sunday were waiting for carryout. Like Romine’s, the chicken had a delightfully spicy kick. Unfortunately, when it came to the sides, the mashed potatoes had that school-cafeteria taste, while the baked beans and green beans were only available by the gallon.

D: Then again, a gallon of the baked beans could be the beginning of a beeee-utiful friendship.