El Jefe is the boss at Art of Chicken | Bleader

El Jefe is the boss at Art of Chicken

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Half an El Jefe chicken at the Art of Chicken
Civilization may have been awesome for a lot of things, but no cooking technique has yet improved upon roasting meat over fire. Your meat can come from the supermarket, pale and colorless, injected with water to make it look plumper. Your marinades can be subpar amalgamations of whatever you happen to have in the pantry at the moment. You can leave it on the grill a couple of minutes too long so the inside is a little overcooked and dry. Doesn't matter. That bit of char on the outside compensates for almost any other cooking sin.

That is, I have concluded, the reason Chicago has been inundated with Latin-inspired grilled chicken places, apparently to the point of saturation (and that's not counting KFC), and yet more keep coming, including, most recently, the Art of Chicken, which sits at the border of Logan Square and Bucktown.

The restaurant opened in March, about six months behind schedule, hence the sign above the door that reads, "Open Finally!" To paraphrase Henry Ford, you can get whatever you want for your main course, as long as it's grilled chicken. You can choose your marinade—El Jefe is spicy and citrusy, Crazy Chico spicy and herbal—and whether you want a quarter, half, or whole chicken. Everything is grilled to order. There are also sides (the usual suspects: mac 'n' cheese, various forms of potato, Spanish rice, steamed vegetables, elotes), but they are thoroughly unremarkable and not nearly as good as the buttery pita and two salsas that come with your chicken for free.

Both the marinades are good, but if you find yourself in a choose-or-die situation—that is, if you're trying Art of Chicken out for the first time without a companion—go for the El Jefe. It goes better with a little char than all the herbs in the Crazy Chico. But both varieties come off the grill with crispy skin and juicy meat, which is really the most you can ask from a cooked chicken, regardless of preparation.

Word is that the chicken makes pretty good leftovers, too, but I wouldn't know firsthand since they were scarfed down without me.

The Art of Chicken, 2041 N. Western, 773-697-9266

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