by Aimee Levitt
The big problem is that so many roast chickens are so bad. They sit under heat lamps for hours, trapped under little plastic domes that turn the skin soggy and the meat dry. Once you get them home and onto the table, they don't taste like anything at all, except for the horrible fish-tasting fatty parts that make you want to throw up. I gave up on these chickens a long time ago and started roasting my own. They turned out pretty well, I thought, especially when I used the Zuni Cafe recipe. But then I tasted the chicken at Chicken Shop.
The chickens there come from Pine Manor Farm in Indiana, where they're raised in the Amish style, free range, without hormone injections. (Our server attested to this personally; he'd actually been there.) Once the chickens are slaughtered and shipped to Chicago, they're chilled and steamed and chilled again and then seasoned with salt, pepper, paprika, and thyme, with a lemon stuffed in the cavity, and finally roasted on a rotisserie. They come to the table looking like the cover of a glossy food magazine, brown and glistening in their own juices. They taste as good as they look: the skin is crisp, the meat is tender. There are a couple of peppery, vinegary sauces you can try, but really, you don't need anything more than the pan juices. A whole chicken, which serves two or three people, costs $22. (You can also get a quarter or a half.) This is a bargain.
You can, and should, get your chicken with some of the side dishes, which are very good. The fries come with real, lemony mayonnaise, which feels like a luxury. There's also a Dirty Burger, so called because the marrow is ground with the meat. This, too, is delicious. But really, at a place called Chicken Shop, you should just stick with the chicken.
If this isn't inducement enough, Chicken Shop also happens to be one of the only places on the Randolph restaurant row where you can walk in at 7 PM and be seated immediately, not just at the counter, but at a real, honest-to-goodness table. Miraculous!
Chicken Shop, 113-125 N. Green, 312-754-6941, chickenshop.com/chicago.