Chicken and waffles at The Flying Chicken

flying chicken troy chicken and waffles

By Daniel B.

Good fried chicken can change your life.

This is what happened to Ian Michael Hunter when he went south last winter on vacation and sunk his teeth into something crispy, salty, and wonderful. As a new year's resolution he vowed to bring this food to Troy. Ian looked around and saw other fried chicken joints in the Capital Region. He points out, "[In] Troy itself we don't even have a Golden Fried chicken, so I figured it would be a good place for it."

Inspired by the success of The Brown Bag and a love for the restaurant business, Ian scraped together the start-up capital with help from his family and connected with Culinary Institute of America-trained chef and fellow Troy resident Josh Coletto. In July they opened their doors. Since then, The Flying Chicken has been getting a lot of positive attention.

Don't be fooled. This is no ordinary fried chicken place. Even Ian admits that with Josh in the back of the house the food "came out better than I could have imagined."

Recently I visited with Noah Sheetz to meet his friend Josh (both CIA graduates and participants in the Chefs Consortium), try his food, and find out two things:

What is a CIA-trained chef doing at a counter service fried chicken restaurant? And what makes his fried chicken and waffles so damn good?

the flying chicken exterior troyBefore going any further, let's talk about chicken and waffles.

The first time I tried this combination was in Oakland, California at the northernmost outpost of Roscoe's House of Chicken and Waffles. The Bay Area location of this West Coast soul food institution is long gone, but the memory of savory fried chicken, with a crisp waffle and sweet syrup lingers in my mind. It's one of those things that may sound strange at first, but once you've eaten all the ingredients together, it just makes perfect sense.

I was a bit worried when I found out that the fried chicken used in the Troy version of the dish was boneless chicken breast, as these have a way of being dry and tasteless. At Roscoe's the fried chicken was served on the bone. Bone-in meats are inherently more flavorful than their boneless counterparts. But the boneless chicken at The Flying Chicken is juicy and delicious.

All the fried chicken is soaked in a brine of sugar, salt, blackened onions, guajillo chilies, thyme, and bay leaves for twelve hours. Then before getting its breading, the chicken is soaked again in buttermilk for a couple hours more. The coating itself is seasoned with paprika, cayenne, garlic, black pepper and dried parsley. Finally these precious poultry parts are lowered into a deep fat fryer and cooked until crispy and golden on the outside, all while keeping the insides tender, juicy and full of flavor. That's no small feat.

On the brine, Josh says, "[it's] almost as if I were making a stock that I would do, but with a few different flavors. I really love the guajillo chilies, I use those in everything." The flavor of the brine comes through on the boneless breasts, and you get two of them on top of a large yeasted waffle.

That waffle also flies in the face of tradition. It's a large, thick one, instead of the thinner style I enjoyed out west, and it's delightfully tangy. As it so happens, this is a yeasted waffle, which also has a story.

Josh got the recipe for the yeasted waffle from a southern/soul-food restaurant where he worked after graduation. It was the Screen Door in Portland, Oregon, and it sounds amazing. Granted, it's not actually in the south, but the owners hailed from Louisiana, so they were able to call upon their southern roots in developing their menu.

Also while in Portland he worked at a place called Clyde Common, which he describes as a kind of gastropub. There he was responsible for a number of dishes, one of which was the chicken fried chicken liver.

I really really hope those find a way onto the specials menu at The Flying Chicken. Really.

flying_chicken_troy_chicken_pieces_sides.jpg

Lucky for us, Josh decided to come back home. He's also a drummer and reunited with his band Girls of Porn (don't google it). There was only one problem. As he puts it, "I didn't want to work in any of the fine dining places in Albany because I just don't like the Albany fine dining scene really. I just really like good simple food."

So Josh took a few unusual jobs at a couple of the best places in the region: Caffe Vero and Old Chatham Sheepherding Company. He explains, "I really wanted to learn how to make really nice coffee and espresso, and now I know. It's the same thing with the cheese."

When the opportunity came to work with Ian, Josh was in the kitchen at McGeary's. When asked about how his culinary training is put to work at The Flying Chicken, Josh responds, "With this I've just taken basic ideas that I've seen in the past and kind of putting my own twist on them; just keeping it very simple, like hearty homestyle food."

The chicken and waffle plate will only set you back $8 (if you splurge for real maple syrup). But if you want to go ala carte, and go old school with chicken on the bone, you can buy the fried chicken by the piece and the waffle alone costs a measly $3. And the chicken on the bone is also amazing.

flying_chicken_troy_biscuits_gravy.jpg

So are the biscuits with house-made sausage gravy. These are the best version of the form I've had in the region. Better than Jake Moon. Better than Manory's around the corner. Really these are in a whole different league than either of the aforementioned institutions. The homemade biscuits are rich, with an assertive butter flavor, and a great crisp exterior. The gravy is hearty, surprisingly light on the palate, and contains sizable chunks of savory pork sausage. It's a bargain at $5.

flying_chicken_troy_menu_board.jpg

flying_chicken_troy_hush_puppies.jpg

The Flying Chicken also excels at little fried things. The scallion and cheddar hush puppies (6 for $4.25) and deep fried mac 'n' cheese balls (5 for $2) are both solid. But the grits fritters (4 for $2) -- stuffed with a little bit of andouille sausage, and plenty of cheddar -- are a knockout.

Like the Brown Bag, this place is apparently packed late at night, well past my bedtime. However for lunch on a weekday, it's still remarkably tranquil. On multiple visits I've had no difficulty getting street parking nearby. With several tables and two short counters, there always seems to be plenty of places to sit. And there is even a pinball machine to play while you wait for your food to be prepared.

As luck would have it, The Flying Chicken is even participating in Troy's first Restaurant Week, which is going on right now, so you can sample their chicken and waffles with a side and a soda for just $10.

But you would be a fool to not try their southern style sweet tea. It is brewed from Luzianne tea bags, and made with so much sugar it's beyond sweet. It actually tastes like sugar. This is what you drink with fried chicken. Diabetes be damned.

Daniel B. is the proprietor of the FUSSYlittleBLOG.

Find It

The Flying Chicken
122 4th Street
Troy, NY 12180

Comments

Thanks for the article, Daniel. I was on the fence about this, between never having had chicken and waffles and the scant amount of info available about the restaurant online. I was under the impression it was never served with boneless chicken, which you've corrected and won me over.

I'm so glad this place is getting this great attention. The food is terrific and they are super nice guys.

We tried it this weekend, and had some disappointing results. The chicken coating is great - just the right saltiness, and lots of underlying flavor notes of herbs or spices that don't overdo things. The problem I had was that all the dark meat, especially the thighs, were literally spurting blood when bitten into. One piece like that is not optimal, but forgivable - not every one? And most of the drumsticks too? Ick. The wings and the breast pieces were fine.

There were other issues with the side dishes I'd rather not get into on this forum. I'm never sure how to handle these types of issues - I love the concept of the restaurant, and they seem very nice and like they're on to a good idea. But the execution the day we purchased there made me reluctant to recommend it to anyone. Perhaps there are other dishes that can be more reliably considered - but the fact that the specialty is fried chicken, and that the very basic cooking thereof was at issue, bums me out.

I really enjoyed the Flying Chicken, but it was hot outside and they had no air conditioning. They did have delicious, hot, crispy fried chicken, though, and I really enjoyed the biscuits. Also, a jazz duo (drums and guitar) made the evening a hit.

I figured the chicken was soaked in a brine, but didn't expect all those ingredients. Very impressive, and they really do come through in the flavor.

And I'll happily second your plea for those chicken fried chicken livers.

Definitely going here after TNO on the 28th. That looks incredible.

All of that looks AMAZING.

https://www.facebook.com/events/281490881952933/

great event coming up at the flying chicken!

ps. Gina would love to hear about the rest of your issues if you email me I will do my best to rectify any problems you had.
JRCChef312@hotmail.com

This sounds excellent and I can't wait to try it.

FRIED PICKLES at a restaurant in the 518?! Finally. I thought I would never see the day.

So glad to see the FC getting some love. I have made it through most of the menu here and have yet to find anything that disappoints. The fried pickles are out of this world! One of those stranded on an island and you can only have one thing type of amazing.

I work in Troy and have gotten over to the Flying Chicken just once so far. It was excellent and I know of several others who have gone just after hearing me rave. My only complaint was that I ordered a breast and got a thigh instead. I didn't want to have to deal with bones while eating at work. I had it with a side of mac and cheese which was also great. I will be back soon. Some of those other side dishes sound yummy!

I lost interest after reading the word "boneless."

place rules. fathead sandwich is where its at

Chicken = 10/10

Waffle = 5/10

Screen Door and Clyde Common are both amazing Portland restaurants. If I still lived in the Capital Region, I'd be here in a second.

Might be worth pointing out that some redness in fried chicken isn't necessarily blood: http://www.examiner.com/article/help-my-fried-chicken-is-bleeding

Not that I'm discounting what Gina said, but I usually have a little of this when I fry my own chicken at home, especially around the bone.

@Eric, oh I know all about it. Trust me, I've had, and made, more than my fair share of chicken, and dark meat's my favorite.

I emailed Josh with the details, and he's been great in responding, so I do hope to give Flying Chicken another shot - hopefully it was just serious bad timing/luck, a perfect storm that isn't likely to happen again.

Following up - tried going yesterday at about 4:30pm, was told "we are out of biscuits, waffles and chicken."

That's a let down.

Went for the chicken and waffle this Saturday night. Unfortuanely, I have to report my chicken was really dry. My boyfriend's two dark pieces had me salivating though. Will probably stay away from the waffles from now on, or ask for it with bone-in pieces. The coleslaw and biscuit were big hits though.

Checked this place out on Saturday. Daniel is not kidding. We had bone in chicken, chicken and waffle, fried pickles, biscuit and mac and cheese. Our chicken was perfectly moist, both the boneless and bone in. The biscuit was to die for and so were the fried pickels. Mac and cheese was good but I like my version better. Will definitey be back.

I tried this place Saturday, and the food was amazing. I had a thigh, drumstick, and collard greens with a biscuit, my boyfriend ordered the chicken and waffles. We also split some of the grit fritters. My only complaint was that one of our fritters was still cold inside, but they tasted great. The food is definitely something special.

The service, though, was pretty lackluster. There was one person in the kitchen, with one person working the counter and running out meals. Neither of them seemed able to multitask so it took forever. We waited 40 minutes for our food, and while we weren't in a hurry they need to get moving a little more quickly if they want to be seen as a takeout place. The people after us were waiting much longer, as we got in right before the rush.

The food is fantastic, but if they're going to stick around they need to hire some more staff or seriously get their rears in gear.

I ate there with a friend Sunday, we both had chicken and waffles. The food was just fine but maybe they should look into offering a half size plate. Two dense pieces of fried chicken and a thick waffle are a pretty big dish for me, and after two other parties finished eating we saw a fair amount of food left on the plates. I ate everything, but it isn't an experience I'd like to repeat for at least four months. I'm glad I didn't think of ordering any side dishes with the meal.

Service seemed a little disconnected. We weren't aware of the ordering procedure and sat down at the table to read the menu, and the guy at the counter didn't seem to notice us at all, though he was very nice and friendly once we stepped up to the counter.

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