In 2012 Joe Scroggs moved from Chapel Hill, North Carolina to the Windy City and opened Chicago’s very first fried chicken food truck, The Roost. The then one man band ran the show from a rented kitchen space with a three item menu: Herb Seasoned Fried Chicken, Buttermilk Biscuits and Cucumber Coleslaw. Today, the Roost Carolina Kitchen has expanded into two sister restaurants, a cozy Lakeview space with communal seating and more recently, a take-out style location in the West Loop. You can still find the truck on the streets Monday through Friday, except now you can enjoy chicken with a roof over your head when you can’t make it downtown.
It’s 8pm on a Friday night and I’m lucky enough to find parking right out front at The Roost Carolina Kitchen on the busy street of Irving Park Road in Lakeview. The place was empty at first, but the phone for delivery orders was ringing off the hook and by 8:30p.m. the tables were packed with people dining in. Everyone needed his or her Friday night chicken fix. The first thing I noticed when walking into the restaurant was the soul music playing from the loudspeakers. There’s nothing that pumps up the stomach for fried chicken more than hearing the song “Soul Man,” by Sam and Dave. I stepped up to the counter and Shelby greeted me with a smile. Before telling her what I wanted to eat, a sign at the register told me that all of the chicken is breaded and fried fresh to order, because there is no big batch cooking allowed nor heat lamps in the kitchen.
The simple, but delicious, menu items consist of bone-in fried chicken meals, bone-out fried chicken sandwiches on a bun or a biscuit, and “Hillbilly” fried chicken tacos, two-fried chicken tenders nestled under cucumber coleslaw, and chipotle buttermilk ranch in a flour tortilla. “It’s important to get the meat right,” stated owner Joe Scroggs, which he does by bathing the chicken in buttermilk for 30 hours before it takes a quick dip in the fryer.
As I took a bite out of the Hillbilly Tacos “Me and Mrs. Jones,” by Billy Paul started playing in the background and suddenly, I felt as if loving every bite of the crunchy pickled coleslaw, crispy homemade potato chips, and the fluffiest biscuit I’ve ever tasted was wrong, I sure as heck did not want to be right.The fiancé tagged along and ordered the spicy chicken sandwich meal that is served on a buttermilk biscuit and topped with cucumber coleslaw, dill pickles, chipotle buttermilk ranch and sharp cheddar cheese, that is melted directly onto the chicken breast with a blowtorch. Yep that’s right, a blowtorch.
With a full belly, I took a look around and noticed hundreds of “Frequent Fryer” cards covering the surface as if they were wall paper. These reward cards allow you to buy eight meals and receive the ninth meal for free. After eating a Southern fried chicken meal that memorable, I realized why The Roost Carolina Kitchen has been labeled “The best damn chicken in Chicago.”
– Chicago Area Guest Contributor, Dana Lee