Is it me, or does it seem like all this breathless excitement about BBQ excludes chicken? The City Paper’s review of Fette Sau was all pork belly this and pulled pork that implying, rightly it seems, that no chickens were harmed in the making of this restaurant. The Philadelphia Weekly’s judgment of Percy Street Barbecue included a glancing nod at our fowl friends before skipping on to detailed descriptions of ribs, brisket, and chili. Even on a Chowhound thread comparing Fette Sau to Bubba’s Texas BBQ chicken doesn’t even rate a mention.
Is it because, as David Rees put it in one of his delightful Top Chef recaps, “Chicken is fucking boring and anyone who orders it at a restaurant is just being contrary. I will physically fight anyone who disagrees with me”? No, I tend to think that in our contemporary nose-to-tail food moment (not beak to claw!), that while even the simplest foods can be remade with the right combo of skill, sourcing, and marketing, BBQ chicken is too familiar. Few of us grew up with a pit master in the family, but I’d wager that nearly every suburbanite had a mom that slathered store bought barbecue sauce on a pile of thawed chicken pieces destined for the backyard propane grill. Familiarity breeds contempt.
But not at Dienner’s Bar-B-Q Chicken in the Reading Terminal Market. Dienner’s, in the Amish section, only does chicken–whole, half, pieces, sandwiches. You want a side, you go somewhere else, boy. The chicken’s provenance isn’t known, but it’s method of cooking sure is: rotisserie.
I ordered a couple wings and a thigh and, for $.60 a small container of sweet bbq sauce and hot. The wing tips were shatteringly crisp, and irresistible with their char. The meat was moist, too. The sweet bbq sauce didn’t do much for me, though my companion liked it on his too dry grilled salmon lunch, but the hot was better, with more of a vinegar tang and a heat that never exceeded pleasant tingling.
The thigh and leg were better, in their dark meat goodness. The skin was appropriately crisp. Dienner’s understands the most basic rule of cooking chicken: lots of salt. It’s so bland that without it there’s no amount of saucing that can help, but with it, you’ve got a fighting chance. The juicy, saucy residue on my fingers attested to its flavor.
Recommended: Chicken, duh. Hot bbq sauce.