quick bite: Highland Fried

Highland Fried, the spinoff of the well-regarded Highland Kitchen, occupies the space that housed East Coast Grill for decades.   It recently made Eater’s list of Boston’s twelve hottest restaurants for January 2018. In fact, their fried chicken is the featured image. According to Eater Boston, “The focus is now on fried chicken,” so let’s start there.

There was a lot good about Highland Fried. The fried chicken wasn’t. A single thigh came out incredibly greasy and a few bites in red juices ran from the clearly undercooked meat. There are few things as unpleasant as red, undercooked chicken. The Buttermilk Fried Brussels sprouts, with giant chunks of bacon, were delicious, but they too were surprisingly greasy. Between the chicken and them, it seems likely the oil temperature was too low.

On the other end of the spectrum, St. Louis style pork ribs were perfectly cooked, pulling off the bone with just a little effort and exceptionally moist and tender. Also excellent was the spicy gumbo with chicken and Andouille sausage. But perhaps the star of the show is the tiki cocktail program including a smooth Mai Tai and a particularly strong Navy Grog that goes down easier than it should.

Buttermilk biscuits, which the inexplicably won’t sell you just one of, are too doughy and need more browning on the outside, the cornbread, however, is better. Beef brisket has good flavor, but could improve from trimming more of the fat off. Potato salad and baked beans are good, but not special. Ending the meal was a fresh banana pudding with vanilla wafers that, maybe intentionally, doesn’t match the traditional consistency created by letting the wafers soften by spending time in the pudding.

The staff was friendly and incredibly apologetic about the chicken. Multiple people came over to apologize and, in addition to taking it off the bill, provided free dessert and tea. Even before that they were upbeat and accommodating. The music added to the atmosphere with late 80s alternative tunes, including the always popular No Myth. Highland Fried still has some work to do to get to the level of Highland Kitchen, but right now it’s a great place to grab a cup of gumbo and a slab of ribs while downing a Mai Tai or two, and who knows, maybe it was just an off day for fried chicken.

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