Urban Chicken – Montclair

Urban Chicken
Urban Chicken
NJ Town: Montclair
Cuisine: Fried Chicken

Look, man, I don’t want to besmirch the help at Urban Chicken. Mostly because the chicken they produce is consistently good, the fries massive and crispy and the shrimp apparently pretty darned tasty. But there is no way you can tell me every single person working here isn’t high as hell. This observation even pre-dates New Jersey’s legalization laws, mind you, but perhaps only people deep into their munchies could cook fried chicken like this.

We’ve been going here for years. Often I would walk in to pick up my embarrassingly gigantic order and there would be a couple teenagers (or people who looked like teens) sitting at a small table up front drinking Budweisers. It was super-weird, considering this is a take-out only joint with a small space in which to wait for your order and these kids were just kind of hanging out as if it were a pub. I have to assume these were a couple of the delivery crew who had retired at the end of the day. But it still felt like an odd college hangout jammed into a waiting room. This is all before the very friendly adult manager, or owner or whatever he is, tells me, once again, that I look like an actor from the 1980s or 90s. Unfortunately he can never remember the actual actor’s name, so he makes me guess as he describes him and names a couple movies he’s in. “Eric Stoltz. It’s Eric Stoltz,” I say with little affect. FYI: I do not look like Eric Stoltz. Which is funny because at two separate times in my life (maybe three) back in the 90s some girl told me I look like Andrew McCarthy. Whom I also look nothing like. Apparently I’m a type, though.

But what do you care about my experience with the Prosopagnosia dude and the shaggy teens who run the stuff to your house? You’re here for the chicken. And, man, it’s pretty satisfying. I grew up eating Pioneer Chicken. I’m not sure it existed much outside of Los Angeles, but my recollection is that it was kind of the only game in town. KFC was a thing, but Pioneer was king. Until it went bankrupt in the late 80s and I believe was bought up by Popeye’s. Anyhow, their skin was crispy and plentiful and went really well with honey. It was a thing my family ate a lot. But that was kind of the limit of my fried chicken experience. It just wasn’t a thing we ate a whole lot of in LA for whatever reason. Or at least I didn’t.

So it is with very little history with this particular food (though I ate my weight in rotisserie chicken every month) that I say this joint is pretty damned good. I have no idea if it’s authentic. I have no clue if it tastes the way fried chicken is supposed to taste. But it’s always crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside. It doesn’t have the pure amount of skin that the old Pioneer stuff did, but that’s probably for the better. In fact sometimes I just peel it off and maybe dip a little here or there. The chicken comes with some sauces, but I fall back on the old honey thing. Which goes really well with the chicken and the crispy pile of fries that we order. I would put the corn bread in the mid category. It’s fine, but nothing that interesting. And the mac and cheese rates an abysmal on the quality and taste scale. It’s truly some of the worst, runny, tasteless mac and cheese I’ve ever come across. A thing, once again, I only ate out of the blue box growing up, but have been spoiled by Ms. Hipster’s absolutely incredible 24k gold mac and cheese that she makes. Speaking of, Ms. Hipster also likes their fried shrimp. I’ve never had it, but she swears by them dipped in an accompanied combo of tartar and cocktail sauces.

It’s tough sometimes to find a meal for a gang of people. So we often times go to the Urban Chicken plan when this comes around. An assortment of dark and white meat, a trough of fries and some refreshments gets ’em every time. Plus, the stuff warms up well the next day if you’re lucky enough to have some leftovers. Take it from me, Eric Stoltz, this place is one of the best things in town.

43 Glenridge Ave. – Montclair