Sometimes even I, the avid chef and foodie, like to partake in creations that others make. Shocking I know but after working at my primary job at Wash U for 10-12 hours a day, I don’t always have that gusto and drive to stand in the kitchen for an hour or so making dinner for myself and for Kyle. In the past few years St. Louis has become quite a little foodie mecha. Food trucks, pop up dining events, we’ve developed quite a little food scene here. And one thing that St. Louis sports a lot of are fried chicken restaurants. We have fast food chains, mom and pop eateries, long standing chicken establishments and then we have the little hole in the wall all we serve are 5 dishes and they are all chicken type places.
I’ve always been of the mindset that if you are going to have a small single item driven menu then that item needs to be outstanding and on point. I’d be ignorant to think that every plate might be the same but the food itself needs to be there or you’ll never really get anywhere. Last night, Kyle inadvertently forgot to take the steaks I had planned on making for dinner out of the fridge to come to room temp. Not wanting to eat at 8:00 at night we opted to have an impromptu date night close to home. We picked Old Standard Fried Chicken located at 1621 Tower Grove Ave, St. Louis, MO 63110.
Located at the northern end of Tower Grove Park, Old Standard Fried Chicken roosts in what appears to be a converted garage. A quaint patio area is fenced by planters which normally houses the four varieties of mint that the bar uses for its mixed drinks; however on our visit the mint appeared to have dried up in the insanely hot weather. Walking in you immediately smell cedar and oak as the restaurant/bar itself is nothing but wood. Exposed rafters line the concrete block walls and the old weathered floor gives that sort of refined industrial look to the space. The light fixtures were few and spaced far between due to the copious amounts of windows that allow an exorbitant amount of natural light filter in and reflect off the white walls. We were immediately greeted by our server and escorted to our table near the door. The menu is pretty limited but when you have a name like Old Standard Fried Chicken I’d anticipate the menu being geared towards fried chicken and it was. With such “old standard” items like fried pickles, fried shrimps, mac and cheese and mashed potatoes the menu held promise that our choices, while limited, would be delicious.
Instead of defaulting to bottled soda or a crafted beer, Kyle and I chose to indulge with one of the housemade sodas. A double cream and a strawberry cream. At $3.75 a pop we were hoping for something more then a slim 8 oz glass half filled with ice (probably only roughly 4 oz of actual drink) with a dollop of whipped cream on top. But for what it was which was a housemade soda it was delicious. The “snack” we chose the fried horseradish pickles which were made in house and our main meal we each picked the chicken deal which contained two pieces of chicken of our choosing, 1 trimming and a biscuit. Kyle chose the mac and cheese and I opted for the meaty greens. As we waited we enjoyed the atmosphere of the space. It wasn’t loud or crowded and it was pleasant. The wait staff was observant of when we needed our water refreshed and after about a 10 minute wait our pickles arrived. I wish I could say that these were phenomenal; however the breading used simply tasted like unseasoned flour and did no justice to the sweet pickle slices hidden them. The saving grace that added flavor to the snack was the spicy ranch dipping sauce and the sweet with a hint of heat pickle.
Our meal showed up around 10 minutes after our snack did. At first glance I was excited at the prospect of having a good ole fashion fried chicken dinner. Our server provided us with little side cups of butter and orange marmalade for our biscuit and a little side cup of hot sauce. One thing missing from the table was salt and pepper which was located next to the bar on a little side cart which housed their glasses.
First off the meaty greens. Collard greens smothered in smoked bacon which hey you can’t go wrong with bacon, but me not really being a huge pork fan I just ate around them. First thing right off the bat the dish was lacking in seasoning. Again there was a void where salt and an acid should be. The greens were still slightly crispy but given the fact that they weren’t seasoned did not make up for that. Kyle’s mac and cheese looked rather ooey and gooey but when I tried it I found our common theme. The dishes simply lacked any sort of flavoring. Sad really given the fact that this meal cost us $10.95 per person. Would the chicken be any better? I soon received that answer. No it wasn’t. I never really knew that it was hard to mess up fried chicken; however by eliminating any sort of brine or season it tasted dry and the rather harsh flour taste from the breading did not leave me much hope for redemption in this dish or this restaurant. I know I’m picky but when you have to drown a piece of chicken in hot sauce to partake any sort of flavor something is seriously wrong.
The only saving grace besides the amazing whiskey and bourbon selection was the dessert. Originally I had ordered the turtle pudding but was told it was out of stock, our server suggested the banana pudding, which per reviews of the restaurant was raved as a must have. It was wonderfully thick and you could actually taste the bananas and it did not give an artificial chemical taste. It was legitimate banana pudding which after much coercing Kyle tried along with his Johnny Down bourbon.
Sadly, our experience at Old Standard Fried Chicken was not good. After speaking to our server she advised us that the “chef” in the kitchen had only been there for about 3 weeks or so, but given that rather off reviews have been given about the food for a few months it more then likely is an ongoing trend. Don’t get me wrong, I strongly recommend this place if you are a bourbon/whiskey fan and also want a good pudding, but if you are looking for old fashioned fried chicken you’d had more lucky in the drive through line at KFC a mile down the road. Old Standard Fried Chicken? More like No Standard Fried Chicken. Sorry guys but the chicken is gonna be put down..and not in a good way /sadpanda