Phaedra Cook is eating her way through Houston and counting down her 100 favorite dishes of 2015. It's a collection of personal favorites that is also indicative of Houston dining. It's a scene where a vast range of dishes coexist: highbrow and lowbrow; local and international; cheap and expensive; modern cuisine and beloved tenets — and everything in between.
Back in 2011, Minh T. Truong wrote an article for the Houston Press entitled, “The Best And The Worst: Frenchy’s Chicken.” It compared the fried chicken at the original location at 3919 Scott to a suburban one in Southwest Houston. The upshot was that the original was superior and at the franchise location, “seasonings seem a little off, and the sides don't have that same down-home feel.”
Over the past few years, Frenchy’s Chicken has heartily embraced franchising and has since been on a rapid expansion track. There are now 27 locations in Houston, as well as others in Beaumont, Humble and Baytown.
It’s been four years since Truong’s comparison and seemed time to do it again. In any chain, consistency in the food is extremely important. This time, we compared the fried chicken from a modest Frenchy’s Chicken next to a gas station at Beltway 8 and North Gessner against the original.
Did the Scott Street location win as usual? Indeed it did, but by not by the giant margin expected. On several (but not all) pieces of chicken, the batter coating at the outlying location had a thick, crispy and satisfying texture. The original store's seemed more delicate than usual, actually coming away from the chicken in places.
Where the Beltway 8 location totally blew it though, was the flavor. The chicken was not burned, yet vaguely tasted like it was. Either a previous batch got overdone and left a tainted flavor behind in the frying oil or the oil was too old and needed to be changed.
The red beans and rice at the Beltway 8 location were actually better—creamier and more flavorful—than the original. Even though the original Frenchy’s added chunks of sausage to theirs, they needed more salt and other seasoning.
Oddly, although we purchased a ten-piece box at each location, our order from the original Frenchy’s came with only one, sad, dried-out roll while six nice, soft ones that came with the order at the other one.
The upshot: it’s a good bet that every Frenchy’s is doing its fried chicken a little differently. In truth, I've had some great batches from the Bellaire location and the one off I-45 and Tidwell.
Arguments about who has the best fried chicken could go on with great vigor for days, but it is undeniable that Frenchy’s fried chicken is synonymous with Houston and beloved by Houstonians.
The List of Top 100 Dishes of 2015 So Far:
No. 65, 3 Pig Mac & Cheese at Urban Eats
No. 66, Pucchia Pugliese Foggia at Sud Italia
No. 67, Triple-Smoked Pastrami On Rye At Kenny & Ziggy's
No. 68, Fume Pizza at Pizaro's Pizza Napoletana
No. 69, Banh Mi Thap Cam at Café TH
No. 70, Caramelized Onion Soup at Mockingbird Bistro
No. 71, Milk Chocolate Stout Malt at Fat Cat Creamery
No. 72, Pork Ribs at Roegels Barbecue Co.
No. 73, Carrot Pizza at Weights + Measures
No. 74, Jalisco Wings at El Big Bad
No. 75, Mussels at Cafe Brussels
No. 76, Cresta di Gallo at The Pass & Provisions
No. 77, Beef Fajitas at El Real Tex-Mex
No. 78, Chicken Tikka Masala from the Tandoori Nite truck
No. 79, Chocolates at Cacao & Cardamom
No, 80, Hummus Supreme at Al's Quick Stop
No. 81, Red Oil Dumplings at Mala Sichuan
No. 82, Tex-Cajun Fries at BB's Café
No. 83, Mac & Cheese at The Oceanaire Seafood Room
No. 84, The Principal Burger at Bernie's Burger Bus
No. 85, Hunter's Honey-Roasted Duck at Brennan's Of Houston
No. 86, Fish & Chips at Good Dog Houston
No. 87, Sausage, Egg & Cheese Biscuit at Blacksmith
No. 88, "Saucy Balls" At Brooklyn Meatball Company
No. 89, Perry's Steakhouse/Perry & Sons Pork Chop
No. 90, General Tso's Chicken from The Rice Box
No. 91, Eggs, Refried Beans, Hash Browns and Hugo's Sauce at 59 Diner
No. 92, Shipley Do-Nuts Plain Glazed
No. 93, Housemade Bologney at Public Services Wine & Whisky
No. 94, Bo Luc Lac at Cheno's (formerly Chino's) Fast Food
No. 95, Combo #5 at Soto's Cantina
No. 96, Carnitas Salad At Chipotle
No. 97, Pickled Shrimp At Punk's Simple Southern Food
No. 98, Lobster Roll At Maine-Ly Sandwiches
No. 99, Chili-Cheese Coneys At JCI Grill
No. 100, Corned Beef Hash And Eggs At House Of Pies