Connecticut are you ready? I mean really ready. You may have fallen under the spell of what others have told you is Soul Food, but Chef Chris Scott, of TV’s Top Chef Season 15 and beloved Brooklyn restaurants Butterfunk and Sumner’s Luncheonette, is not playing around. He is giving you the real deal, with seasoning to the nth power, and a history lesson to boot. In just 48 hours of opening, the reception has been tremendous. So much so, Chef says, “I might just have to sleep down stairs for awhile.” The lines have been long and the orders have been flying out the window. Birdman Juke Joint is on everyone’s list to try. But that is the thing. You can’t, or won’t just try it. You will be swept away. Or, as the fellers I sat with at the bar did, ….you might just use every curse word imaginable to convey your newfound love.
When manhandling the hot sauces, the Extra Hot go cry home to your mama Bonnet sauce, or the Buy her some flowers Sweet Carolina one, one guy practically jumped off his bar stool and said to Chef (in the air), “I need this. Bottled. To take home. Now.” These same fellers downed a shot of Jameson, chugged their Pabst, and swallowed whole, the tremendously tasty chicken sandwich in the time it took me to load two pics onto the ‘gram. I turned to them in astonishment. “We were hungry and that was effin amazing.”
We then proceeded to have a ten minute conversation about how Chef Scott, goddamnit, knows his crisp and his crunch. Said bar feller was serious. “I mean he gets it. He doesn’t just fake the crisp on the outside. All the right layers of crisp and crunch are there. For Real.” Henceforth and hitherto why I woke up this morning and proclaimed Chef Chris Scott the PhD of Soultastic Crisp & Crunch. You see, it is not just there in the chicken sandwich, it is in everything, and with seasoning powers that defy understanding.
So, from my bar stool, which I think is the best seat in the house, and my Moon Goddess Moonshine cocktail in hand, I prepared myself for a continued pile up of flavors. The joint is just that. It is grab your flannel and jeans comfy, with reclaimed wood benches and brick walls. On those walls you’ll see pictures of family. These pictures are just one element of the History lesson Chef Scott shares. Back in January when we announced his venture, he shared with us the story behind the Birdmen and how they were the slaves who, when not allowed to own livestock, were allowed to own chickens, and with this, brought many of their families out of poverty. But on the walls, Birdman diners will find six generations of family up to Scott’s mother’s generation, starting from slavery. He notes, “I do it for them. Because of THEM, I’m able to do this. Their efforts pave the way and it is a story of resilience and triumph”
So, as I noshed on my cracklin’, the pork rind, chicharron-like yumminess that causes you to shake your head over its seasoning greatness, I marvelled over how upbeat and excited everyone was. It was like Christmas morning or your birthday.
From sweet and smoky to spicy and tangy, you will find every note and texture on the menu. The other exciting note, and something Scott is adamant about is, soul food is not all about the chicken and waffles, (Albeit tasty AF). As he told us back in January, such things were occasional, not everyday items. And that is why veggies and grains at Birdman Jukejoint are absolute stars, not just sides. The cauliflower rice and beans with kale can be a meal in and of itself, both tasty and hearty with a smoky bite that really satisfies; the beet salad with egg and pumpernickel and a mustard vinaigrette is fresh and sweet, and downright sexy, and the slaw has more tang and crunch then you may have imagined.
I later sat next to a sweet, young engaged couple who were happy Birdman was finally open. As they were looking at the menu, I overheard the feller mention, “You know, I’ve actually never had devilled eggs before.” I swallowed a gasp. And inside, I thought. OMG just wait man, because these will whip you into submission. They are EVERYTHING. I tried to keep quiet until later he looked at me, no joke, with eyes wide in surprise, “Wow. I’m finished. I don’t ever have to have another one again.” Right?! With the fried whites, whipped yolks, and a crispy whisp of collard greens on top. There is truly nothing like it.
Ok, class. Raise your hands if you’re all about the ooey gooey. Well, if you’ve had enough of the crisp and crunch and the smoke, and the tang or spice from the tremendous chicken, waffles, catfish, cracklin, slaw, and salads, then get your hands on the mac and cheese which, thankfully, comes in a small serving or you’d quickly be in a carb overload coma.
One of the most surprising dishes was the BBQ Seitan. Whhat? I know. I didn’t know what it was either, but heck, if you don’t eat meat, or skip it on occasion like I do for an all out veggie-tastic dish, this was phenomenal. Made from wheat, this high-protein veggie option has a slight steak-like texture and the way Chef Scott makes it, I promise you will not miss the meat. It is hearty and full of flavor. And, like many of the sandwiches, the savory, smoky bite is balanced out by their secret stash of candied peaches.
Of course, there’s always a sweet finish, and tonight, it’s the Nana Puddin’. Oh so delightful, creamy and sweet. I just, can’t, go on…….
So, just excuse yourself from wherever you are, and get to Birdman Jukejoint. It is waaaay more than you can imagine. Every item on the menu is not “just-a….”
Not just-a chicken sandwich.
Not just-a salad
Not just a devilled egg.
Just go. You’ll see.
Birdman Juke joint
2931 Fairfield Avenue