By Joanna O’Leary
We live in divisive times. Finding common ground on social, political, and economic issues with your neighbors, co-workers, and partner’s conservative boss (yikes) can be daunting. But in the culinary dimension of life, there are two things that prompt the convergence of the opinions: fried chicken and donuts. Some call them unhealthy, but all admit they are delicious. Consumed separately, donuts and fried chicken are amazing; consumed in conjunction, they’re transcendent. Hence the universal appeal and immediate success of Lee’s Fried Chicken and Donuts, the newest venture from the F.E.E.D Texas restaurant group. Given the success of their other establishments (BRC Gastropub, Liberty Kitchen), it’s not entirely shocking that Lee’s provides consistently good food and service.
What is pleasantly surprising is that whereas other high-performing establishments, including those gems in F.E.E.D. Texas’ portfolio, often rely on sophisticated and/or gussied-up dishes, Lee’s achieves greatness by offering mind-blowing versions of two veritable simple staples of American cuisine.
First, for those who want to (pretend to) eat healthy at Lee’s, there is a perfectly respectable kale salad with pulled white meat chicken served with a peanut dressing.
And now for the rest of us.
The chicken is very, very juicy, strongly suggesting a good brine prior to frying. The thick crust has a hint of pepper and is just verging on oily in the best way possible. Another admirable aspect of the fry coating is that its texture is sufficiently sturdy as to remain on the chicken in the midst of frantic noshing (er, I mean, tasteful consumption). It’s a sad day in Whoville when a beautiful fried piece of poultry sheds its skin prematurely, leaving one forced to manually reapply batter to breast.
Fried chicken also forms the basis of Lee’s playful sandwiches, all of which are served on buttery buns and can be had “Lee’s way” (add coleslaw upon request). The “regular” fried chicken sammie with bread and butter pickles is irregularly (and pleasantly) spicy due to the inclusion of crystal hot sauce mayo; slightly softer on the taste buds is the “Vermont,” which layers warm ham, sharp cheddar, and apple butter.
The donuts at Lee’s are not just dessert, and to that end should definitely not be relegated to the status of “you only get one if you’ve eaten all your dinner.” Alternate savory fatty bites of fried chicken with sweet fatty bites fried dough rings frosted and topped with crumbled Oreos, Butterfinger bars, and even bacon. Or, do as die-hard Lee’s fans do and use the glazed donuts as the carbohydrate base for an impromptu sandwich. What’s grander and even more glazed than the donuts? Answer: the apple fritter whose awesome girth is the result of the combination of an extra thick shell of cinnamon-speckled dough and a robust filling of softened apples drenched in more cinnamon and sugar.
Sharing the aforementioned fritter is definitely more fun with your inamorata/o, but since Lee’s has very limited seating, takeout is your best option. A dozen pieces of chicken, a dozen donuts, and a bottle of wine, and you’re set for date night.