Ruthie’s puts the soul back in soul food.

For our latest group dinner escapade, one of my friends (who is moving out west to go to film school) requested that we go to a place with good fried chicken.  He was inspired (proving that I’m not the only one following his column closely) by Mr. Sietsema’s recent article comparing a trifecta of bird joints, I think, and, for the first time in my group dinner history, we picked the closest and most convenient option.

Ruthie’s, at 96 DeKalb Avenue, is both close to home and close enough to Manhattan to make it an easy stopover on the way home from work.  We’re awfully glad we did make that stop, and not just because Ruthie’s was comfortably air-conditioned (this weather…).  The woman I am assuming was the proprietress (though I don’t know if her name is Ruthie) was as sweet as they come, and the food her establishment slings is beyond excellent.

The chicken itself was a revelation.  Minimally coated with flour before the frying, Ruthie’s lets the skin do the heavy lifting – keeping the juices in and providing the crunch that satisfies.  Some friends were pleasantly surprised that it lacked the kind of heavy duty coating made infamous by KFC.  All I had to say on the subject was, “thank God.”

The sides provided even more of a reason for joy.  Firstly and foremost, the candied yams were breathtaking.  Lacking all of the worst attributes of your mama’s thanksgiving recipe (particularly the overbearing sugary sweetness), Ruthie’s yams tasted like the best pumpkin pie you’ve ever had, only in chunk form.  I was tempted to ask for the recipe, but considering how good they are, it’s probably a state secret.

Mac and cheese and collards were also good options, though many were left reaching for the bottle of hot sauce provided at every table (after my own heart).  The cornbread that comes with the approximately $10 plate (with thigh-leg or breast portions and two sides) has a crust that will leave you angling to break off crunchy pieces of everyone else’s squares.  The potato salad was perhaps the most generic side I tasted, but it would not be a bad option if you were attempting to re-create a backyard barbecue of your youth.

The best thing about Ruthie’s?  They must put something special in the chicken.  For the rest of the evening, post-dinner, I felt an overwhelming sense of calm and satisfaction descend upon me, and I am pretty sure it wasn’t just heatstroke.  This feeling differed from the average post-meal coma by virtue of its lack of sleepiness and the total absence of any post-grease stress disorder.  I realize that this makes me sound like a new-age-leaning crank doctor.

It might not be scientifically quantifiable, but I’ll be going back any time I need a karmic salve.

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2 Comments

Filed under NYC

2 responses to “Ruthie’s puts the soul back in soul food.

  1. The Management

    Sure you didn’t accidentally order the special breading? I had the same feeling happen once after a very nice Mexican meal, except it was so powerful I had to flee the piercing glares of all the accusing patrons.

  2. It’s the endorphins, I tell you!

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