Call it a stroke of genius, or simply a chance to serve up some of the best food known to mankind, Carmon’s first ever “pop-up dinner” last night was about perfect in every way.
The generally revered French bistro, which is closed on Mondays, has announced that they will be transforming their space into an entirely new restaurant with a specialty menu every two weeks. On Monday, chef Josh Boyd and GM Jenna Frye kicked off their new idea as a “Fried Chicken Shack” and without mincing words, they nailed it.
Diners lined up early, and by the time we got there, it was packed with a 30 minute wait to get in. By the time we sat down, that wait was at an hour. A half hour after we left, the food was gone.
And for good reason. The menu was perfect, and executed extremely well, given the circumstances.
If you’ve ever cooked your own true fried chicken, you know how hard it is to make it and make it well. These birds, which were locally sourced from Triple S farms, were brined in a choice of buttermilk or sweet tea, and fried in a puddle of pork fat in cast iron skillets on the stove top. It takes about 20–25 minutes PER piece to make sure that they are cooked through. The challenge is to ensure that the oil doesn’t burn too hot and ruin the crispy breading. On the whole, save for a few pieces, chef Boyd did wonders.
Our table stuck to mostly the chicken, mashed potatoes, cornbread, succotash, collard greens, and the gravy. And to put this in the most basic way: it was the gravy that was the star of the show. We had our waitress go back for at least four more sides of the gravy. And it had nothing to do with the fact that we wanted to hide the flavors of the chicken or otherwise. The gravy was simply that good. It was the best fucking gravy I’ve ever had in my life. I am likely to go to change.org and start a petition to ask Josh Boyd to start bottling his gravy, or offering it in an IV. Seriously. The best.
Aside from that, the collards were simmered wonderfully with pulled pork, and the cornbread was dense and flavorful. The mashed potatoes were light and fluffy. If there was one thing that could be criticized, it was that it took us about 45 minutes to get our food, but we were also fully aware of the score: to get this right, it demanded a good, solid wait. And so we did — and drank up Rhubarb Mules and Moose Drool beers in the meantime.
The crowd was lively, and smackin’ their lips and lickin’ their fingers all through the night. Although our chicken was just a touch on done side (see above) it didn’t taste burnt by any means, and the meat itself was tender and delicous. The prices were totally reasonable as well: $15 for two pieces of chicken, a biscuit, and two sides. With gravy. As much of it as you wanted. Gravy was the word of the day, folks.
Next up, on Monday June 25, Carmon’s will transform itself into a Maine-style Lobster Shack. And that only means one thing: lobster rolls. And if you’ve ever had a lobster roll, you’ll know how perfect they can be. I mean, after all, just look at this face. Have you ever seen someone as happy as this?