Sunday Chicken in Round Top (from Katie)
When I was growing up, fried chicken and Sunday were synonymous. Church at 10 for Sunday School followed by the service with lots of hymns. Then lunch at Ruby Lee Elliston’s Woodson Inn: two drumsticks, mashed potatoes with not-from-a-package gravy and canned English peas.
Ruby Lee’s chicken was fried in cast iron pans. Not your fast-food fried chicken.
Yesterday I tasted five (gasp, but it was for a good cause: Meals on Wheels) pieces of fried chicken in Round Top. Those chicken parts definitely had more relation to Ruby Lee’s than the ones you get in a box or bucket.
Pity the generation who’ve been raised on drive-through chicken provided by moms like me who think it’s a lot of work to fry chicken correctly.
I would be happy to pay any of these cooks to fry chicken for me: Jack Gilmore (Jack Allen’s Kitchen – Austin), Hoover Alexander (Hoover’s Cooking – Austin), Brandi Key (PUNK’S Simple – Houston) and Jerry Lasco (Max’s Wine Dive – Houston) and Bud Royer (Royer’s Cafe — Round Top.) I mean if they can do it better than I can, I think that is a good enough reason to pay for it!
I had never eaten chicken made by any of the contenders before Sunday (though I was a regular at Hoover’s when I lived in Austin.)
For the bragging rights
Ultimately, the People’s Choice award went to Royers — and I loved the light crust and the very juicy meat — while Jack Gilmore’s version took the overall award; coming in second was Max’s Wine Dive. While I didn’t eavesdrop on the very intense discussions I observed, the judges were serious: Pat Sharpe (Texas Monthly), Addie Broyles (Austin American-Statesman), Greg Morago (Houston Chronicle), Tom Koch (ABC Houston – KTRK) and Marla Camp (Edible Austin).
The street in front of Royers was filled with people roaming around gnawing on a chicken leg. I plopped down by two women from Austin — neither had been to Round Top before and had bought tickets based on a Facebook post from Hoover’s Cooking. They were partial to Hoover’s, and Jack Allen’s when all was said and done. A couple from Tomball joined our picnic bench…and they are regular Round Top visitors. I think they leaned toward Max’s chicken. Enjoyed visiting with all four of them as we did our own judging amongst ourselves.
While the “sides” were not part of the official judging — we collectively discussed them as
extensively as the main dish. PUNK’s biscuits were wonderful, extremely wonderful…oh man, were they good. Max’s Wine Dive had greens — a very fitting side for fried chicken. Jack Allen’s slaw — with peanuts and maybe a hint of jalapeno was a nice change. Hoover’s baked beans with barbecued pork — we all agreed that was a winner.
I admit I love potato salad
So, one of my favorite foods in potato salad. (My husband HATES it when I ask how it is
fixed when I go to a restaurant.) So, maybe Royer’s got extra points from me because they served potato salad with my chicken leg. Creamy…lots of chopped dill…and cubed new potatoes. That will never be confused with institutional vats of potato salad.
Never know who you will see in Round Top
In addition to my new friends from Austin and Tomball, I talked to people from Cypress, who were meeting their daughter from Austin — because Round Top was half way. They simply wandered into the fun. A mother and daughter from Barcelona were there. One of Round Top’s soon-to-be citizens: Rick Perry and his college buddy Tommy Orr, who is a Round Top resident. Kelly Truesdell, who blogs at The Crush List — and Jay Francis, a fried chicken blogger. And Fifi O’Neill was in town doing a photo shoot (more about that later.)
Nice way to spend a Sunday afternoon — chicken in Round Top
If you missed it, mark your calendar for June 12, 2016 for the next challenge.
And come hungry.