Review: Patachou opens Crispy Bird, Indy's Newest Fried Chicken Joint

The art and mastery of fried chicken is a complex and controversial one. Purists gravitate towards the familiar: buttermilk brined, dredged, and fried golden. The adventurous dabble in the Korean-style iteration or the in vogue Nashville-style. Crispy Bird, the latest offering from Martha Hoover’s fempire Patachou, Inc., finds its place in the refined: it is classic southern fair with all the French flair that you would expect from the Patachou brand.

I visited Crispy Bird, located at 49th and Pennsylvania St., on opening night. The space is clean and intimate with a focused monochrome palette accented by white oak walls and gorgeous earth tone-colored stoneware. The interior sends a well-articulated statement: This is not your mother’s fried chicken shack. It’s Martha Hoover’s.

 The food reiterates this message. Browse the menu and it is immediately clear. I would bet the next round of boozy Crispy Bird cocktails that the last fried chicken joint you visited didn’t have chicken liver tarts or pommes puree or the option to add truffle shavings to your mac and cheese on its menu. 

On my first visit, I started with the buttermilk biscuits, and you should too. Fluffy and reaching equisitely volumous heights, the biscuits were buttery and flaky, and served alongside a lovely housemade maple brown butter.

 The twice baked potatoes were somewhat underwhelming. Though the varying textures of the crispy shell and pillowy potato purée worked well together, the flavor of the cheddar was too subtle. 

But I didn’t come to Crispy Bird for the sides and small plates. I came for one thing: the fried chicken. This Patachou newcomer enlists a specific heritage breed of bird—the American Freedom Ranger—for their fried chicken. 

I ordered the sandwich. Served on a soft, buttery brioche bun and accompanied by slaw, pickles, and spicy mayo, the sandwich was expectedly delicious. The chicken was moist and tender with an appropriately crisp and deep golden crust. It was balanced and refined. The spicy mayo lended a nice, subtle heat that was offset by the acidity from the pickles and slaw. The softness of the bun was a perfect canvas for these flavors and textures. This was a fried chicken sandwich with purpose, designed for maximum impact.

 The unexpected delight of the night, though, was not the fried chicken (Don’t get me wrong, the fried chicken sandwich was good). The mini pork tenderloin sandwiches spread with the French sauce gribiche were a marvel. The sauce was complex and full-flavored. The fried pork was seasoned and sublimely tender. It was an one of those acute food experiences where you finish your dish, and immediately begin planning when you can come back and enjoy it again.

 Martha Hoover and the team at Patachou are veterans at this craft, and it shows. Even on opening night, the service was fantastic. The sides, mains, and drinks impressed. It’s hard not to marvel the ease at which Crispy Bird (and the entire Patachou family of eateries at large) seems to achieve its success as a new dining experience, finding its clarity in pushing the boundaries of food and the conceptions of what a restaurant can be in this tumultuous and unforgiving industry. Crispy Bird embraces this Patachou, Inc. spirit, and it should be celebrated for that.