Jan. 25 2012 12:00 AM

Augie's broasted chicken is worth clucking about


Equipped with a drive-thru and surrounded by three fast food outlets within a block’s distance, there’s no mystery what market Augie’s Broasted Chicken is aiming to serve.

The question then, is how does broasted chicken measure up to fast food?

First, a word on broasting, a trademarked method of cooking (usually chicken) in specialty equipment that involves simultaneous pressure cooking and deep-frying — “pressure frying,” as the Broaster Co. website’s glossy brochure boasts.

So two of my brothers and I took a trip to try this broasted chicken, and the consensus was that Augie’s does well in outpacing its corporate counterparts.

The promise of broasted chicken is that it is moister, tastes better than other chain chicken shacks and has less fat and fewer calories than other fried chicken — though, as one of my dining companions pointed out, that’s a bit like saying you smoke light cigarettes because they’re better for your lungs.

We went for the family meal #1 ($17.99), with eight pieces of chicken (two each of legs, thighs, wings and breasts), two large sides (homemade, we were told) and four homemade rolls.

The rolls were rustic, with a dusting of flour on top and a semi-dense, bready inside. They were just a touch sweet, and came with honey butter, which none of us particularly enjoyed. Butter I like, and honey I could do on a roll. But when they were mixed together, some strange alchemy must have happened: I couldn’t place either butter or honey in that thick yellow spread. It was sweet, to be sure, and it did reluctantly spread like butter, but I’m not a fan.

The other sides were a pleasant surprise, and we agreed they were primarily what places Augie’s a notch above a place like KFC.

The baked beans had a very nice sweet and sour play, and although the little chunks of onion that showed up here and there tasted a little undercooked by themselves, they did add a depth of flavor. The beans were soft and the sauce creamy and flavorful — couldn’t ask for much more.   

Unlike the homogenized version you’d get at most chain restaurants, the mashed potatoes had a few small chunks and, without the chicken gravy, they did taste like potatoes. So we figured they were telling the truth when they said this was all homemade.

The broasted chicken, though, is Augie’s raison d´etre. 

The seasoning is unobtrusive and complementary to the chicken, unlike other fried chicken spots around town that season their poultry so much it’s like a smack in the mouth. It’s a mild seasoning — applied inconsistently, in places almost nonexistent. The legs had virtually no added flavor from the coating, while the breasts were the most evenly seasoned.

Other than flavor, the coating was crispy without being brittle and not overly applied; in other words, we didn’t end up with whole mouthfuls of fried breading, although there was a bite or two that tasted suspiciously like fried shrimp.

The meat itself was juicy, just like they claim, most noticeably in the breasts and wings. Unlike the chicken at a place like KFC, it wasn’t scary juicy enough to make you wonder if the bird had been injected with “natural juices.”

For around $6 each, there was more food than three people could eat, so the price is competitive with the chains.

There were a few homemade desserts displayed in a glass case, and our order-taker, an enthusiastic manager with a cheery answer for any and all questions, recommended the rhubarb pie

It turned out to be a little too moist, the texture was not overly appealing and the flavor was a bit dull. Parts of it did hold together well, though, especially the back crust which was dense, buttery and flaky.

We tried a sugar-bomb lemonade cupcake, too, with a strong burst of lemon in the thick icing followed by a rush of sweetness.

The cake was a bit crumbly, perhaps from sitting in the cooler for too long, but overall, my companions were happy with it.

Augie’s is fun without being gimmicky — the lights above the tables are solid steep with red cage covers, just like the kind you’d find in a chicken coop. A giant chicken statue spins on the roadside marquee, and a chicken-costumed mascot visits every Thursday between 4 and 7 p.m.  Otherwise, the décor is modest and simple, and the logo, website and menu design quite well done.

If you want no-frills chicken, real home-style sides and prefer to support a local business over an international conglomerate, Augie’s is a worthy alternative.