PHILADELPHIA — Cheesesteaks are the celebrities of this city's food culture. They get all the attention but, as anyone who has dined at the famed Pat's or Geno's likely will attest, they can be painfully devoid of substance or taste.
For those seeking a burgeoning food scene equal parts substance and style, look no further than Philly's fried chicken, an eclectic collection of preparations that borrow from and complement each other.
The gold standard of Philly fryers is Federal Donuts (267-687-8258, federaldonuts.com), one of several ventures by James Beard award winner Mike Solomonov and partner Steve Cook. Federal Donuts offers multitudinous cured and twice-fried Korean-style chicken along with its namesake doughnuts. Chicken flavors range from Middle Eastern-spiced za'atar to mesquite-tinged Cowboy Coffee and the sweet-and-salty-glazed Dill Pickle. Orders are served with a honey doughnut, Japanese pickles and pieces of skin the size of potato chips hanging off of the bone.
Federal Donuts is not just the culinary brainchild of the famed "Solo and Cook." The pair claim inspiration for Federal Donuts struck after munching late-night wings half a city away at North Philly's Cafe Soho (215-224-6800).
Soho's red and black decor, video screens and speakers blasting Korean pop give it more the feel of a disco than a chicken joint. The trays of paintbrush-sauced soy garlic and spicy wings making their way out of the kitchen, however, quickly draw the most attention. Soho also features an array of fruit-flavored soju (Korean rice liquor) and bubble teas to cool palates tested by the spice of the elegantly crisped chicken.
Other Philly chefs entice eaters with more American stylings. Resurrection Ale House (resurrectionalehouse.com) serves its chicken with buttermilk biscuits and drizzled honey that's sure to make Southern hearts homesick. Show up on the second Wednesday of the month for its "beer school" featuring free samples of certain suds.
And for soul food fanatics, Elena's Soul (215-724-3043, elenassoul.com), a West Philly blues bar, offers wings marinated in hot sauce and dredged in specially spiced flour that are just as good as the tunes. No celeb pretense or Cheez Whiz required.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun