Updated: Nov 13, 2019
Winner Winner Chicken Dinner?
*This review was updated after a revisit. Check out the latest review here.
Sometimes you just gotta let your hair down and enjoy yourself.
I'll admit, I've lived in the Logan Square (the area is actually called Palmer Square, but nobody can ever remember Palmer) for 8 years and have yet to experience Parson's. When it first opened the lines around the block it seemed to have were very intimidating, especially since if there's one thing I dislike more than hipsters...it's the mind-numbing lines & price gouging that come with them. I get it, you want to charge $9 for toast so that people buying it feel like they're part of the "upper crust" or some special privileged few. Sadly, with Parson's... it fails miserably.
Alas I was out and about, enjoying the Chicago Winter and thought the place wouldn't nearly be as busy with the cold weather. Turns out I was right! Walking inside, I was greeted by the sweet sight of a 1/3 filled restaurant with plenty of seats. The decor is rather interesting and yet exactly what I'd imagine a mechanic shopped turned into a restaurant would look like with awkward table spacing, odd garage doors converted to windows, and a brick wall in the middle of nowhere. All seats in the place were pretty much bar stools except child sized. If you're a tall person (I'm 6'0) then you're going to be very uncomfortable unless you sit at the taller stools in the bar area. The stools had a cheap thin metal back to them as well (might've been polished plastic) which when I went to grab to pull the chair back I almost broke by accident. The whole decor reeks of a cheap IKEA knock-off setup which is very surprising once you start looking at the prices.
I found a table tucked away in the corner and began my adventure. The waitress promptly walked over and greeted me as I sat down. After another couple minutes of talking to other patrons she came around to me. I order a ginger beer, some Texas Toast, a fried chicken sandwich, and a demon style (extra hot) fried chicken sandwich. The toast was simply to try something else on the menu and to see what else the chicken could be paired with. After a 20 minute wait you notice one thing...service is SLOW here. I mean if the place is 1/3 full and it is this slow I can't possibly imagine what it's like when they are packed. At one point a couple sitting across for me had enough and just left. The waitress came around every once in awhile to refill my drink during an half hour wait.
A staple of the hipster restaurant is presentation. Parson's nails it here.
The chef brought out all the patron's food at once. Whether this was intentional I don't know, but what I do know is that by this point I was on my 3rd ginger beer so chances are slim I'd be able to eat all of what I ordered. Now that I think about it, maybe the plan is to keep you waiting in hopes that you fill up on free refills so that you don't feel robbed at the amount of food you get for the price.
A staple of the hipster restaurant is presentation. Parson's nails it here. Each menu item seemed to be meticulously thought out and prepared as if it was going to a commercial shoot. The chicken sandwiches looked amazing, but do they hold up? Sadly the answer is no. What took me aback is that the chicken was very moist, but rubbery as if under-cooked, a sign that the chicken might've been still frozen before it was battered and then fried in a hurry. The breading had a nice crisp yet still was tender. Taste wise the breading was very subtle as with most ingredients like the pickles, cheese, etc. Nothing stood out, but it wasn't bland. You can tell what was missing was a nice fresh tomato and maybe some high-end sweet ketchup to enhance the flavor profile. Still you can't shake the feel that something is definitely missing. The chips that came with the sandwiches were pretty good although they were easily the sloppiest homemade chips I ever had. Most chips were stuck together, creating several "super" chips, something which you see happens when you throw too many items into the fryer and leave it unattended without shaking it up. I feel like the chef that works the night shift was putting on an "amateur hour" showcase.
The Texas Toast was decent. It is 6 toast slices with garlic spread although they might've used a bit too much spread since every bite seemed to be dripping with butter. What's missing is some nice cheese on it. Still, it paired perfectly with the chicken. The "Demon-Style" chicken sandwich was just like the normal chicken sandwich except spicier. I was expecting a nice "kick" to it, but after trying the hot sauce they have at the table and seeing how it was nowhere near even your usual Tabasco sauce I didn't have high-hopes for the chicken sandwich. I took a bite and waited the usual minute for the spice to do it's thing. There was a bit of a mild burn, but that subsided after another minute or two. Again, everything about the chicken sandwich is engineered subtle, adding the "Nashville Hot" spice barely makes a difference. You get a hint of heat along with the profile of under-cooked chicken with a background of dill & the barely noticeable slaw.
The sweet ketchup matched up well with the chicken, Nashville spices, etc. and made it taste like Christmas.
Pricing is what mainly kept me from venturing here years prior and is what most likely will keep me from coming back again. The total for a ginger beer, 2 chicken sandwiches & texas toast was $40.85 ($33.85+ tip) which is ridiculous. The sandwiches alone were $11 each. I envy the coupled that just paid for their drinks and left since they still had money left to go spend on much better food with a better value as well.
Overall, typical over-hyped, overpriced hipster food. I might revisit this place during the day time when the actual owner/main chef is in to see if there's a difference in quality. In the meantime to test my theory about the tomato I took home half of my hot chicken sandwich, added a slice of tomato and some high-end sweet ketchup. Boy did it make a major difference! The sweet ketchup matched up well with the chicken, Nashville spices, etc. and made it taste like Christmas. Even just the tomato alone upgraded the sandwich. I honestly don't see why they don't include a tomato already and have ketchup at the tomato versus the subdued hot-sauces and oil infused with jalapeno.
3 out of 5 stars
Parson's Chicken & Fish
2952 W Armitage Chicago, IL 60647