Thursday, November 10, 2011

Off the Map: Slowest Chicken Ever

Southern Fried Chicken -- Ms. Tootsie's Restaurant Bar Lounge, Philadelphia, PA
Ms. Tootsie's Restaurant Bar Lounge

Had we been forced to procure roast chicken with our pommes puree at Parc, we have decided that we would have brought it to Ms. Tootsie's, where we are supposed to eat Robert Irvine's favorite FRIED CHICKEN, to have them fry it for us.
BYOC: Bring Your Own Chicken
Lucky for all involved, our hands are roast chicken-free when we arrive at Ms. Tootsie's Restaurant Bar Lounge on South Street.
Even If This Chicken Is the Protagonist of Ginger's Latest Reading Venture
Now, we are fairly certain that this place, when it was featured on Best Thing I Ever Ate, had been called "Ms. Tootsie's Soul Food Cafe."  So we had expected to arrive at a quaint dining room featuring pink tablecloths and Grandma's floral china.  Instead, what we find when we reach the given address is the equivalent of a nightclub.

It appears that somewhere along the line, Ms. Tootsie's name changed to the punctuation-deprived "Ms. Tootsie's Restaurant Bar Lounge" (apparently, Ms. Tootsie does not believe in commas).  Outside the front door, a large crowd of potential diners as already assembled, and the hostess manages to be flustered yet completely lackadaisical in the face of the mess before her.  When we hear that the wait for a table will be an hour an a half (at 5:30pm!), we inquire about their take-out option.  The hostess sends us to the bar to order, and we encounter the complete opposite of a "soul food cafe" for the first time.

Ms. Tootsie's features dark, moody lighting, white leather couches, and pounding music that does not remotely match the music videos being played on the flat-screen televisions (this disparity bothers Ginger so much during our wait that she keeps downloading samples of the music video songs on her phone so she can hear what they sound like).  Maneuvering our way to the bar, we manage to place our order for one thigh and two drumsticks with the very pleasant bartender.  He tells us our order should be ready in 15 minutes.

35 minutes later, and after ample consultation, our order finally appears.
Wow, Those Leafy Greens Look... "Impressive"
And this lack of efficiency seems to be a huge issue for Ms. Tootsie's... Whatever It's Called Now.  The whole time we are waiting, at least three tables stand completely empty in the dining room, while the crowd outside grows and grows.  The staff are all milling around with no set tasks, as the cake tray girl is also the soda girl and the bathroom girl and the take-out girl, depending on the minute (or, based on the pace of the workmanship, depending on the "5 minute interval").  Adding to the chaos, the restaurant's computers are down, so they are cash-only for the night.

The whole scenario, for lack of a more descriptive term, is a "hot mess."

Literally, hot.  Besides the lighting, the noise, and the lack of urgency, the place is toasty, and the whole thing is making Ginger feel increasingly ill ("I don't think you understand how much bread I ate at Parc.  I had a slice of the French bread, a slice of the wheat bread, and three slices of the nut bread.  I can't handle this").
Ginger's Bread Basket of Binge
Finally, when our to-go chicken arrives, and we scramble away from Ms. Tootsie's as fast as the mob at the front door will let us.

Now, however, we are left with the conundrum that we are virtually homeless -- where are we going to eat our chicken?!  Then, as if sent as a beacon from the southern fried gods, the lights of Whole Foods appear before us.  We enter, buy beverages so that we'll look less like interlopers in their dining section, and dig in.

The chicken is fine.
And Not Nearly As Impressive as Our Ability to Trespass
We have pretty much figured out that our initial reaction to Best Thing I Ever Ate dishes coincides with our final rating.  If we instantly moan, nod, and mumble variations of "Mmm," it will turn into a 5 or a 4.  If we pinch our lips, crinkle our nose, and chew like we're about to gag, it will turn into a 2 or a 1.

If we do absolutely nothing, the dish is 3 stars.  It is nothing more than adequate.  And so goes the fate of Ms. Tootsie's chicken.
Welcome to the Middle Class, Ms. Tootsie's
The batter, which we are incapable of telling whether or not is attached to skin, is crispy and crunchy, but the flavoring so utterly lacking compared to our friends at Hill Country Chicken that it is almost laughable.
I Played My Drumstick for Him, Pa Rum Pum Pum Pum
The meat is not particularly juicy, but it's not dry either.  It's just... there.  Besides the fact that the chicken is not remotely greasy (frankly, Vodka believes a bit more grease wouldn't hurt the situation), it tastes no better than what one would find at a local grocery store or, dare we say, at KFC.
Colonel Sanders Would Not Be Impressed
For all of these reasons -- their service, their decor, and their chicken -- Ms. Tootsie's remains an enigma to us.  We would say that they should just stick with what they're doing well, but frankly, we haven't figured out what that is yet.

Ms. Tootsie's Restaurant Bar Lounge's Southern Fried Chicken: 3 stars

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