Napkin Shrinkage

Yesterday JV, the Bus-Riding Conservative and I walked down to the North Market, passed the Veterans’ Day parade, and headed to Hot Chicken Takeover. For those of you not familiar with HCT–which I reviewed on this blog in 2015–it offers happy diners the opportunity to enjoy highly spiced, incredibly juicy fried chicken.

In such a place, where eagerly anticipate that they will be mopping up fiery chicken juices from hands and face and attempting to shield their clothing from drips and stains, adequate napkin supplies are essential. And yet, Hot Chicken Takeover–like most other restaurants that fall below the cloth napkin line these days–provides only skimpy single-ply napkins like the ones shown above. The napkins are woefully insufficient to provide meaningful lap protection. Even if you carefully try to construct a multiple-napkin lap shield, the napkins will flutter to the ground with the slightest movement or the mere whiff of air caused by a passing patron. And the cheap napkins will quickly become soaked and ripped to shreds if you try to use them for any absorption activity other than a dainty dab at the corner of the mouth. By the end of the meal we had assembled an impressive pile of damp, mangled napkins that we had to clean up and throw away along with our food container.

In short, yesterday we witnessed a total mismatch between napkin and food. And, as noted above, this seems to be an increasingly common, and disturbing, phenomenon in the restaurant business. Gone are the days when restaurants supplied sturdy napkins that could be unfolded to provide useful lap protection, or even tucked into the collar, and then used to clean off hands and mouth. I know those kinds of napkins still exist, because we have them at home. Evidently they are just too expensive, and the zeal for cost-cutting has led restauranteurs to offer clearly inadequate napkins instead. It’s an irritating trend and makes me wonder just how small and flimsy restaurant napkins might get.

Stop napkin shrinkage. Bring back adequate napkins!

Hot Chicken Takeover

IMG_5027There’s a new sensation drawing throngs of diners to the North Market.  Called Hot Chicken Takeover, it appears on Thursdays in an otherwise unused space on the second floor, deftly serves thousands of hungry Columbusites eager to savor some delectable yardbird, then vanishes again until the next weekend approaches.

Yesterday when the Ex-Neighbor and I arrived the check HCT out the line was already long, and a look of bug-eyed chickenlust was on the face of every would-be patron.  A friendly worker handed us a menu, and the E-N and I scanned it as the line moved along.  We quickly decided on our choices — both featuring waffles — as the tantalizing scent of fried chicken hung heavy in the air and workers called out the names of people whose orders were ready.  In the meantime, some lucky souls were seated at long tables covered with red and white-checked table, already attacking their food with frenzied glee.

IMG_5028I got the thigh and leg combo; the E-N went for a chicken breast.  We both chose waffles over bread (which costs a bit extra) and selected the “hot” flavor (HCT has four seasoning options, with “hot” being second behind a mouth-burning level described on the menu only with a curse word) and took our seats.  After a few minutes of pleasant conversation, our styrofoam containers of crunchy goodness arrived, and we dug in.  The chicken smelled wonderful and tasted better than excellent — piping hot, juicy, with tons of flavor and a rising, accumulative heat level that left me greedily sucking my fingers and nibbling on bones searching for final scraps of meat until the E-N discreetly advised me, with just a hint of embarrassment, that I needed to wipe my face and start acting my age.  The spicy chicken goes perfectly with the sweetness a waffle and syrup, and the mac and cheese side dish, which is light and bright and not leaden with cheese, is a fine complement.

When we left a sign advised that HCT had sold out of two of its options, and by the end of the lunch hour it was all gone.  No surprise there!  When a place that serves fried chicken this good pops up — even if only in a mysterious, only-on-some-days, end-of-the-week way — it’s going to be ridiculously popular.  Now we know why.