What’s your perfect Southern meal? Does it include things like ribs, red beans and rice, collard greens, hush puppies, or mashed potatoes? Mine is fried chicken, biscuits, and mac ‘n cheese. You can’t get much better than that! It’s what I ordered at Pies-n-Thighs and exactly what I ordered here, at Root & Bone. But let me back track a little and tell you more about the restaurant itself before I start telling you about just how wonderful my meal was. (Hint: really wonderful)
Root & Bone is the product of Chef Jeff McInnis and Chef de Cuisine Janine Booth. Besides being quite the cuties–seriously, go look them up–they are extremely talented. McInnis attended culinary school in South Carolina and then traveled around the world to places like the Virgin Islands, North Africa, and Europe to expand his culinary profile. He’s appeared on Bravo’s Top Chef, was a 2012 James Beard semifinalist for Best Chef South, and a 2013 finalist for Best Chef South. Booth is just as impressive, having also traveled throughout the world, sharpening her culinary skills in countries like Italy, France, Austria, and Thailand, and attending Le Cordon Bleu. She’s even been on Top Chef herself (albiet a different season than McInnis) as well as Last Chance Kitchen. And yes, they are a couple!
Root & Bone’s website says that it’s all about “soul nurturing, conscientiously sourced, farm-fresh ingredients” and that it’s “a tribute to the timeless recipes and traditions of a rural America and the warm embrace of its hospitality.” The interior design of the restaurant evokes this theme of hospitality by striking a balance between casual and chic. Faded wood accents, hanging light bulbs, wire baskets of produce, small wall shelves with vases of flowers, antlers on the beer taps, hanging planters, mismatched china, cloth napkins…it all adds up to be the perfect example of rustic charm.
Another self-descriptive phrase you can find on Root & Bone’s website is “a craftsman’s ethic coupled with artistic culinary thought.” Sure, this is Southern, comfort food, but it’s also elevated to something a little more elegant. According to a NY Post article, the chicken is brined in a mixture that has sweetened iced tea, sugar, salt, bay leaves, and pepper. Then it gets coated in spiced flour and is cooked in a pressure fryer. The final touch is a sprinkling of dehydrated powdered lemon. This ain’t your grandma’s fried chicken!
Besides the chicken, you can order small plates like Drunken Deviled Eggs and Low Country Mussels; bigger plates like Wild Mushroom Farro Risotto and Skrimp & Grits (yup, they spell it “skrimp”!); sides like Stone Ground Cheese Grits with pimento cheese and cornbread crumbles and the Buckwheat Waffle with Cheddar and whiskey maple syrup; and vegetables like the Roasted Heirloom Carrot Salad with wheat berries, kale, and dill yogurt and the Grilled Butternut Squash with ginger raisin barbecue, seeds, sea salt, and “black pepper marshmallow.”
My friend and I split the Grandma Daisy’s Angel Biscuits, half bird, and macaroni and cheese. We were first served the biscuits and that’s when I knew that this was definitely going to be classier Southern food. They’re served as thick little squares (no Texas-sized portions here!) with honey roasted chicken jus for dipping and some thyme and toasted benne seed sea salt on the side. Heavenly. Next up was our fried chicken, which was everything it should be–crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside. I’m a fan of the way they fry and treat the skin here. Last was the mac ‘n cheese made with elbow pasta and some crunchy, cheesy biscuit and thyme crust on top. Gotta love mac ‘n cheese with a breadcrumb topping! When you’re digging into your food, don’t forget to use the Tabasco honey sauce* they have on the table. It really makes each bite of fried chicken outstanding. *Mental note to make this at home.
This was such a lovely meal from the moment I stepped into the restaurant to the very last bite. Root & Bone is a place that knows what it wants to be and how to execute it, and I say thank you, because I’m loving the end result.
Grandma Daisy’s Angel Biscuits, half bird, macaroni & cheese
200 E 3rd St
New York, NY 10009