Southern cuisine is synonymous with fried-chicken – but what does northern-fried food entail? At The Dirty Bird Chicken + Waffles, which recently opened in Kensington Market, owners bring a distinctly Toronto feel to the classic American comfort food. That means waffles get a dose of everyone’s favourite Canadian condiment: mighty maple syrup.
The slick storefront is a departure from the market’s landscape, with no kitschy knick-knacks in sight. Here, the attractive signage and branding is part and parcel of the overall look that’s been brought together by a team comprised of chef Adrian Forte (previously Rock Lobster and Chopped Canada), Daniel Quintas and Josh Scott (both from Insomnia). The tight room has a few stools dotted around the giant windows facing Kensington Avenue, with a large communal table anchoring the middle. Lunchtime lineups commonly snake out the door.
Dirty Bird has been open a month already, and if you come after noon, you’re likely grabbing take-out (their sturdy boxes are pretty adorable though). Eating in provides a more controlled environment for such gluttony; the napkin receptacle never left my side (neither did the syrup). Wet naps are thrown in for good measure and were mandatory for the Clucker ($12), which featured a generous portion of wings resting on a fluffy waffle, with honey garlic sauce and coleslaw on the side. The crispy fried wings were perfectly cooked and seasoned, and all of the same size and proportion. While the coleslaw wasn’t up to snuff (neither acidic nor crunchy enough) who’s really eating vegetables at a time like this?
The ODB ($15) was a challenge to get through. It may be that I have a somewhat delicate constitution, but sometimes things like this are just too good to be true. After eating about half, the ODB’s novelty wore off; the once light-as-a-feather waffle was soaked in syrup and grease and the chicken’s crusty coating was washed away by what resembled sweet Thai chilli sauce (Dirty Sauce). The accompanying potato salad was creamy and stuffed with tender peas, and the added veg took away some of the sting from the shame spiral of my daily caloric intake.
Like the ODB, the Dirty Fries ($7) shared a similar fate. The first three bites were interesting, and then you wait around for something other than sweet to hit you – a hit of heat or even more salt would have brought more structure to these fries, but the dirty sauce overwhelms the mix of fried and green onions and the cheddar doesn’t melt enough to bring it all together. It mostly falls flat.
Dirty Bird certainly has the right talent and pedigree, and with a novel concept like “northern-fried,” they have become a destination for curious munchies. With a little re-tooling of the menu (but definitely not the branding) they’ll have all the right ingredients for success. Just like ODB himself once sang, “Hey, dirty, baby I got your money…don’t you worry.”
Will you be hitting up Dirty Bird for some northern-fried chicken? Let Vv Magazine know in the comments below or tweet us @ViewTheVibe.