It is 2:30 a.m. and when we should be tucked in bed and fast asleep, we are on a quest to satisfy an urgent craving for fried chicken. The good news is, we know just where to go. In fact, it is because of this place, the same one we have found ourselves frequenting over the past year or so, that we are craving for fried chicken to begin with. It has become a hard habit to break of late.
My first time at Army Navy did not disappoint. Upon Richard’s recommendation I had ordered his favorite soft taco that always comes with two kinds of sauce — a tomato based one spruced with cilantro (Yum!), and a creamy one that tastes special (I do not know what is in it but it tastes delicious, and can even be a heavy salad dressing). Together, these two must go on the mound of chopped meat that sits nicely on the soft taco. Like a baby in a blanket you gather and fold it up in half and bite into it, careful that none of this delicious goodness escapes from the other end. There are three of these in one serving. It is perfect each time.
Because I like the stability of routines, I am one of those that end up ordering the same thing in the same restaurant because 1) I fear getting disappointed when the food I order falls short of my expectations (this is especially distressing when I am hungry 2) my choice of restaurant is always dictated by my craving to begin with (which brings me back to number one). So it took a while before I tried the quesadillas. (Very good, too!) For a stretch of time, each visit was always a toss between the two. They became very good friends of mine.
But the big framed photo on the wall always haunted me — two pieces of chicken, fried to a golden brown sitting beside rice and a cup of gravy. Fearless Fried Chicken it was called. I would have ordered it in a heartbeat, as it reminded me of all the delicious fried chicken I grew up eating — during birthday parties, homemade by mommies and lolas and yayas and manangs in their own home kitchens. You know, uncomplicated kind that is perfect in its simplicity.
This particular day it, at this very ungodly hour, we are on our second Army Navy branch. The one in Fort had ran out of fried chicken, and I am seriously nervous the one in Jupiter St. would have none, too. The nice lady behind the counter, Hussein is her name, confirmed my fear — the fried chicken was unavailable. Oh my. At that moment it really started to feel like a bad joke was being played on me. I ask her why it is not available. Apparently, they do have the chicken but the fryer was being cleaned. If we really wanted fried chicken, we would have to wait. For 45 minutes. We have come this far, and I did not hesitate when I said we were willing to wait. I figured we could always order a soft taco, and chat, and before long it would be served — fragrant and beautiful and oh-so-perfect. It came in less than 45 minutes and yes, yes, yes, as always it was everything fried chicken was supposed to be. I always eat it with my hands, it adds to the joy of the experience. Made fresh, served hot, enjoyed all the way to the bone by the very hungry, this is the kind of chicken you take your time enjoying. You break the crispy skin, and peel through layers of still piping hot juicy meat, making time to have little conversations in between. Many times you will have to withdraw and blow on your fingers but again, shouldn’t freshly-cooked fried chicken prompt you to do just that? But you persist, because each bite just gets better and better.
Back during my childhood, when most everything was simple, it was easy to find simple fried chicken. But what do you know. As life and the world grew more complicated, so did the fried chicken in the market. There was always something extra happening — a special stuffing, some sauce, more expensive ingredients in the batter, more this, more that. But more is not always better. I so missed the fried chicken of my childhood years. Especially when I am feeling under the weather and I turn to the comfort of food to soothe, if but temporarily, all that is weary about me, I miss simple good fried chicken. Crisp, fried just until the skin is golden brown, the meat tender and juicy. Fried chicken that is perfect even with just rice and a cold drink.
My gauge for knowing if a dish is really good is when I leave the place already planning my next visit back there. Each stop at Army Navy encourages that behavior. Fearless Fried Chicken. In the here and now, this has to be the most delicious kind of madness.