I love how fried chicken has exploded on the dining scene across the country as if it’s something new. In the poultry realm you got good ole country style fried chicken, Nashville style hot chicken, different breading and batters, and a plethora of other topics to debate about in the food nerd world. But fried chicken has been around since like the early 1800s, so why is it such hot item right now? I have absolutely no idea. All I can do is tell you that fried chicken is delicious when it’s made properly, but you already knew that. In Louisville alone we have dedicated chicken restaurants like Royal’s (a personal favorite), and the explosive Joella’s Hot Chicken, which has quite a few restaurants in the area already, despite only being open for a couple years now. Quite possibly the best fried chicken of all is right across the river at Gospel Bird in New Albany. All this to say that the yardbird competition is stiff here. The Highlands recently lost El Camino, and it was traded out for The Eagle, a food and beer hall that focuses on fried chicken. With locations already established in Cincinnati and Columbus, Ohio, and one in Indianapolis too, The Highlands makes the 4th restaurant.
On my visit I sat at the bar as I normally do. Some changes were made inside the former El Camino space, and it seems to fit their style a little better as a southern eatery. The draft beer list focuses on craft beer from local and regional breweries, with a nice selection of flavors. As I looked at the menu, I noticed that The Eagle uses free-range chicken from Ohio farms. I like that. Your eyes are immediately drawn to the center of the menu where the fried chicken is. Quarter, half, or whole chickens are available, and there’s even an option to make it a family meal with sides. The sides run the southern gamut from mac and cheese to greens, succotash to spoon bread. There are quite a few sides to choose from considering the size of the rest of the menu. Other than fried chicken, there are a few sandwiches, a few salads, and some snacks. I saw the fried chicken sandwich on the menu, and decided that it would be the best of both worlds: I love sandwiches, and their specialty is fried chicken, win-win. The bartender explained to me that the fried chicken breast on the sandwich is slightly different from the fried chicken entree in that the breast is not brined. That’s ok, I want it. It comes topped with homemade coleslaw, house pickles, and spicy mayo. I’m all about the breading anyway.
When this sandwich came out, it was an intense moment for me. I mean this thing is massive! It’s completely understandable why the sandwich comes out on its own cutting board. After I cut it in half, I went for it. All the flavors make sense. The texture is on point with the crunchy pickles against the creamy slaw. I didn’t catch a lot of the spicy mayo, but I have to believe that they put the right amount on there so not to overpower the crispy breading flavor. That breading is pretty righteous. It has a nice savory and salty balance, and the coleslaw didn’t make it soggy, which I really appreciate. Surprisingly enough, I was able to finish 3/4 of the sandwich before giving up. Did I mention that I had fries? Yeah, I had fries too. They were strong as well. The fries are seasoned with some rosemary and other herbs, and they come with a zesty aioli for dipping. Yum.
All in all, my experience at The Eagle was a great one. And while competition is fierce throughout the city, the Highlands remains a pizza saturated neighborhood lacking something like this. I think it fits nicely, and I will certainly return for a 1/2 chicken someday soon. Don’t forget that patio season is almost upon us, and that patio is one of Louisville’s best!
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