Sunday, March 14, 2010


in the old days, you could go to see a band at Rock Star Bar (under the bridge getting into South Williamsburg) and step next door into the back concrete alley to have excellent fried chicken & more at Pies-N-Thighs (a soul food eatery partially owned by Stephen Tanner, of the noise band Harvey Milk). Considering Rock Star's sometimes grueling schedules (I remember when a friend's grind band made the trek up from Baltimore to play, it turned out that the show had been completely double-booked, and so they had ten bands on the bill chugging away until 3am), it was a welcome place to get a bite and spend some time outside of the drinking establishment.

but the city made some noise about the rickety smoker and a host of other zoning-type violations, and Pies-N-Thighs closed, promising to re-open. Years went by. Steve Tanner sold his stake in the business and went to work at Williamsburg's Egg (which became an amazing restaurant in its own right). Another ex-PnT chef, Carolyn Bane, sold her fried chicken out of Roberta's in Bushwick). The promise remained unfulfilled.

and then, signs of life. Bicycling to work through the Southside, I often saw a small storefront and back garden in the process of being remodeled. The word spread that Pies-N-Thighs was coming back.

last week the new PnT opened its doors. as Priya and I were going to be in the area for a show (Heks Orkest at Bruar Falls), we stopped by for dinner.

The restaurant's clearly in those early days; a single waitress seemed incredibly busy and she rushed around trying to serve every table in the joint. The busboy couldn't really keep up, either; we waited and waited for a table to be bused, and more tables opened up, remaining unbused, as more people came in...finally we sat down and pushed the old water glasses and chicken crumbs to the side ourselves. Another substantial wait before we got to order (but it's not like the waitress was outside having a cigarette; it was just very crowded).

I got a $10 fried chicken box, which came with a biscuit and a choice of side (collard greens). Priya got a $10 pulled-pork plate with a side of mac and cheese and an extra order of cornbread ($2). For dessert, a $4.50 slice of Key lime pie.

First, the good: the fried chicken was outstanding, both in the quality and taste of the fry and in the meaty quality of the chicken (some places are more bony than anything else). It is, essentially, the go-to place for fried chicken in that neighborhood. I also liked the sides, and the pulled pork had a fine taste and texture. The Key lime pie perhaps didn't live up to the Steve's Authentic level, but was still extremely good and worthy of fulfilling the expectations of "pies" in the restaurant's name.

There is some room for improvement, though. The cornbread seemed dry, and didn't come with butter (when we asked, we received a little bowl of rock-hard fridged butter that didn't do much to overcome the dryness). I liked the biscuit, but Priya thought it, too, was on the dry side. The biggest disappointment was probably the pulled pork plate, though. While the pork itself was very good, it was served on a flimsy roll that was already soaked completely through when the dish arrived--completely inedible as a sandwich. (If they gave you the roll on the side, like Fette Sau or many other barbecue places, that problem would be easily fixed). Also, there were no barbecue sauces of any sort (besides standard hot sauce) available with which to dress the sandwich. I like when you have a selection of mustard-based, vinegar-based, sweet, hot, etc. sauces. Lastly, I was disappointed that the mayonnaise-based coleslaw came smeared on the sandwich already. Yuck.

Also, the restaurant was very, very brightly lit. Like cafeteria-glare lit. I know PnT is not a pretentious New-Brooklyn-Cuisine-style den of guanciale-infused fried chicken, but halving the lights would have made for a more comfortable eating experience.

For a restaurant in its first few days, though, PnT really impressed me. I think they have some kinks to work out, but I would be back, and would recommend the restaurant to anyone in the area who wanted high-caliber fried chicken.

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