We do things a little differently around here
What do we value?
We believe that you should feel good about your food—where it comes from, how it’s prepared, how it is served and by whom. So when you eat our chicken, our sides and desserts, we hope you’ll spend some time thinking about the ideas behind every bite.
We serve only humanely raised, antibiotic free chickens from Miller Amish Farms in Indiana. Our trained chefs brine and batter it, and fry it in non-GMO, trans-fat-free canola oil. You’ll probably notice that the chicken we serve you – with the exception of the drumsticks – is boneless. That might strike you as weird. We thought so too. But after countless taste tests, we found that our chicken was even tastier that way. Plus, now we get to use the bones for other great stuff – like golden chicken stock that we use in delicious soup specials and our smashed potato gravy.
And we don't stop at awesome chicken. From the cheese in our pimento mac ‘n cheese, to the toffee in our cookies, to the cornmeal in our muffins, to the honey in our butter, we responsibly source ingredients from small farmers and like-minded, local businesses that share our values. Does it cost more? Yes. Is cooking, serving and eating real food worth it? Absolutely.
The entire staff is here to serve you with respect, integrity and a smile. We feel that all of our employees are an essential part of the experience at HBFC – the people in the kitchen, behind the counter and at your table – and as such they all split customer tips equally. We offer benefits to our staff – including health insurance, training and a fair wage – because when our staff is well-supported, well-trained and well-paid, they’re more satisfied and inspired to provide our customers with the best service possible.
Our community is filled with friends old and new, family, neighbors, chefs, food writers, activists and farmers. By walking in our doors, you’re taking part in that! Together with you, we work daily to uphold our responsibility to our community by reducing our impact on the environment.
In our kitchen, nothing goes to waste. In addition to breasts, thighs, and drumsticks, we craft dishes using the wings, tenders, bones, skin, and fat. We don’t dump the oil we use to fry our chickens – instead it’s sold back to our supplier, who transforms it into biodiesel fuel. We can do that because the single largest equipment investment we made was a closed-loop oil system. Not only does it use a lot less oil, but it’s safer for our employees because no one ever needs to empty fryers of oil or move large amounts of hot oil anywhere.
This philosophy of wasting as little as possible extends to every aspect of our restaurant. All of our packaging, from straws to cups to chicken boxes are compostable and biodegradable. In fact, we work with the Chicago Resource Center to compost 80% of all waste produced in the restaurant. Our philosophy also extends to our suppliers. We call them our friends and allies. They inspire our dishes and provide the ingredients that help make your dining experience unique. And damn tasty.
And that’s how we do things a little differently around here. We think it’s worth it and we hope you do too.
Where do our bones go?
We butcher whole chickens at HBFC.
Prior to opening, we considered ordering individual pieces instead of whole chickens. But we never felt quite right about the mechanized, machine-cut butchering process. There's something missing from the cycle of farm to table when a human doesn’t cut the bird.
We are particular about how we cut our chicken.
Starting with whole birds allows us to cut the ideal size and shape of our drumsticks, thighs and breast pieces to fry. As a bonus, we enjoy the benefits of the other parts – the bones, the wings, the fat and skin, and chicken tenders that keep our cooks constantly and creatively finding uses for them. None of the extra bits are wasted, which adheres us to our sustainability commitment.
We remove the bones from our thighs and breasts.
We did a lot of testing, side by side, of bone-in and bone-out breasts and thighs. To properly render the skin underneath our double-batter crust while simultaneously crisping the crust without burning it and cooking the meat through, we fry our chicken at a lower temperature (315 degrees). If you cook chicken too fast at too high a heat, the skin does not render, leaving it flabby and not delicious. Cooking our chicken at a lower temperature gives the meat time to cook through before the crust burns. What we discovered is that the bone-in chicken requires a longer cooking time and we weren’t able to achieve the level of juiciness we wanted without burning the crust. By removing the bone, the timing and temperature yielded the perfect results for rendered skin, cooked chicken and crispy crust. Plus, there is something quite pleasant about eating a piece of fried chicken without a bone – you can savour every bite. We found that our breast and thighs are more flavorful off the bone. Our drumsticks and roasted wings are bone-in.
There are a million ways to cook a chicken, and this is just one that we've arrived at, that we think is delicious.
So what do we do with all the extra bits and bones?
After we butcher the breasts, thighs and drumsticks, we are left with the carcass, two wings, two tenders, and a bunch of skin and fat. We butcher about 150 chickens a day (thanks prep cooks!) – so we have more chicken bones than you could possibly imagine. We make a super concentrated, golden demi-stock and then use that as a base for our gumbos, soups, pot pies, and gravies.
As for the skin and fat, we render them into schmaltz, or pure chicken fat. One of our signature sides is schmaltz mashed potatoes with rosemary gravy. We confit red potatoes and garlic in chicken fat and, once they are tender, we whip them with a little cream, salt and black pepper. Cold schmaltz is then mounted in the potatoes to yield a luscious texture. The rosemary gravy that tops the potatoes is made from a schmaltz roux and our golden chicken stock. The gravy is scented with rosemary and lemon zest. Yum!
We use chicken tenders on our nachos and our chicken and grits. For the nachos, we roast and shred the tender meat into a tinga sauce, and top it on tortilla chips we fry in-house, with cheddar cheese sauce, candied jalapeños, fresh salsa, and cilantro. Our chicken and grits are something to behold – white corn grits cooked with tons of roasted garlic, topped with roasted tenders, buttery hot sauce, scallions and chicken crust crunchies.
The chicken wings are high-heat roasted, tossed in sweet chile sauce, sprinkled with pickled red onions and cilantro and dipped in green goddess dressing. They are sweet, spicy, not fried and gluten free!