Some time ago, I met comrade and fellow food explorer FoodandPants at an unassuming little spot on 4th and Ave B called The Cardinal. The dark-wooded interior was casual and warm, lit only by candlelight and the smiles from the friendly servers (ha, I am so cheesy).
We ordered a gluttony of different southern meats like fried catfish, fried chicken, saucy ribs and homemade hot links. While the catfish was fresh, lightly battered with the right touch of cornmeal crunch, the ribs rightly tangy and tender, the sausage slightly spiced and meaty, the true star was indeed the fried chicken.
My mouth immediately watered with the harmonious sound of my knife and fork sinking into the thin, crunchy chicken shell, my eager eyes caught the glisten of the juicy chicken within, and with my first bite, my heart felt finally at peace:
This was superb fried chicken.
My smile grew wider with each bite (by the last bite, you could probably see all of my teeth). So flavorful! So juicy! So crispy! So good! The Cardinal definitely tops my list of the finer fried chickens New York has to offer, and while my search will still continue (as poultry passion is a neverending pursuit), I feel very comfortable knowing there is great fried chicken in our dear city, and I have found it thanks to Mr. FaP (read his lovely write-up here).
What is great about The Cardinal is that their sides are equally notable. For each meat we ordered, there was a friendly side companion which included blackeyed peas and candied yams (topped with an amazing blob of toasted marshmallow).
I loved these candied yams. I am a super-sucker for a great toasted marshmallow, but add that to brilliantly light, spiced yams, and I am in heaven.
The mashed potatoes were also creamy and light, and most importantly, reminded me of how my mom makes mashed potatoes. I feel that when food reminds you of home, it just makes it that much better. And if your mom does not make mashed potatoes like this, well that's okay. I am sure you will still enjoy them just as much because they're delicious.
A plate of freshly fried green tomatoes were crisp and bursting in bright flavor. I think I burned my mouth eating these, but truly, no pain, no gain, right?
For dessert, they served us banana pudding in a jar, which was creamy and fine but not particularly notable. They did remind me how much I love Nilla wafers.
However, a surprise delight of the evening was the waiter cluing us into his talented girlfriend who bakes the pies for the restaurant from their apartment upstairs. A few text messages to his significant other later, we found ourselves staring into a fresh-out-of-the-oven, warm slice of pecan pie topped with a luminous cloud of whipped cream.
It was dynamite. Much different than any pecan pie that I have ever had: the top layer of the pie was made of toasted pecans and the bottom layer of the pie was composed of the traditional gooey, pecan pie filler, except it wasn't particularly cloying or heavy, it was really great. This dessert was a perfect nightcap to a glorious fried chicken find.
For those of you who have been trudging aimlessly along from $17 fried chicken plate to another (what a plight, I know), definitely take a brisk walk east and partake in this charming Southern gem!
234 E 4th St
New York, NY