Remember Bubba in the movie Forrest Gump? He's the guy who recites the myriad ways shrimp can be prepared -- fried shrimp, broiled shrimp, shrimp soup, shrimp salad, shrimp sandwich ... and so on. Substitute chicken for shrimp and you'll have a pretty good idea of what's going on at Street's Fine Chicken, where there's yardbird in just about everything, including dessert if you count eggs (a.k.a. yardbirds-to-be).
This Oak Lawn venture is the latest addition to the Street family's culinary empire. Patriarch Gene Street opened the first Black-eyed Pea in this very location, built it into a chain and sold it years ago. His kids founded the Liberty Burger chain and, last May, this place. Given Gene's restaurant genes, you'd expect this to be a well-run operation, and it is. The food may not be wildly imaginative, but it is mostly quite good and a good value in a town where few decent restaurants are this easy on the wallet.
Street's has the feel of a family labor of love, and it's a cheerful experience. Various members of the clan are likely to greet you on the way in and thank you on the way out, and the servers are warm and solicitous. The makeover of the original Black-eyed Pea has produced a light, airy dining room, all white wood and exposed brick. And how could you not feel lighthearted looking at the pictures of exotic chicken breeds on one wall, which will have you marveling at the coiffures some birds can achieve? Be sure to check out the Jackson Pollock-style pictures on the facing wall; they were painted by actual chickens.
The food can be similarly playful. Consider, for example, the chickarones, fried chicken skins dusted with chile-lime salt; health food they ain't, but they're addictive. The chicken lollipops -- drumsticks that have been smoked over mesquite and then fried -- are tender and flavorful, their deep smokiness nicely offset by a dark and sticky Grand Marnier molasses reduction.
Chef Tony Street, a nephew who is also chef and owner of Y.O. Ranch Steakhouse, does an especially good job of extracting flavor from his birds in dishes like the chicken and white bean soup, which comes loaded with pulled roast meat along with orzo and a few cannellini beans all swimming in an intensely chickeny broth. Same thing with the potpie, generously packed with breast meat under a lid of light puff pastry.
Street is also smart about adding flavor. The fried chicken is brined for 24 hours with lemon juice, sea salt and herbes de Provence before frying. The result isn't life-changing fried chicken (which, believe me, exists); it has sometimes come to the table merely warm, and the crust could be crunchier. But the meat is moist and pleasantly salty, and you get a nice herbaceous blast with each bite. His "roasted and toasted" chicken is a fine tender half-bird similarly brined before roasting, its skin coated in lashings of dried garlic, pepper and herbs before being crisped under a broiler. "Sin killer" chicken, a boneless breast or pair of boneless thighs, is marinated in olive oil, lime and orange juice, garlic, piri piri peppers and agave nectar, among other things, then grilled. It gets a kick from the peppers, fruitiness from the citrus and a hint of sweetness from the agave, though I wish it were a little spicier.
Each of the mains comes with a big, fluffy biscuit and a choice of sides, which include bacony collards, a truly cheesy mac 'n' cheese baked with Gouda and brie, and, appropriately enough, black-eyed peas redolent of cumin.
And if all this gallus gallus domesticus in its many iterations is too much for you, there are some non chickeny things to be had, including a moist, slow-roasted pork chop and a decent chicken-fried steak. After all, one imagines that even Bubba sometimes ate something besides shrimp.
Street's Fine Chicken (2 stars)
Price: $$ (appetizers, soups, salads and sandwiches $5 to $14; lunch dishes $10; dinner entrees $11 to $14; desserts $7)
Service: Friendly and fairly efficient. You can tell this is a family labor of love: Various members of the Street clan are usually on hand, keeping an eye on things and offering warm greetings.
Ambience: The site of the original Black-eyed Pea retains its antique bar, but everything else got a makeover. The main dining room has white walls and exposed brick, with comfortable bench seating, booths and tables. There are pictures of chickens on one wall, and -- believe it or not -- pictures by chickens on another.
Noise level: Minimal. It's easy to have a conversation.
Location: Street's Fine Chicken, 3857 Cedar Springs Road, Dallas; 469-917-7140
Hours: Daily 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Reservations: Accepted for parties of 10 or more
Credit cards: All major
Wheelchair accessible: Yes
Alcohol: Full bar, with several house cocktails, a couple of dozen beers, several of which are local, and a brief list of basic wines
5 stars: Extraordinary
4 stars: Excellent
3 stars: Very good
2 stars: Good
1 star: Fair
No stars: Poor
Average dinner per person
$ -- $14 and under
$$ -- $15 to $30
$$$ -- $31 to $50
$$$$ -- More than $50