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Sound Bites: Finding the best fried chicken in St. Louis

Mamacitas Ancho Fried Chicken & Waffles from Atomic Cowboy
(Courtesy: Sauce Magazine)
Mamacitas Ancho Fried Chicken & Waffles from Atomic Cowboy

There’s new interest in an old favorite: fried chicken. It’s one of the ultimate comfort foods, and has become a popular dish at St. Louis’ old and new restaurants.

Old Standard Fried Chicken is one of those new restaurants, opening in October. As its name indicates, the restaurant specializes in fried chicken.

“I like to describe it as just an old standard fried chicken,” Old Standard chef and owner Ben Poremba told “Cityscape” host Steve Potter on Friday. “It doesn’t make any grand statement about being particularly great. It’s just good fried chicken.”

Poremba also owns Elaia and Olio in the Botanical Heights neighborhood, but fried chicken has long been one of his favorites.

“It’s probably my favorite comfort food. Maybe not now after eating, for the past year or so, good amounts of it, so I’m a little sick of it by now,” he said. “It’s my favorite food. My German grandmother used to make schnitzel, which is a pounded-thin version of fried chicken, skillet-fried. When the opportunity came about for me to open another restaurant nearby my other restaurants, I wanted to create something that’s quite different — sort of doing an homage to an American staple was the idea.”  

But not all fried chicken is created equal, as Ligaya Figueras, executive editor of Sauce Magazine, pointed out.

“To me, the key elements are quality chicken — I think good flavor begins with good quality chicken; the brining; the coating, so you’ve got flour and spices and that seasoning — you need it for the good seasoning and for nice crunchy fried skin; the quality of the frying oil that you’re using and what are your decisions on the oil; and then your method of frying, which is going to be maybe deep-frying, maybe cast-iron skillet,” she said. “There’s a lot of elements. It’s not just frying chicken.”

Before setting up shop at Old Standard, Poremba said he traveled to more than 500 fried chicken restaurants, adopting the best of what he found at each. At Old Standard, the fried chicken is broasted, or pressure-fried, which cuts cooking time and ensures a nice crisp skin.

Getting the skin of the fried bird just right is more about personal preference, Poremba said.

“As many fried chickens as there are, there are opinions about it,” he said. “Some people like their coating very thin or naked. Some people like their coating very thick and crunchy and crackerlike. Some people like cornmeal in their coating; some people like flour. Some people like it very spicy.”

See how the fried chicken is made at Old Standard:


Sound Bites is a monthly segment produced in partnership with Sauce Magazine.

“Cityscape” is produced by Mary Edwards and Alex Heuer and sponsored in part by the Missouri Arts Council, the Regional Arts Commission, and the Arts and Education Council of Greater St. Louis.