In Baltimore, finding fried chicken is about as easy-and usually as pleasant-as finding a meter maid ticketing your car. Most establishments present unimaginative variations of the same, tired recipe: bland, salty, dry chicken coated with a floury batter. It's almost enough to make one go vegan, a move we actually considered. But we scrapped that idea the first time we tried the Bolton Hill Carry Out. The restaurant itself is nothing special, just a small, dingy sub shop located between a Rite-Aid and a hardware store in a tiny urban strip mall. On its menu, you'll find the usual suspects: cheese steak subs, sukiyaki on a roll, lake trout, French fries-all decent, but nothing out of the ordinary. The chicken, however, is something special. It is what nature and Florence Henderson intended fried chicken to be-hot, plump, moist, and tender, with a flavorful, crisp crust that crackles before it literally melts in your mouth.
The secret, according to Mike Williams, the guy in the baseball hat behind Bolton Hill's counter, is freshness. He says the shop uses extremely fresh chicken breasts, wings, and drumsticks and coats them with flour and spices at the beginning of each day. The chicken is then kept in refrigerators, where it stays until the moment it goes into the deep fryer. Fresh batches are prepared throughout the day. And once fried, these babies don't sit under heat lamps for long. Not that they have the chance-these birds are so good, they practically fly out of the store. There is a danger, though (and no, we're not going to get into fat content): The shop, which is open Monday through Saturday, closes at 8 p.m. If you get there after 7:30, you may find yourself out of luck. Our advice-get there early, and be prepared to wait. It'll be worth it.