Phil’s Chicken House was opened some 40 years ago by Phil Card, who learned his skills at Endicott’s Chicken Inn. His folksy wood-paneled restaurant is decorated to the hilt with country-crafty nick-nacks (souvenir plates, angel statuettes, lighthouse miniatures) and it attracts customers that range from local families to well-armed state police SWAT teams (who practice marksmanship nearby).
As you might guess by the name of the restaurant, the featured attraction is chicken – slow cooked, and relentlessly basted on a rotisserie until the skin is glazed gold and the meat drips juice. The breast meat is velvet soft; thighs and drumsticks pack a roundhouse flavor punch; wings, which carry maximum marinade, reverberate with exclamatory gusto.
Mr. Card told us that his chicken recipe is no secret; in fact it’s well known throughout the southern Finger Lakes. “It’s your basic Cornell chicken,” he said, referring to a formula developed by Cornell Professor Dr. Robert Baker back in the early 1950s. Dr. Baker’s vinaigrette, enriched with eggs and shot through with poultry spice, is now used as a marinade and/or basting sauce by cooks throughout the region.
While nine out of ten customers come to Phil’s for a half or a quarter barbecued chicken, there are plenty of other square meals on the menu, including pot roast, meat loaf, grilled ham, and steak. There’s a lunch buffet every day and a breakfast buffet on weekends.