Many American cities have fried chicken places that inspire long waits and fanatical followings. Many aren’t worth a second visit. Revival is good enough to schedule into your weekly routine.
Three kinds of fried chicken are offered: classic southern, Nashville hot, and the semi-forbidden Poultrygeist. We say it’s pretty much off-limits because our server pleads with us not to order it. This beelze-bird is the southern fried chicken tossed in a gloves-off ghost pepper sauce that the employees handle with gloves on. As a compromise, the server brings us a squeeze bottle of this thick, hellacious chili paste to be applied according to our mettle. We dare to sample quite a few squirts, and shed tears of joy and suffering for every one. It’s serious stuff. For a more sensible spice application, the table is also adorned with black pepper vinegar and sweet potato-based cayenne sauce . All three complement the chicken in different delicious ways, but black pepper vinegar is the best-tasting. Although we do sometimes combine vinegar with Poultrygiest paste when our server isn’t looking.
For the chicken itself, both the southern and Nashville hot breading are true to their roots. One thing that makes them so good is that they are bathed in lard before marinading. Not kosher, but supremely delicious. We will say that the plain southern version takes better to the excellent sauces.
Our favorite dish might be buttermilk battered cheese curds, because this is the dish that most successfully fuses both the traditions of the Great Lakes and the Deep South. The creamy, salty curds are offset by tangy batter and a sweet honey drizzle, with optional buttermilk dressing as a dip. Since there is already so much applied to these curds, we found the ranch to be a dredge too far.
On the side, cheese biscuits and collard greens, both are memorable. The greens are perky, tender, and deeply infused with flavors from the pot, but not too acidic or greasy. The soft biscuits are light and blanketed with a layer of cheese and chives, making them rich and milky enough to stand in for mac n cheese or whichever buttery side you might have envisioned. Our experience here leads us to believe that the full menu is well worth tasting on return trips.
Revival is Southern food done exceptionally well. Its location up in the Twin Cities only ups the atmosphere and the prices of your lunch, but it doesn’t miss the soul of the cuisine. Its long lines and media clamor aren’t misguided. It is one of the best restaurants in town.