You get three (or four) pieces per order, along with a tub of terrific mint chutney for dipping. By the way, all the chutneys are amazing – the zesty green onion yogurt is the most soothing; tamarind and date are the sweetest – and complete the meal in a number of equally satisfying ways. In typical street food style, chicken is served as chopped chunks and dark meat unless otherwise requested.
“My fondest memory of fried chicken is a very specific street cart that existed far from the city of Kolkata where I grew up,” Mazumdar said. “It was a deal we made that any family member or friend that passed by this station would pick up bags of this stuff for everyone. The pieces were similar in size and texture to the chicken we make here, and it was just the most deliciously ungodly thing you could have.”
There’s also an excellent fried chicken sandwich at Rowdy Rooster, available in two sizes – the Lil’ Rowdy comes on a homemade pao roll – as well as Pandya’s sticky chili chicken, which is fiery as hell and is also available in a vegetarian version made with cauliflower. According to Mazumdar, this latest creation is based on the type of fried chicken popular in eastern India, a legacy of Chinese immigrants who settled there in the 1700s. And this pao makes another appearance in the dormant hit. from Rowdy Rooster, the vegetarian Vada Pao, a potato dumpling and green chili sandwich smothered in sauces that Pandya calls as street snack in his native Mumbai as the hot dog is in midtown Manhattan.
Pandya said coming up with side dishes was actually the trickiest part of building the menu, as there really is no tradition in India of always serving fried chicken with other things. Either way, he was clearly up for the challenge, and the four served at the Rowdy Rooster totally reigned supreme, from the cooling tubs of Tomato Rice to the restaurant’s other surprise hit, Eggplant Pakora. You’ll also want to get a Mango Lassi while you’re here, of course, or a can of punchy Thums Up Indian Cola.
There’s seating for about 12 at Rowdy Rooster if everyone’s rushing, plus a piece of counter you can gobble up your standing chicken on. The cramped space still feels like a party, thanks to the design and the riotous, colorful soundtrack of the Indian bangers. And as always with Pandya and Mazumdar, in addition to playing gracious hosts and feeding you exceptionally well, there is also a deeper mission at work here.
“Unapologetic Foods’ vision is to reach people in every way possible.” said Mazumdar, “to celebrate our cuisine with us and understand how Indian cuisine is not one-dimensional. If we continue to create restaurant after restaurant, it will explore regionality, but it will not always make it affordable and accessible. And then comes something like this little concept of fried chicken, which kind of encapsulates the vibe of all the little joints that exist in India that we grew up with. It reinforces this idea of difference and diversity in food Indian.