Mellwood Tavern chix… chick inn-esq

Remember Chick Inn? It was the place to go for fried chicken for years, until a fire gutted it, and it failed to recapture its magic after a rebuild. But the memory of that delicious, crispy, fried chicken lingers for many Louisvillians.

Well, a guy who once worked at Chick Inn is now part owner of Mellwood Tavern, and he’s bringing his version of that beloved fried chicken every Tuesday. It has been a pretty well-kept secret the past few months, but word is beginning to leak out.

Scott Crowder is the man behind said chicken, and he told me the prep process he uses is exactly the same as what he learned from his days at Chick Inn. The key difference, he said, is that while the Chick Inn batter was seasoned with salt and pepper and not much else, his batter adds several more spices.

The end result is chicken with a thick, crunchy coating that is bursting with Southern-style flavor, even while serving as a shell to hold in the chicken’s juices as it is deep fried. And Crowder doesn’t mess around when buying the chicken, either — a two-piece meal, which starts at $10 for dark meat and two sides, is more than enough to fill a belly.

When Mellwood first introduced fried chicken Tuesday, it was a bit sporadic and sometimes happened just once a month. In addition, the only two side options were spicy greens and a potato cake made from the same stuff used in the Tavern Tots (with some cheddar cheese and banana peppers mixed in). These days, the chicken happens every Tuesday, and four different options are offered.

My most recent visit yielded spicy green beans, which are seasoned with red pepper flakes for a nice bite, and macaroni and cheese that tastes homemade. The greens and potatoes are mainstays, but one week, Crowder even offered up succotash. You just never know.

Anyway, my friend Butch and I drop in at least a couple of times a month, belly up at the bar, and place our orders — he usually gets mixed, while I’m a white-meat guy; the price varies a bit if you get all white, simply because the meat is sold by weight, and the chicken breasts Crowder fries every Tuesday are enormous.

You might wait for a few minutes to get your order, as the tiny kitchen space is about the size of a motel bathroom, but it’s worth the time spent. And when your plate of food is presented to you, it’s a feeling similar to winning at bingo.

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I find that more and more people are coming in just for the chicken, and I’ve had conversations that go something like this:

Random person: “Did you come in for the fried chicken?”

Me: “Yes. You?”

Person: “Yes. It’s so good. I think it’s the best I’ve had.”

I halfway expect these people to tear up when they stop talking. Or to at least drool a little.

It gets better: Sometimes Crowder doesn’t sell out on a Tuesday night, and on those increasingly-rare occasions, you can stop in on Wednesday for a $2 piece of “ice box chicken” — your choice of pieces, just $2 apiece. And if you come in late on a Tuesday (Mellwood is open until 4 a.m.), you’ll get first dibs on chicken-by-the-piece.

This brings me to a strategy I learned from a fellow Mellwood chicken-phile: For $13, you can up your order to four pieces of chicken (even all-white) and two sides. During my last visit, Butch and I each ordered the four-piece dinner, and each took a few pieces home for future snacking. Ice box chicken is one of the greatest things ever, and I’ll debate anyone who dares to tell me otherwise.

Anyway, if you decide to try out Mellwood’s Tuesday treat, you can call your order in — (502) 290-3377 — before you come to lessen the wait, or just stop in, sit, have a brew, and enjoy the aromas coming from the tiny kitchen. Chances are the topic of conversation at the bar will at some point turn to fried chicken. And why not? It’s Tuesday, after all, and Crowder is in the house. •

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