It's been a fine summer for fans of fried chicken in National City. In June, City Heights favorite Crispy Fried Chicken opened a second location on East Plaza Boulevard, between the 5 and 805 freeways.
925 E. Plaza Boulevard, National City
This here's one of those rare occasions there is truth in advertising. The Vietnamese-owned chicken spot has been gaining word of mouth renown over the past decade by living up to its crispy-fried name — the batter-fried birds coming out of its kitchen are incredibly succulent, with flavorful crust hitting the sweet spot between crunchy and light.
While you may find Asian influences on the menu, in form of fried rice or egg rolls, the inspiration for the place actually turns out to be Louisiana-style southern traditions. Besides chicken, the menu offers such items as cornmeal crusted catfish, popcorn shrimp, and red snapper. If you're really into it, you can get fried chicken gizzards and liver.
Louisiana hot sauce comes complimentary, while you may add alternatives such as ranch, honey mustard, BBQ and buffalo style wings sauce for 50 cents apiece. If you're inclined to complain about that upcharge for a small plastic ramekin of sauce, bear in mind that the food itself is almost unreasonably cheap. A two-piece order of thigh and leg goes for $2.99, while a 15-piece family size mix of white and dark meat costs less than $20.
Incredibly, that's cheaper than the Popeye's fast food chain, even when you combo up the meal to include sides. Now, as much as I do love the chicken — I've been to one or the other location five or six times this summer — the sides routinely disappoint me.
For one thing, if I order take-out, there's a good chance one of my side dishes goes missing. Meanwhile, the cole slaw, mac & cheese, baked beans, and fried pickles have all been mediocre, in my opinion. Balance just one of these against an order of fries or mashed potatoes, and on the whole you'll get a satisfying, if not very healthy, meal. Especially if you add biscuits — they're a little heavy, but I dig 'em.
My favorite order has been chicken tenders. You lose a certain satisfaction of eating naturally oily meat off the bone, but the breast filets in the tenders are too juicy and briny to miss.
I try to limit my exposure to this much seductive fried food, and I doubt I want to know how the prices stay so low. But if these guys keep opening Crispy Fried Chickens within a ten-minute radius of my home, it'll be tough to stay away.