A by all accounts very attractive-looking chicken from Georgie. Jody Horton

Cooking

Rotisserie Chicken Can Be Heavenly. Georgie’s $65 Rotisserie Chicken Bummed Me Out Instead.

The chicken at Knox-Henderson newcomer Georgie could use a little TLC (tender loving crispness).

First thing’s first: I think Georgie is a gorgeous restaurant with cushy persimmon-hued booths and NYC-levels of thoughtful design. The service is attentive. Cocktails are likewise tasty, if a little flashy. Vegetable side dishes are not an afterthought. And the steaks, oh the steaks—grass-fed filets, 45-day aged rib-eyes, Wagyu black angus, New York strip sourced from Australia—are all treated with careful reverence. But today I’m here to be admittedly nit-picky. I’m here to call out the rotisserie chicken.

I wanted to love it. I wanted Georgie’s rotisserie chicken to knock my soul out of my body, have it float up above the dining room, do a little shimmy, then come back into my person for a When Harry Met Sally moment. That didn’t happen.

There’s a reason we only roast turkey once a year in November: It’s cumbersome as hell. The chicken, though, is demure. It’s reasonably roastable and you don’t need a spare bathtub to defrost it. Plus, roast chicken is one of those dishes that, when done right—clouds parting, sunshine beaming, angels-singing-on-high kind of right—can make everything okay. Truly. But when it goes awry—sadly seasoned, rubbery chicken skin—it’s the sad trombone of poultry.

That’s why I often order one if I spy it on a restaurant’s menu. I love a good, crisp-skinned, golden brown, top-notch roast bird. But more importantly it’s a decent restaurant litmus test. I respect anyone who can put a well-executed chicken on the dinner table as a slew of order tickets barrage the kitchen. So on a recent outing I ordered the rotisserie dinner for two. 

It comes with two sides (we got the beautiful creamed endive and the meh potato roasties). And it will set you back $65.

I’m not sure anyone who’s dining at white-tableclothed Georgie is scoffing at the price tag. But still, you want your meal to be, well, quite good. The chicken, when it arrived table side in its oval copper pan, appeared a little anemic. No tan? No visible crisp? Already quartered, juices assuredly released. Its paler-than-I-would’ve-liked skin was slipping down the breast, revealing less-than-succulent meat. You know when they spin the wheel on the Price Is Right and as the contestant’s second turn lands on a number that puts them over/too-under $1, the woeful horns blare wah-wah? That’s the sound I heard when I ate this.

I had a rotisserie bird and two sides ($25) from Street’s Fine Chicken as a pulse check. It was satisfying and nice! I also got one from Kroger. It was on the wah-wah side, but it also was $7.

But here’s the thing: My first impression of Georgie is still a really great one. I’d certainly go back. While $65 is, to me, a pretty penny for chicken, I may give it another go. Georgie sources its poultry from a few different local small-scale farmers (Cartermere Farms, for one) who, says head chef Toby Archibald, “are doing things the right way, the way things should be farmed, the way animals should be raised.” Something we can all surely get behind. Responsibly sourcing meat and produce costs what it costs, and I support restaurants who support independent farms.

Also, these are Freedom Ranger broiler breeds—not the mega-size commercial chickens—which, with their longer breasts and leaner, running-’round-the-pasture muscles, can be trickier to cook. As far as cooking process goes, Archibald says they “tried everything under the sun.” Different spice blends. Different methods. Some brined, some not. “And then we sort of narrowed it down, [and] I got it down to something that I really liked,” says the chef. All this recipe testing was done in ovens, but once they started running chicken drills on their rotisserie, some things had to be tweaked. The brine wasn’t working (the skin couldn’t get crisp enough), so they dry-salt them, hang them in the fridge overnight to drip out any excess moisture, then add their own spice rub. “There’s cayenne, there’s a good amount of celery seed…a bit of cumin…coriander seed, white pepper, and a few other bits and pieces.”

Now that sounds like a really good roasted bird.

Perhaps the move is to try it straight from the rotisserie. And soon you can. Georgie’s new butcher shop tucked right next to the dining room opens this month. You can order the chicken as well as premium beef cuts expertly sourced and carved via old-fashioned butchery. (Prices are pending, but it won’t be $65.) Also expect charcuterie, terrines, and prepared foods to go. The shop will also serve sandwiches at lunch and offer breakfast with fresh juice and pastries from Up On Knox. There’s some counter and patio seating, too. Maybe it’s where I’ll perch when I tuck into a Freedom Ranger, one more time, just to be double-extra sure.

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