Charleston doesn't want for fried chicken. But Brooks Reitz thinks it's time to start thinking more broadly about the genre: Just as whole hog sauced with vinegar doesn't represent the totality of barbecue, chicken with craggy, slip-off skin shouldn't be considered the only fried chicken.
“There are different styles,” says the co-owner of Leon's Oyster Shop, set to open this weekend.
Fried chicken is one of two menu pillars at Leon's (as the name suggests, the other is oysters, available chargrilled and raw. Shucking will be supervised by Mike Rogers, who manned the legendary bar at New Orleans' late Uglesich's: Stories from the New York Times and USA Today celebrating his past achievements are already framed and hung behind the stand-up oyster station.) Reitz maintains the chicken is locally unique.
“I'd say the style it bears the most resemblance to is Nashville fried chicken, but without the hot,” Reitz says. “It's brined and breaded. And I think the magic occurs in the time it sits. The skin almost becomes one with the chicken.”
According to Reitz, if the chicken's put on parchment paper, “when you pick it up, there's no grease.”
The chicken is priced at $8 for two pieces; $15 for four pieces and $36 for a whole chicken with three sides. “It's a lot of food,” Reitz says, estimating the meal could serve four people.
“There's an opportunity to come in and have an affordable meal, or you can have a whole roasted fish from Mark Marhefka and a nice bottle of wine,” he adds.
Other items on the menu include a selection of snacks, such as shrimp toast and fried clam wraps, and a variety of “nice salads.”
“We want to be a neighborhood place,” Reitz says, explaining that diners are more likely to make multiple visits to Leon's over the course of a week if they don't have to eat fried food every time.
For dessert, there's vanilla soft-serve ice cream. The ice cream isn't an artisan product: It's standard soft-serve, served in cones that "taste like air."
“I went (for ice cream) with my son after dinner, and as I was eating the cone, I was like 'you can't beat soft serve',” Reitz says.
The ice cream will be sold inside the restaurant at 698 King St., and through a to-go window on the north side of the building.
Starting Saturday, Leon's will be open Sun.-Thurs., 11 a.m.-10 p.m. and Fri-Sat., 11 a.m.-11 p.m.