Eat This Now: Uncle Lou's Fried Chicken at Playground

Fingers: prepare for a lickin'.EXPAND
Fingers: prepare for a lickin'.
Edwin Goei

Jason Quinn's PFC at 4th Street Market has been closed for a few months now, but it hasn't stopped PFC's fans from wondering if its signature fried chicken and agave-nectar sauce might, ahem, cross the road and show up at Playground. For now, the answer is no. But in interviews I've read about the closure, Quinn has indirectly hinted that some of recipes might someday be revived at his seminal restaurant.

For now, Playground is serving the fried chicken it always has (at least since the last time I checked): the lightly-breaded drumsticks and thighs called Uncle Lou's Fried Chicken, which is inspired by the Memphis fried-chicken institution of the same name.

If you haven't had it, Playground's Uncle Lou's Fried Chicken is a different species of bird than PFC's chicken — or, for that matter, any other fried chicken you may have had, unless you've been to Memphis. The menu actually issues this warning: "The one item you can’t send back. If you don’t know what you’re getting yourself into, get something else."

An order of Uncle Lou's starts as standard pieces of deep-fried hen, but those pieces are soaked in a sauce redolent of vinegar. When a plate of it arrives at your table, the pungent smell swirls around as though bees around a hive. And when you eat a piece, the sharpness shoots up your nose as if smelling salts. But as soon as you acclimate to it, you find it tangy, sweet, with just a touch of spiciness at the end. You quickly devour your share and consider stealing whatever pieces might be left.

You can get four pieces for $10 or eight for $17. It's best to go with the larger order and get your fill now because at Playground, a restaurant that changes its menu nightly, Uncle Lou's might soon go the way of the Dodo, especially when PFC's chicken comes to roost. 

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220 E. 4th St.
Santa Ana, CA 92701


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