First Look: Hen Quarter
BYT at large | Nov 18, 2016 | 1:30PM |

Photos By Nicholas Karlin, Words By Norm Quarrinton

Sweet waffles and savoury chicken?! On the same plate? And they’re touching each other? Count me in!

Let’s be real: despite the fact that it’s, quite clearly, an absolutely absurd concoction, the legitimacy of Chicken & Waffles as a classic American dish has never been in doubt–it should not work as well as it does, and there’s something incredibly hedonistic about the concept. It had to have been conceived by accident. There’s just no logical explanation for its existence. But it’s one of the South’s greatest gifts to an ungrateful world consumed by pseudo-European food snobbery. Needless to say, I was thrilled to see good ol’ C&Ws feature prominently on the menu at Hen Quarter–a trendy new environmentally conscious concept in Alexandria that serves updated southern-style cuisine using locally sourced ingredients.

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At the grand opening of the VA location, we were provided with a-la-carte mini portions from the starters section of the menu. Here’s a quick rundown:

Chicken Crackling
Pretty self explanatory, but way better than it sounds. And way more addictive than deep fried chunks of chicken skin has any right to be.

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Hot Pimento Cheese Skillet & Naan
Smooth, delicious, melted pimento that has a really pleasant, fragrant taste to it. Served with Indian-style naan bread to dip.

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Belly Pops
Skewered pieces of tender, sweet smoked pork belly, coated in a delightfully fruity fig gastrique.

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Deviled Hen Eggs
Wonderfully tasty deviled eggs. Each egg is served with a piece of crispy bacon that adds some excitement to the softness.

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The full dinner (or “supper fare”) menu promises to be reasonably priced, simple and solid–at least on paper. But as far as mains go, the magnum-opus is the aforementioned Chicken & Waffles. These were served buffet style, meaning we had to get in line, grab a plate and watch as the chef cook the waffles right in front of us, before hacking away and juicy, succulent cuts of chicken. Our plates were full, but we weren’t done yet–pour some syrup on me, baby! And behold, thermos flasks of maple syrup stood at the other end of the table, just begging to be poured.

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The cocktail menu is subtle and well-executed, and features a Mint Julep that’s about as close to perfect as any mint julep you’re likely to find in the DMV. The Old Fashioned is worth a try too.

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Hen Quarter belongs to the Pheast food group, who told us of their excitement at launching an eatery in Old Town that offers southern food, “as healthy as southern food can be.” They’ clearly optimistic about the concept, they have another Hen Quarter opening in Silver Spring, Maryland next month.

The combination of kitschy decorations adorning the walls and two chandeliers made from empty bourbon bottles may give it something of a theme-bar feel rather than the intended dixie charm, but the food is about as legit as it gets (this far North at least).

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Hen Quarter, 801 King St, Alexandria, VA, is open Monday through Thursday 11 a.m. to midnight, Friday from 11 a.m. to 1 a.m., Saturday 10 a.m. to 1 a.m. and Sunday 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.

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