Feb. 10, 2016 SIGN IN | REGISTER

A Tale of Two Chickens: Capitol Dining Remains Separate and Unequal

Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call
House fried chicken should look familiar to fans of the Members’ Dining Room and the Capitol Market carryout.

We hate to break it to the hungry, huddled masses that routinely seek out House side eateries for sustenance, but when it comes to that guiltiest of pull-apart pleasures, fried chicken, you should be calling “fowl.”

Mind you, it’s not that the picnic staple is not available to rank-and-file patrons in either chamber. But the dining experience varies wildly depending on where you are perched.

The Golden Brown Standard

To be fair, the governing bodies in charge of catering to each side of the Capitol blatantly advertise that they’re serving competing foodstuffs.

“House Fried Chicken” is all you’ll get from the Capitol Market carryout in the basement of the Capitol. Same deal in the more polished Members’ Dining Room, which actually only features the chamber-specific bird on Wednesdays.

“Senate Fried Chicken,” on the other hand, is served daily within the easy-to-peek-over walls of the always-buzzing Dirksen Southside Buffet.

New York-based Restaurant Associates, part of the Compass Group North America’s hospitality services conglomerate, handles the feeding and watering of both sides of the Capitol, albeit via two independent and evidently completely uncommunicative administrative operations. Questions about the recipe development and sales performance of the dueling poultry offerings yielded little more than robotic, non-insights — “The fried chicken recipe in the Senate restaurants was developed by Restaurant Associates,” was the only relevant bit of information extracted after several rounds of calls and emails to Architect of the Capitol spokeswoman Eva Malecki — and corporate dissembling.

But here’s what we do know.

The House fried chicken is good. We’d go so far as to say very good.

The portions delivered to patrons in the Members’ Dining Room provide two pieces of chicken, a choice of white meat, dark meat, or a mix, escorted by complementary vegetables (sweet potato puree and steamed broccoli). The bird is lightly floured, which robs the meal of any signature crunch, but also probably spares diners a few unnecessary ounces of superfluous carbs. The meat, though adequately tender, does not bleed the juicy runoff of its meticulously brined brethren. The combined product is pleasant and perfectly filling, but it always benefits from a few squirts of the House-supplied Texas Pete hot sauce.

Southside’s fried chicken is a totally different animal.

Even a blind man would notice that the Senate’s signature bird is easily two to three shades darker than its House counterpart.

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