Tuesday night is fried chicken night at Watershed.
Watershed is a Decatur-based establishment dedicated to Southern cooking and owned by (depending on who you ask) either one or both of the Indigo Girls. The executive chef is Scott Peacock, whose “Southern Cooking” is a recent cookbook bestseller, available at your local cookbook dealer.
Yes, Tuesday night is fried chicken night–as long as you arrive by 7:30.
For those of us who have a Negotiations class from 6 to 8, this poses a problem.
“What time are you coming in?” asks the reservationist.
“8:30,” I reply, gingerly.
“Oh,” she says with concern in her voice. “There probably won’t be any fried chicken left.”
“Can’t you save us some?” I ask much like Oliver Twist asking for more.
“I’m sorry sir,” she says. “That’s impossible.”
So Chris and I arrive at 8:26, prepared for disappointment.
I ask the hostess with the same reserve the parent of a dying child questions a doctor as to their offspring’s life expectency: “Any chicken left?”
She smiles. “As a matter of fact.” Dramatic pause. “Yes.”
We are shown to our table in a room that looks a little too industrial to be serving Southern food. Yet, the room has a pleasant quality to it also: a sourceless radiance that makes the temperature outside a distant memory. Our waiter approaches us with aplomb.
“What’s that?” we ask.
“A plomb,” he answers.
We wait for this awkward moment in the narrative to pass and order drinks.
“Sweet tea!” I say.
“Me too!” says Chris.
“Ah ah,” says the waiter. “No sweet tea. Just unsweet tea.”
What kind of Southern dining establishment is this?
“Two unsweet teas, then,” we reply.
He returns with our drinks and we order our fried chicken.
“Okey doke,” says the waiter, and scurries off to the kitchen.
Since this review concerns Southern dining, I will make this mid-section Faulkneresque.
My mother is a fish.
Twenty minutes later (or maybe even sooner), the waiter returns with two piping hot plates that he sets down before us. Their contents are as follows: fried chicken, mashed potatoes, garlic green beans and two biscuits. He brings us a side of butter and honey and we are set.
The chicken is wonderful. The outside is not greasy at all, just perfectly battered and seasoned and fried. The inside is moist and flavorful; probably from soaking in buttermilk, as the Southern Cooking book suggests. The star of the side dishes are the green beans: crisp, succulent, and garlicky–their greeness counteracts the richness and whiteness of the other foods. The biscuits are yummy (though not as good or buttery or light as the Silver Skillet’s). The mashed potatoes are fairly forgettable.
Overall, we are sated, but I insist on dessert.
“What do you recommend?” we ask the waiter.
“The chocolate cake,” he says, as if letting us in on a secret. “It’s the best.”
We take his advice and he returns bearing chocolate cake.
The cake is good. We eat it.
The check arrives. We pay it.
We rise to leave, and do what any self-respecting Southerner does when leaving a fried chicken dinner: shop for shampoo.
“Excuse me?” your thought bubble declares.
“Yes,” my fingers answer. Watershed’s lobby, rather incongruously, sells bath products to departing guests.
I smell several varities and decide that my current shampoo–Aveda’s Blue Malva (why does Malva sound sexual?) (oh, I think I know)–works fine.
We exit into the cold and declare our Watershed fried chicken experience to be as soul-warming as light in August. Absolutely, absolutely. As I sit here typing, my dinner memories fill me with sound and fury.
My mother is a fish.