Best Fried Chicken St. Louis 2011 - Salt
In spite of the best efforts of countless quipsters, chickens and ducks aren't birds of a feather. They don't belong to the same family or even order of animals, let alone the same genus or species. (Your high school biology class now a blur? From broadest to most specific, it goes kingdom, phylum, class, order, family, genus, species -- just remember "Killer Pigs Can Often Fly Giant Spaceships.") Yet if anyone can defy the rules of taxonomic nomenclature, it might be chef Wes Johnson. At Salt, the restaurant he opened in April, which you'll find listed elsewhere in this issue as Riverfront Times' selection for 2011's "Best New Restaurant," Johnson fries chicken in duck fat. The combination is nothing shy of glorious: Dredged in flour and then fried, the chicken emerges with skin that's a rich brown and perfectly crisp and meat that's tender and as savory as a piece of beef. The only seasoning it needs is a sprinkling of salt. If Salt's duck fat-fried chicken doesn't fool you into thinking it isn't mere fried chicken but some heretofore undiscovered species, you'll at least agree that it is in a class -- order? family? -- by itself.