It doesn’t matter who you are, where you came from, or where you’re going in life—fried chicken is something we can all agree to love. Granted, it might not be the exact same style of fried chicken, but it will be close enough to bring us all to the table for at least a couple minutes of savory (maybe even sweet or spicy) serenity.
National Fried Chicken Day hits on July 6 every year. It’s a chance to take a break from all the burgers, sausages and hot dogs we’ve been gorging ourselves with at July 4th cookouts. While it may not necessarily be healthier, (some would debate that) we’re not here to talk about what’s going to make you look the best in your swimsuit. However, I will say in the words of a friend, the dishes I’m going to talk about are… WORTH. EVERY. CALORIE.
We’re blessed in the Triangle to have a variety of places to find fried chicken any way you like it. Korean fried chicken wings? We got it. Louisiana-style hot chicken? Yep, it’s here. Bone-in, boneless, with skin, skinless, deep fried, pan fried…yes, yes, yes, yes. OK, you get the picture. We’ve got choices on choices of places to spend National Fried Chicken Day. I’m going to tell you about one place in particular that not only surprised me with its fried chicken game, but almost brought a tear to this Southern girl’s eye.
The Metro Diner is a chain (Gasp! She’s writing about a chain restaurant?!) with locations in 11 states. In North Carolina there are three around Charlotte, one in Fayetteville, and one in Sutton Square on Falls of Neuse in Raleigh. The North Raleigh location is where my food journey with Metro begins.
The Metro Diner in Sutton Square fits right in with surrounding businesses like Rise and Winston’s Grill. It’s got a classic diner feel to it with checkerboard floors and retro tables lined with chrome accents. But the additions of dark wood, painted brick and giant chalkboards also make it comparable to every other “trendy” restaurant out there these days.
Now to the main event: the food! Let me preface this by saying I’m no fried chicken rookie. I grew up in a Southern family fed by a momma that makes bangin’ fried chicken, a recipe that I now make. I’ve also hit up the usual fried chicken suspects in the Triangle—The Pit, Beasley’s, Driftwood, Tupelo Honey—and enjoyed them all. Metro Diner’s fried chicken absolutely holds its own in this crispy competition.
I brought my husband (aka The Finisher) along with me for this meal. We picked out three fried chicken dishes from the menu: fried chicken and waffle, fried chicken plate and chicken tender salad. Each dish was brought out as soon as it was ready. They looked and smelled delicious. My husband and I had a mild fight because I wouldn’t let him start eating until I had snapped pictures of all the dishes. Hey, it’s what I’m there for, right? But, he forgave me as soon as he bit into his first piece of chicken. If my hubby grunts while he eats, it’s his compliment to the chef. There was a lot of grunting over this fried chicken.
If you’re ordering the fried chicken and waffle or the fried chicken plate, come hungry. Each of these menu items includes half of a chicken. You get a wing, leg and breast all fried to perfect golden perfection. Usually, I prefer dark meat when I eat fried chicken because I find that white meat tends to be on the dry side. Not Metro’s. Their chicken—bone in and skin on—is remarkably juicy and tender, yet the crust on the outside is so crispy it reminded me of crunching into a delightfully thin pork rind. You guys, fried fat is so unbelievably delicious. Metro is able to attain this juicy/crunchy combo by taking 48 hours to prep their chicken before it’s deep fried. The chicken is brined for 24 hours, marinated for another 24 hours, then coated in spices and flour before it’s dipped into an oil hot tub.
As far as flavor goes, this fried chicken is on point. You know I like my chicken fried (I had to fit that line in somewhere) but I typically top it with a little something, mainly honey and Tabasco. Metro offers a variation of that with their fried chicken and waffle in the form of maple syrup and hot sauce. However, I found the chicken so flavorful and juicy that it didn’t even need it. You should definitely give it a try though. Sweet and spicy is always good, especially paired with their fluffy waffles and house-made strawberry butter. The sides for the chicken plate—mashed potatoes and gravy coupled with sautéed veggies—are tasty as well.
The chicken tender salad is scrumptious too. Like I said earlier, this is not a meal you want to count calories for, and that includes the salad. The chicken tenders are juicy with a nice crunchy coating, but different from their big fried chicken brother. The tenders are chopped and layered on top a bed of lettuce, fresh veggies and cheese (holy cow, the cheese). The dressing is your choice. It’s a good option if you don’t think you could conquer the half chicken that comes with the other dishes. Metro also offers a chicken tender platter and a fried chicken sandwich. We didn’t try those, but they’re on my to-do list.
Overall, Metro Diner is an affordable, low-key, family-friendly place to spend National Fried Chicken Day. If you already have a list of go-to fried chicken joints, you should still give Metro Diner a try. They’re not only list-worthy, they might even become your GOAT.