The search for fried chicken in New Jersey isn’t an easy one. More often than not, I’ll fry chicken at home instead of searching it out in restaurants. A few times a year, Jim and I will even drive down South, usually to Savannah, for our fried chicken fix. In Savannah, fried chicken is a glorious thing, but even there you need to go to the right places. Fried chicken nerds can skip Paula Deen’s, where it tastes like the KFC you can get anywhere in the country, and head for Geneva Geneva’s Home Plate, where the fried chicken is serious business, with a secret batter (I think it’s some sort of tempura-style), and comes with true Southern sides: okra tomato stew, cornbread with pear butter, and banana pudding for dessert. Or try Neighborhood Soul fried chicken, where the chicken is dark and has a traditional Southern fried chicken batter, and is as the locals call it, “groanin’ good”.
In the North, I find that people are always trying to do something with their fried chicken. There’s too many spices in the batter. Or it’s fried all wrong, greasy or mushy. Fried chicken should not leave grease running down your chin. Fried chicken, ideally, should be relatively light on grease. Crispy.
Most of the time, fried chicken in New Jersey is no better at a restaurant than at the local QuikChek, but I ordered the fried chicken from It’s Nutts in Titusville this weekend, and was super-pleased with what I got. The meat could’ve used a little more salt, but that was easily fixable, and hardly worth mentioning, because it was by far the best fried chicken I’ve ever had north of the Mason Dixon line. Nothing fancy, just golden-brown, crispy skin, great fry taste, and moist chicken inside. It didn’t taste like fried up frozen breaded chicken, which is why fried chicken can be so greasy. I picked the bones clean and ate it with a bowlful of coleslaw on the side, which was sweet but not cloying, good simple coleslaw, and a nice, tart pickle. To me, this was nothing short of a revelation. Good fried chicken. In New Jersey.
It’s Nutts is the kind of always-packed local place that is easy to pass by, in search of something more exciting. I’m kicking myself for not trying it sooner. Don’t be a sucker like me, get yourself over there and ask for some dark meat. You may need to wait for a table, because the place is popular, but you could always order take-out and head over to Washington Crossing park for a picnic.
I still think Geneva’s fried chicken is worth the trip to Savannah, but with the price of gas these days, It’s Nutts is going to save me a lot of money not having to drive 13 hours every time I need my fix.
1381 River Road
Titusville, NJ 08560
Robin Damstra is the Regional Editor for Hunterdon and Mercer Counties. She graduated Douglass College at Rutgers University, where she majored in English. She began teaching herself to cook in 2006. In 2007, she started her food blog, Caviar and Codfish where she shares her culinary discoveries and gorgeous food photography. She currently lives in Stockton, New Jersey.