By Della Hasselle
FLATIRON — The latest restaurant offering from Hill Country has instantly becoming a hit in New York with patrons braving long lines to get a taste of its Texas treats.
Hill Country Chicken, which opened its doors on Broadway and 25th street Wednesday, has become a darling of neighborhood residents and workers with its original fried chicken and novel pie concoctions.
On Friday, the lunch line reached around the corner as people gathered to sample fare such as heavily spiced “fire and ice” pickles and salted margarita pie.
"This looks so gooood…it looks like it’s going to be the new Shake Shack," said freelance writer Jonathan Finn, 50, said as he got to the counter to order the classic chicken recipe after waiting 20 minutes in line.
"I’m dying to try it."
Those who gathered on line for lunch were most curious about the fried pimento cheese sandwich slathered in jalapenos and a Texas hand roll that includes chicken tenders, coleslaw, sesame seeds and hot jelly.
The star of the menu, however, was the farm-raised, veggie-fed chicken, which the restaurant says is “air-chilled for superior flavor and juiciness.” It’s prepared in two different ways: doused in batter and fried for the "classic" recipe and cooked with secret spice for the Mama Els special.
Jorge Rodriguez, who created his own Southern food fan club called Team Fried Chicken, had tried the Mama Els spice brew once before and was lining up again Friday.
Rodriguez, 32, said it ranks high on his list of all time best fried chicken.
“You can really taste the brown sugar in it,” the self-claimed experienced chicken-eater said.
Chef Elizabeth Karmel, who also cooks at Hill Country's beloved 26th Street barbecue joint, tried to keep people excited by handing out buttermilk biscuit samples in line.
"I’m just tickled pink that everyone is waiting for so long to try it,” North Carolina-born Karmel said. “We love it. It’s the perfect sibling to our other restaurant."
Like many hot restaurants, however, the fare at Hill Country Chicken doesn't come cheap. One breast runs for five bucks, and an 11-inch pie will cost you $40.
“It’s a bit pricey for fried chicken, I think,” said Nancy Tran, 25.
“Then again, it’s Manhattan—the only place where people will wait in line for twenty minutes to buy one chicken breast for five dollars.”