Holy. Fried. Chicken. Living up to the hype

Holy. Fried. Chicken. Living up to the hype

05 Nisan 2018 - 02:00

Can fried chicken seduce?  

The folks at Modine, easily the most-anticipated new restaurant at the Jersey Shore this year, are betting the farm on their delectable signature dish — and hoping to become a staple in the foodie haven that is Asbury Park.  

Steve and Shanti Mignogna first came to town to open their hit pizzeria Talula’s (it's across the street) in 2014. Now, their chef buddies from Brooklyn, husband-and-wife team Jill Meerpohl and Chris Davin, have migrated south as well. Andrew Rasizer serves as GM, rounding out the five-person partnership.

After insurance costs killed a plan for a smokehouse with an open-flame grill, the team pivoted to “low-country” fare and a Charleston theme, inspired by Meerpohl and Davis’s honeymoon to the South Carolina and Georgia coasts. 

The name honors Meerpohl’s grandmother Helen Modine Meerpohl, who her granddaughter says is a master of Southern coastal cooking and taught her the ropes. 

But the ridiculously delicious fried chicken recipe? That's an original.


Green leather semi-circle booths line the windows in the dining room area. (Michael Persico)

The vibe

“When we saw the space, we said, ‘We’ve got to do this,’” says Meerpohl of the high-ceilinged first floor in the historic Post building, which has been home to President Woodrow Wilson’s summer campaign headquarters, a bank, the Asbury Park Press and, most recently, seafood restaurant Fish.

Meerpohl says the very first thing she did was rip down, with her own hands, every window treatment — there are dramatic, tall windows lining the space — letting the light pour in.

"I can't understand why anyone would ever cover them up," she says, perplexed.


The bar is a beauty, decked out in deep green and lots of brass. (Michael Persico)

The space is like three restaurants in one: There’s the sunny “mezzanine” area in the front with great windows for people-watching (the location is smack-dab in the middle of Asbury's bustling downtown). The main dining area is flanked with high-backed semi-circle booths, which seem dangerously nap-inducing. Then there’s the lively bar area, separated by a long wooden bench dotted with marble-topped tables.

The vibe here is cozy and neighborhood-y, instead of see-and-be-seen. There's an Art Deco motif, sea-foam and deep mermaid greens, and brass lighting and accents. It’s all perfect for retro-obsessed Asbury Park.

Having recently visited Charleston, I can say with confidence, that yes, Modine would fit in, but does it evoke that sense of place enough that you truly feel it, here at the Jersey shore? Restraint is good, but it all could be turned up just a notch. I’m definitely transported somewhere, but I’m not sure I’ve made it all the way south.


Honey is drizzled over the top of the top of Modine's fried chicken. (Michael Persico)

Chicken & biscuits

For heaven’s sake, order the chicken. I’m still dreaming about the damn chicken. It’s Modine’s specialty — first smoked and then fried — and gets play on every menu: Get it at the bar as a biscuit sandwich ($12); order a half chicken to share (or not) for $22, or go big and order the whole dang bird with champagne for $40 at happy hour. It’s smoky, it’s crunchy, it’s crave-worthy, and anyone else in the Jersey fried chicken game has just been put on notice. 

“The chicken recipe took six months and 15 pounds on my body to develop, which was time well spent I suppose,” says Meerpohl with a laugh. Bless your heart, Jill.

The pasture-raised, all-natural chickens from Fossil Farms in Boonton are butchered, brined in a buttermilk-pickle juice mix, cold smoked at 150 degrees, brined again, then floured with a "shake method." Some of the brine is mixed with the flour and shaken in a bag, all to make those big crunchy pieces when fried, Meerpohl explains.  

Also in the mix are cauliflower, bread-and-butter pickle bits and red onions, which you’ll get as little tempora’d treats atop the bird. And, oh yeah, a drizzle of honey to finish the whole thing off, plus a lovely hot-honey sauce served on the side.


I'm still dreaming about these heavenly biscuits. (Michael Persico)

You get two sides with the half chicken. We chose the cornbread, which had nice flavor, and the mac-and-cheese, which was a bit heavy and, dare I say, over-cheesed.

No matter, because just as perfect as the fried chicken are the biscuits that come with. Made with White Lily flour and coated in butter, there’s a thick, audible crunch on the outside, pillowy goodness on the inside.

That crust is for a purpose — so the biscuit can stand up to fillings. Amen to that. We’ve all had a biscuit disintegrate around its contents like a wet napkin, right? Mess. Gimme the hefty biscuit. Sea salt on top. Yum-o.  



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