Why it’s another 2013 Best Bite: It seems like half of Chicago spent their summer lounging on the patio at Parson’s Chicken and Fish, sipping a negroni slushy under the shade of striped umbrellas. While its namesake proteins certainly don’t disappoint, I wanted to spotlight two appetizers that I would go back for again and again: the hush puppies and the shrimp toast. The shrimp salad screamed fresh, with a subtle drizzle of creme fraiche and avocado atop butter lettuce and golden Texas toast. And dunking those perfectly fried, ham hock-and-scallion-studded cornmeal balls into a spicy harissa aioli was nothing short of bar snack heaven.
Why it’s this week’s Best Bite: This novel Negroni slushy has appeared in basically every Chicago summer/cocktail/patio/drinking article since Parson’s Chicken and Fish opened in mid-May, even called “the coolest Negroni in the world.” The fanfare is justified, though: it’s an excellent Negroni in a fun format, avoiding the watery or overly sweet fate that befalls most frozen beverages. With locally made Letherbee gin and citrusy Luxardo bitter, it’s mellow, refreshing, and just bitter enough.
Snack-wise, I was torn between the shrimp and pimento toast, and though I still plan to try the seafood variety next time, I was more than satisfied with pimento. My Midwestern upbringing didn’t involve a lot of pimento cheese, but especially as Southern-influenced cuisine becomes more popular in Chicago, I’ve now tasted several knock-out versions (including Zingerman’s, my favorite to have at home) and am starting to understand its following. At Parson’s, the pimento spread is smooth (no coarse shreds) and ultra-cheesy atop buttery toast. The sourness and acidity from pickle relish and charred radishes beautifully round out each bite, punctuated by the pea shoots. I also appreciated the portion of three moderate slices, enough to share easily.
Of course, I liked the fried chicken, too – though I found it to be best on its own, without any of the housemade sauces – and the mezcal margarita gave the slushy a serious run for its money. Check out more photos below of the food and atmosphere.