2013 Best Bite #7: Hush puppies and shrimp toast, Parson’s Chicken and Fish

Each day in December, I’m celebrating the rest of the best bites (and sips) that I didn’t get to blog about in 2013, posted in chronological order. Browse all of this year’s Best Bites, or look back at 2012’s Best Bites.

Hush puppies with ham hock, cream cheese, scallion, and harissa aioli; and shrimp toast with shrimp salad, creme fraiche, butter lettuce, and avocado
Hush puppies with ham hock, cream cheese, scallion, and harissa aioli; and shrimp toast with shrimp salad, creme fraiche, butter lettuce, and avocado

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.

View another Best Bite from Parson’s.

The details: Parson’s Chicken and Fish, 2952 W Armitage Ave., Chicago.

This week’s Best Bite: Negroni slushy and pimento toast, Parson’s Chicken & Fish

Negroni slushy with letherbee gin, luxando bitter, sweet vermouth, and citron
Negroni slushy with letherbee gin, luxardo bitter, sweet vermouth, and citron

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.

Toast with pimento cheese, charred radishes, and pea shoots
Toast with pimento cheese, charred radishes, and pea shoots

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.

Menu and a margarita, another standout cocktail with el buho mescal, torres orange brandy, orange & lime juice, maguey sweet sap, and a sour patch rim
Menu and a margarita, another standout cocktail with el buho mescal, torres orange brandy, orange & lime juice, maguey sweet sap, and a sour patch rim
The interior bar at Parson's, with the negroni slushy machine in the center
The interior bar at Parson’s, with the negroni slushy machine in the center
The namesake fried chicken
The namesake fried chicken
Funnel cake with honey, brown butter, and green peppercorn brittle
Funnel cake with honey, brown butter, and green peppercorn brittle
Striped umbrellas & picnic tables on the spacious patio
Striped umbrellas & picnic tables on the spacious patio (prepare to wait on weekends)

The details: Parson’s Chicken and Fish, 2952 W Armitage Ave., Chicago.