Bairro Flame Grilled Chicken
B1-1919 31 St SW
Calgary, AB T3E 2M8
For me, fried chicken is one of those things im always on the look out for. I love a gooooood fried chicken. Like Gus’s, or Fremont Diner. Even the recipe in Thomas Keller’s Adhoc at Home is pretty good. But i dont want to fry chicken at home – it’s a big pain. Oil, mess, time. I dont eat it enough to warrant cooking it at home. I just want a place i can go to get my fix. In Calgary, Bairro is that place.
One day last fall, I was driving down 17th ave SE and I see a sandwich board that says “Bairro – Flame Grilled Chicken”. I like piri piri chicken, but im not a big fan of Nando’s. It’s been dry, and boring, and lacking in complexity and flavour. I figure they might do it better, so I give it a shot.
As i pull up, it has the look of a chain. Not the most auspicious of starts.
No surprises on the inside either – sterile, with that typical “chain-like” mono look.
As i discuss what to order with the gentleman helping me, I discover that they are not a chain, but a two person shop – the owners, Harvey and Wellington, work the counter and kitchen. They hope to make it a chain someday. I appreciate their ambition, but I want to suggest that they work on making the first store succeed, before investing in all the infrastructure that will allow them to make millions franchising out their idea.
I dive in with as many different dishes as possible. Piri Piri chicken comes out with a nice flame grilled char. It’s hot on the outside, but not very warm in the middle. A reheat. It’s too bad really, since the outside is actually pretty tasty. A nice balance of flavour, heat, with smoke, I wish they made it fresh to order, but understand that with the amount of time required to cook it from scratch, they wouldn’t be making much money. But it would be tasty if they did. In Africa, they de-boned the thighs and backs of the chicken to decrease cooking time. This would be the way to go.
At least the inside is moist. Long marinated, and i’m guessing brined, if a reheat job didnt dry out the chicken itself.
On a whim, i decide to order the fried chicken. The sizzle and crackle of the fryer tell me that this is not a re-heat. The chicken comes out a reasonable time later, with some beautiful golden skin. Extremely promising!
As i bite in, I can do nothing but smile. The skin is crisp, but not heavy. Very well cooked. It’s also well seasoned, and the chicken on the inside is moist! This was fantastic fried chicken! As Almattone likes to say, this is definitely the “killer app” for Bairro.
In subsequent visits, I discover one additional secret. Because they dust and batter each batch of chicken to order, they are able to adjust the seasoning. I asked for them to spice up the seasoning with some heat. The result? Spicy fried chicken that is perfectly balanced. Easily the best i’ve had in Calgary.
I won’t spend much time on the other menu items, as they are neither memorable, nor inspiring. The coleslaw is fresh, but boring. The rice, plain. Fries, average. But it doesn’t really matter, because their sweet spot is fried chicken. And that interests me more than any side ever would.
Oh, they also make their own piri piri sauce. As an accompaniment to flame grilled chicken, or just to put on the rice, or dip fries in, it’s quite tasty. Ask at the counter for some.
Bairro. Fried chicken. Made fresh to order. Seasoned as you like it. Worth supporting if you like fried chicken like I do.