The Post Brewing Company 105 West Emma Street, Lafayette 303-593-2066
I'm not the cursing type, but when the hostess at The Post Brewing Company told us it would be 45 minutes before two seats opened up, even at one of the four long community counters, a bleep-worthy word raced through my brain. Lucky for me I didn't blurt it out: That would have broken Rule #2 -- No Cussin' -- posted on a sign on the big backyard patio. And if the wait had been two and a half hours, as it can be on warm summer nights, I might have been driven to break Rule #3 -- No Wrasslin' -- to score a seat.
I don't know what happens to rule-breakers, but I don't want to find out. The Post might even reserve the right to take away my fried chicken and beer -- and that's not a risk worth taking.
In the year since this restaurant/brewery opened in a sprawling former VFW building in Lafayette, birds and brew have been big business, with projections-beating success right from the start. "We opened on a Monday," recalls Jamey Fader, culinary director of Big Red F, the group behind Lola and Jax Fish House & Oyster Bar. "We did like 300 covers, and there was an hour wait." In the beginning, some curious types came for the beer, since brewmaster-partner Bryan Selders had made a name for himself at Dogfish Head Craft Brewery. And brew enthusiasts were right to flock here: One of Selders's creations, a crisp, hoppy pilsner dubbed Howdy Beer, went on to win silver at the Great American Beer Festival. But what has become clear in the intervening months -- not just to the Post's regulars, but to anyone who manages to find a seat up in view of the fermentation tanks, mounted elk heads and perennially packed bar -- is that the fried chicken is just as much of a draw.
It doesn't look like much, I know. Unceremoniously thrown together, the breasts, drumsticks, wings and thighs are flat-crusted, without the crunchy, nubby bits you remember from dinner at Grandma's. Sausage gravy fades into the white platter, too pale to be pretty and too thin to be crave-worthy. But after one bite of bird, you'll no longer care about gravy or aesthetics. Nor will you care about what other people think as you lick greasy fingers and rip into chicken parts with your teeth. Chicken this tasty can't be tackled with utensils, so it's a good thing Grandma's not here to see you: She'd only launch into a lecture on table manners that would slow things down.
And you don't want to slow things down, because when this fried chicken is eaten hot, the dark golden shell crackles, crunches and pulls off with thick strands of meat attached. The outer layer bonds to the skin, as if united with edible super glue. "We really got geeky on chicken," says Fader, who ate fried chicken around the country and tested recipes upwards of fifty times with Big Red F founder Dave Query and chef-partner Brett Smith, playing with combinations of flours, dredges and brines. In the end, they settled on a two-day process that involves brine, gluten-free seasoned flour, buttermilk and a pressure fryer. The goal was for the crust to stay on, and it does. "There's nothing worse than the whole sleeve coming off," says Fader.
Rotisserie chicken, another favorite on the comfort-food-driven menu, doesn't require as many steps to make, but the results are just as good, with all of the moistness and none of the mushiness associated with grocery-store rotisserie chickens. Once again, the kitchen proves it knows what it's doing, building up flavor with herbs rubbed into the skin and a long-enough stint on the spit that the skin turns a dark caramel and blackens in spots. One night, I swung by the Post to pick up dinner for the family -- but the smell of the rotisserie chicken in the car was impossible to resist, and I pulled over, eating all of the bird and some of the sides before my brain had even registered what I'd done. "Just ate chicken in the car," I guiltily texted my husband. "Man, this stuff is good."
Not surprisingly, chicken is the Post's top seller. The restaurant goes through some 2,000 pounds in peak summer months, fried, cooked on the spit and also served atop waffles that find their fluffiness with whipped egg whites. But poultry is far from the only attraction here. Blue-plate specials are draws in and of themselves, packing people in even on slow nights such as Monday, when you can snag the burger special: a seven-ounce patty piled high with caramelized onions on an English muffin. Caramelized onions make a pork-roast sandwich on the regular menu equally irresistible -- and messy. Sweetened with honey and brown sugar and tinged with bacon, the thick tangle of onions slipped off both pork and bun; I found myself nibbling them absentmindedly when the rest of the meal was gone, along with pieces of chicken crust stuck on spots too bony to bother with earlier.
Most entrees are served à la carte, excluding platters such as shrimp and grits. Sides come in two sizes, so you can order table-sized versions of the ones everyone wants and individual portions of the ones that sound good to you. Mac and cheese, with chile-flecked shells and toasted breadcrumbs, is worth upsizing. So are Southern staples such as grits and collard greens, two of the best versions I've had by cooks without a drawl. These are grits to square your shoulders by, plump with cream and topped with cotija and tomato jam smoky with wood-charred onions, red peppers and poblanos. The collards aren't overly sweet, vinegary or watery, just chopped fine and cooked with plenty of pork. Mashed potatoes play well with the fried chicken, especially when buried under a thick coat of brown gravy.
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In addition to the nine sides printed on the menu, the kitchen dreams up seasonal sides, many of which change daily. Some are more enticing than others: Butternut squash tossed with garlicky cabbage slaw quickly disappeared, while cauliflower in flat beer-cheese sauce and oily wood-roasted greens were largely ignored. Often servers know their stuff, pointing out the sides that shine -- but sometimes they're in the dark, which is how we ended up with that cauliflower and those greens. "I haven't really had any of them yet," our server said that night. "So, uh, I can't really help you." He treated the rest of the meal equally lackadaisically, forgetting our cheddar biscuits and not coming by for my beer order until our entrees were nearly gone.
Such service might be par for the course in a standard brewpub. But the Post is hardly standard, as dessert makes abundantly clear. Pastry chef John Hinman -- who, like Smith, is a veteran of Big Red F -- has proven himself a whiz at pies, loading crusts with European-style butter and filling them with tart cherries, apples or a mess of pecans. Whoopie pies have become a signature, both in the traditional chocolate with white filling (made here with mascarpone) and a white variation with chocolate chips and ganache. Dessert is so good, in fact, that if you find yourself facing a long wait -- and you most certainly will -- you can always grab a beer and a sweet (or two) and settle in. You might spoil your appetite, but at least you won't cuss, wrassle or otherwise break the rules and risk losing out on the chicken.
Select menu items from the Post: Fried chicken $13.75 Rotisserie chicken $12.50 Chicken and waffles $14 Pork-roast sandwich $9 Blue-plate burger $9 Standard sides $4-$7 Whoopie pies $4-$5 Cherry pie, slice $5
The Post Brewing Company is open 4-9 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Friday-Saturday, 9 a.m.-9 p.m. Sunday. Learn more at postbrewing.com.