You get three (or four) pieces per order, with a crock of terrific Mint Chutney for dipping. All of the chutneys, by the way, are amazing–the tangy Scallion Yogurt is the most soothing; the Tamarind and Date the sweetest–and complement the meal in different, equally satisfying, ways. In typical street-food style, the chicken is served as hacked-up pieces, and dark meat unless requested otherwise.
“My fondest memory of fried chicken is a very specific street cart that existed far away from the city of Kolkata where I grew up,” said Mazumdar. “It was a deal we had that any family member or friend who passed by that station would pick up bags of the stuff for everyone. The pieces were similar in size and texture to the chicken we’re making here, and it was just the most ungodly delicious thing you could have.”
There’s an excellent fried chicken sandwich at Rowdy Rooster too, available in two sizes–the Lil’ Rowdy comes on a housemade pao roll–as well as Pandya’s sticky Chili Chicken, which is fiery as hell and also comes in a vegetarian version made with cauliflower. According to Mazumdar, this latter creation is based on the type of fried chicken popular in Eastern India, the legacy of Chinese immigrants who settled there in the 1700s. And that pao makes another appearance in Rowdy Rooster’s sleeper hit, the vegetarian Vada Pao, a potato dumpling and green chili sandwich smothered in sauces that Pandya calls as common a street snack in his native Mumbai as the hot dog is in Midtown Manhattan.
Pandya said that coming up with side dishes was actually the trickiest part of building the menu, as there’s really no tradition in India for always serving fried chicken with other things. Whatever, he was clearly up to the challenge, and all four served at Rowdy Rooster totally rule, from the cooling tubs of Tomato Rice to the restaurant’s other surprise hit, the Eggplant Pakora. You’ll also want to get a Mango Lassi while you’re here, of course, or a can of punchy Thums Up Indian cola.
There’s seating for about 12 people at Rowdy Rooster if everyone squeezes in, plus a sliver of a counter at which you can wolf down your chicken while standing. The cramped space still feels like a party, though, thanks to the riotous, colorful design and soundtrack of Indian bangers. And as always with Pandya and Mazumdar, in addition to playing gracious hosts and feeding you exceptionally well, there is a deeper mission at work here too.
“The vision of Unapologetic Foods is to really reach people in every way possible.” said Mazumdar, “to celebrate our cuisine with us, and understand how not one-dimensional Indian food is. If we keep creating restaurant after restaurant, that will explore the regionality, but it doesn’t always make it affordable and accessible. And then comes something like this little fried chicken concept, which kind of encapsulates the vibe of all the little joints that exist in India that we grew up loving. It pushes that idea of how different, and diverse, Indian food can be.”