“I have a love affair with what I call farmer food,” says Jared Leonard, the owner of the barbecue place Rub’s Backcountry Smokehouse and the upcoming the Budlong (4619 N. Western Ave., no phone yet), a Lincoln Square BYO that will specialize in fried chicken, buttermilk biscuits, and pickled vegetables. The name of the restaurant even connects to the small-town, rural, history-infused food Leonard loves, referencing the Budlong Pickle Farm, a pickle operation that grew and pickled cucumbers and beets in the area until 1908.
The Budlong will sell two styles of fried chicken. Nashville hot—Leonard’s favorite—distinguishes itself from other preparations by a douse of cayenne pepper oil after frying. Served with white bread and a pickle, Nashville-style fried chicken has flared up in Chicago at Leghorn and the Roost, and Leonard aims to re-create the authentic slow-burn, no-pain experience he says he sampled twice a day for two weeks while at a barbecue conference in Nashville. “Traditional Nashville hot cayenne pepper oil and nothing else,” he says. “No habaneros. No ghost peppers. The idea isn’t to be so spicy that it hurts you.”
The second type of chicken, Chicken Thyme, begins its chicken time with an overnight brining in thyme, lemon, and honey. The next day, Leonard dries it in the open air in the fridge. The third day, he dips it in a slurry of water, flour, baking soda, salt, and spices, and then dredges it in flour and spice breading for frying. “The key to fried chicken [and buttermilk biscuits] is using a soft winter wheat flour,” he says. “White Lily flour. They don’t sell it at most grocers in the North.”
Leonard claims his buttermilk biscuits, honed by pastry chef Kaybee McIntosh through careful experimentation informed by the book The Rise of the Southern Biscuit by MaryAnn Byrd, will be like nothing else you’ve ever had in Chicago. And for dessert, he plans Spudnuts, or doughnuts made with potato flour, a substitution that makes for a more delicate doughnut, because of potato flour’s lower protein level.
Spudnuts bring the historical, small-town motif all the way through to dessert, referring to a doughnut-shop franchise that had its heyday in the 1940s and 1950s. Leonard plans to begin writing the Budlong’s own history in July or August.