Hen Quarter delights eyes, not stomachs

Dec. 15, 2017, 2:34 p.m. | By Tiara Oldfield | 6 years, 6 months ago

The Southern chain gets it just right with its decor - but not with its entrees

Tucked away behind the large stairway in the center of Downtown Silver Spring is Hen Quarter, a local Southern food chain with other locations in Alexandria and D.C. It looks like a quaint little restaurant, with neatly arranged tables and a picturesque white pergola lining the outside of the building.

However, as I walk inside, I am immediately transported to another world further south. Rows and rows of sturdy wood tables fill the vast interior. Light bulbs hang off cords of rope from the ceiling. Quirky signs of chickens and grits adorn the walls.

The waiters are prompt and friendly, showcasing their Southern hospitality. The music is enjoyable enough - they play everything from Camila Cabello's "Havana” to Sam Smith's "Too Good at Goodbyes” to accompany ones eating experience.

There are separate breakfast, lunch and dinner menus. Perusing the menu reveals how Hen Quarter manages to stick to its Southern roots while adding a new twist. They serve a wide variety of dishes, from Southern caesar salad to the HQBLT (Hen Quarter's BLT).

The fried green tomatoes were a filling appetizer. Photo courtesy of Tiara Oldfield.

A good appetizer choice for the indecisive would be the fried green tomatoes. By no means an expert on Southern food, I ordered the tomatoes on the waiter's recommendation. What I was expecting was regular green tomatoes. Instead, I was pleasantly surprised by with three golden, crispy tomato patties sprinkled with a medley of beans, corn, and diced peppers layered on smoked mozzarella and garnished with a glossy, sweet honey sauce. It wasn't too spicy like the chicken crackling but not bland like the biscuits. With its spicy crunch and sweet sauce, the fried green tomatoes were just right; they packed a punch of flavor while managing to not overwhelm my palette.

The Hen Quarter Special, two pieces of fried chicken served with Yukon smoked potatoes, collard greens, a biscuit and honey butter, is an acceptable take on a classic main dish.

The Hen Quarter Special came with fried chicken served with Yukon smoked potatoes, collard greens, a biscuit and honey butter. Photo courtesy of Tiara Oldfield.

Before even taking a bite, I knew the chicken was going to be good: the chicken skin had a pleasant, crunching sound as my fork dug in. The tenderness of the chicken contrasted well with the perfectly-flavor skin. However, the sides provided a necessary contrast of flavors: spicy collard greens added sting but were a bit too soggy, the smashed potatoes soothed taste buds with ample butter added to them, but had a funky texture from the lumps in the potatoes, and the biscuits had a lightness to them but little flavor even after the honey butter was slathered on. It was a little too traditional, a little too bland.

The HQ burger, on the other hand, was a little too far out there. Short rib, brisket and chunk blend beef, crispy onions, pimento cheese, and lettuce were smushed between two brioche buns.

The HQ burger was served with delicious fries.  Photo courtesy of Tiara Oldfield.

To put it simply, more is less. There were too many savory flavors canceling each other out. With an overwhelming amount of cheese and onions, the flavors from the decently seasoned meat was drowned out. Also, everything felt like baby food -- the lack of lettuce and tomatoes left crunchiness to be desired. On the other hand, the fries were heaven. Perfectly salted with crunchy outsides paired well with its light potato insides.

The appetizer and two entrees ended up costing nearly $50. The decor was top notch and the food was fine, but for that high price, Hen Quarter leaves something to be desired.

Hen Quarter is located at 919 Ellsworth Dr, Silver Spring, MD 20910 and is open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Friday, 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Saturday, and 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Sunday .

Tags: restaurant review Hen Quarter

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