Between the standing-room-only crowds, pounding honky-tonk backbeat, and nightclub-decibel chatter bouncing off every distressed-wood and exposed-brick surface, Mass Ave’s fashionably scruffy newcomer, The Eagle, could send a person into sensory overload on a busy night. Even the house-pickled peppers–topped Bloody Mary has a lot going on—its smoky, spicy depths darkened with Guinness and a peppery grit. As we sipped spiked tomato juice and took in the busy scene inside the former Front Page watering hole, our bartender swooped in and offered a moment of clarity: “If you’re going to order the fried chicken, don’t mess around—get the whole bird.”
It’s a gutsy move, serving fried chicken to a Hoosier audience raised on Hollyhock Hill and Gray Brothers Cafeteria, especially for a Cincinnati transplant (owned by the company that brought tacos-and-tequila chain Bakersfield to Indy in 2013). But this bird—Amish-raised on an Ohio farm before being brined and dredged in a proprietary dusting that gives the pieces a hint of delayed heat—might as well hail from a Hendricks County church pitch-in. The meat peels off in puffs of steam, ready to be dunked in spicy honey poured from a diner-esque syrup pitcher. Crunchy outside, tender inside, the fried chicken surpasses nearly every other main dish, from an over-conceptualized knife-and-fork sloppy Joe buried under coleslaw to a blackened-shrimp po’ boy that needed a little more Cajun spice. A whole chicken, which includes two of every appendage for $18, feeds the table in the family-style theme that The Eagle endorses with its selection of $5 sharable sides. The choices range from macaroni and cheese bound with liquid cheddar and topped with toasted bread crumbs to sweet potatoes crusted over with roasted mini-marshmallows; in fact, everything on the menu at The Eagle is hot, salty, comforting, flavor-packed, and designed to taste delicious on the most basic level.
310 E. Massachusetts Ave., 929-1799, eaglerestaurant.com