Friday, July 6, 2012

Lunch | Sticky's Finger Joint

After stumbling upon it on Immaculate Infatuation, and given Marcus's inscrutable obsession with chicken fingers, I knew we had to give Sticky's Finger Joint in the West Village a try. Just like The Meatball Shop's cheekiness with the wordplay on "balls, " Sticky's adds similar coy humor with the slogan, "Get fingered!"

Sticky's is New York City's first variety gourmet chicken finger restaurant, priding itself on using antibiotic-free, hormone-free, cruelty-free, free-range chicken. Its condiments and juices are also made from organic and all-natural ingredients. What the team behind Sticky's says: if you can't pronounce it, they don't use it.

Wall art at Sticky's!

Though mostly a takeout counter, Sticky's has about twelve seats available and a few tables for eating in.

Menu-wise, I should also note that Sticky's divides its chicken finger selection into two distinct categories -- crunchy/breaded versus "naked" (i.e., just plan, skinless chicken).

In my universe, where garlic makes everything better, I couldn't help but have to order the Naked Vampire Killer with raw, roasted/crunchy, and black garlic. If vampires really existed and garlic was a way of "slaying" them, this dish would be a contender in assisting the slayers. The strips of chicken were nicely grilled, and the abundance of garlic provided lots of pungent flavor, with the roasted/crunchy garlic like miniature potato chips. The condiments recommended by the girl at the counter included the balsamic ketchup as well as the garlic aioli. They both sounded too good to turn down, so I said to myself, the hell with it, I'm ordering both. She was right -- they went perfectly with the Naked Vampire Killer -- the balsamic ketchup wasn't as sweet as normal ketchup, and the garlic aioli goes well with almost anything. Great pairings!

Marcus stuck with his basic love for chicken fingers and ordered The Finger -- Sticky's classic Southern-style fried chicken fingers with dijon honey mustard as the accompanying condiment. Lightly battered and fried to a delicate crisp, Marcus said that these chicken fingers really well done, especially with the choice of breading/fried batter creating a really, really crispy exterior. The breading also was light enough that it didn't take away from the flavor of the chicken. So this shows that even the most classic/traditional of chicken fingers is executed very nicely at Sticky's.

Just to prove what pigs we are in real life, Marcus and I barely hesitated to order a second round of chicken fingers, mainly because we failed to see that there was a a "sampler" option whereby you could choose five different kinds of chicken fingers to "sample" and taste without committing to a whole platter of them. I also wanted to try the truffle fries on the menu, but unfortunately, they were out for the day, so the girl at the counter suggested split an order of hand-cut purple sweet potato fries, which she actually found tastes better than the truffle fries. I've always been a lover of the purple potato, so I just assumed Sticky's sweet potato fries were of the traditional, orange color (not crazy about sweet potatoes or having them fried either) and didn't think twice about it until I reread the menu. You must order these fries -- they are earthy, crispy, and delicious. They go with pretty much all of the condiments, so you're golden.

I wanted to try the Salted Caramel Pretzel (tender chicken breast breaded with crushed pretzels served drizzled with homemade salted caramel sauce and topped with pretzel sticks and sprinkled with pretzel salt) as well as the General Sticky Tso (classic General Tso's in chicken finger form, sticky, sweet, and slightly spicy with chili peppers, honey, soy sauce, and sesame seed oil). Marcus also wanted to try the latter, so we chose those three initially in our five-piece sampler. We also got Sticky's sauce -- Southern-style white barbecue -- and Thai sweet chili as the accompany condiments. Sticky's sauce is creamy and smoky while the Thai sweet chili is a bit sweet and spicy.

The Salted Caramel Pretzel was pretty good in the first few bites, but got really heavy and sweet soon after. I liked the flavors, but wished the execution prolonged the enjoyment of its taste a little longer, though Sticky's sauce salvaged it a bit. Now with the General Sticky Tso, we learned the reason why this place is called "Sticky's Finger Joint" -- if you don't leave a meal here with sticky fingers, you most certainly did something wrong. The General Tso sauce added a deliciously sweet-and-spicy punch to the basic Southern-style fried chicken finger, but at the expense of super sticky fingers. We probably should've eaten this with a fork and knife -- whoops! The General Sticky Tso went really nicely with Sticky's sauce and the Thai sweet chili (adding more spice).

Marcus added The Buffalo (a new spin on an American classic with a spicy buffalo sauce that uses aged balsamic vinegar and pure maple syrup) and Lemon Lime (marinated overnight in lemon-lime juice as well as honey for tenderness and flavor and served grilled on an artisanal salad and garnished with candied lemon-lime zest glitter). The Buffalo was really hot in temperature and spice -- just like a boneless buffalo wing. The Lemon Lime was just like lemon chicken in chicken finger form -- not really what Marcus was hoping it'd be like.

Findings: The crispy chicken fingers as well as the naked chicken fingers at Sticky's Finger Joint are certainly worth checking out. The fried chicken fingers are ungreasy, lightly battered, and super crispy, while the naked chicken fingers are grilled very well. I think the problems I typically run into with chicken fingers is that there is way too much batter/breading which usually takes away from the chicken itself, resulting in you seemingly eating mostly fried batter, overpowered by the spices incorporated with in it. This is not the case at all at Sticky's. It has a wide array of offerings on its menu -- who knew the chicken finger could be so well dressed in so many get-ups?! -- plus the condiments give you a run for your money (balsamic ketchup and Sticky's sauce, just to name a couple), outnumbering the different kinds of chicken fingers. It's kinda like the chicken finger version of Pomme Frites, and of course another late night spot for hungover NYU students.

Anyway, I definitely see more Sticky's in our future date nights (just as Dos Toros has made a permanent dent in our Friday night dining rituals). I'm determined to eat my way through buckets and buckets of purple sweet potato fries so I can say I've tried all of the condiments on the menu!

Price point: $8-12 for an order of three chicken fingers, $14 for an order of five, $4 for an order of fries.

--July 3, 2012

Sticky's Finger Joint
31 West 8th Street
New York, NY 10011

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