Pecking Order

Pecking Order in Uptown (Lenny / June 27, 2012)

Mini-review: Pecking Order
4416 N. Clark St. 773-907-9900
Rating: !! 1/2 (out of 4) Take it or leave it

The look: So darn cute. That’s the best way to describe nearly everything about Pecking Order, the chicken-centric eatery that former Wave chef Kristine Subido opened in Uptown earlier this month. From the decor (picnic tables and ceramic chickens galore) to the taglines (“Chicken every which way” and “Our birds don’t do drugs”) to Subido’s sunny smile touring the tables, it’s all as cute as can be. The banana ketchup on the table and calamansi (Philippine lime) in everything from vinaigrette on the salads to the mayo on sandwiches are your clues that Subido is mixing her Filipino background with the comforting format of the Southern chicken dinner.

The birds: Subido, who opened the restaurant with her mother, Melinda, offers several different preparations of chicken, but they all start the same way: with an overnight soak in a family-recipe marinade featuring tamari, garlic and bay leaves. Fried chicken is juicy and cloaked in a crispy batter, but the flavors of the marinade didn’t really shine through. Roasted chicken is stuffed with ginger and lemongrass during its turn on the rotisserie and then basted with calamansi butter, but I couldn’t really trace any of those flavors in each bite. The third option is grilled, and all three kinds of chicken are portioned in halves ($10.95: $11.95-$12.95 with one or two sides) or whole ($17.95 or $23.95 with two sides).

The sides: Some of the side dishes, including the kicky sriracha aioli-slathered cabbage slaw and grilled sweet corn with lime mayo and cotija cheese, were more memorable than the chicken itself. Pickled shavings of jicama, carrot, ginger, green papaya and daikon radish are a light and delicate counterpoint to some of the richer dishes. For dessert, traditional Philippine shaved ice called halo-halo shines with preserved jackfruit and mango, plus coconut caramel ($5.50).

The booze: Summery carafes of punch ($25) are fun to share with tablemates. My friend and I loved the Ladybird punch (coconut-infused vodka and pineapple and calamansi juices, garnished with chunks of cucumber and strawberry) but had a hard time deciding between that and the Lean Back (watermelon, white grape and jackfruit juices with whiskey). There’s also a handful of craft beers and wines, plus a few mimosas with tropical flair for weekend sipping (There’s not a separate brunch menu, but the restaurant opens at 11 a.m. Saturday and Sunday).

Bottom line: Across the board, flavors weren’t as bold as I was expecting. But because there were so many items on the menu I didn’t have room to try—fried plantains with jackfruit chutney, loganiza sausage-wrapped eggs, fried chicken on a sandwich with gouda and pimento mayo—I’ll probably pay another visit to Subido’s cute little coop.

Reporters visit restaurants unannounced and meals are paid for by RedEye. lmarnett@tribune.com | @redeyeats