It may have come a little too late to take advantage of the buzz Michael Symon created a few months back when he took on the Barberton Chicken challenge between Belgrade Garden and Whitehouse Chicken, but I finally got around to trying my fourth and final Barberton chicken joint, Whitehouse, recently in an early bird (no pun intended) setting on a Saturday night. I don't normally crave this regional style of chicken, but tonight for some reason it sounded good. So, I hopped in my car, drove to the corner where the original Whitehouse Restaurant was located and proceeded to drive around the block three times before settling on the fact that unlike the other three chicken houses (Belgrade, Hopocan, and Milich's), Whitehouse did not have a dedicated parking lot. Instead I opted to park across the street in the strip mall parking lot and braved the arctic air while crossing the street to reach the front entrance.
The original location of Whitehouse Chicken was at the corner of West Paige and Wooster Road North, or more specifically 180 Wooster Road North, Barberton, OH and can be reached at 330-745-0449. There are also satellite locations in Ellet, Green, Tallmadge, Wadsworth, and Cuyahoga Falls. I've eaten at several of the other locations in the past (a long, long time ago) and I was never particularly impressed. So to be fair to the other reviews I've done on Barberton Chicken joints, I wanted to review the original.
Here was a photograph of the front entrance to Whitehouse from across the street:
Once inside, I was surprised at how much bigger the restaurant was on the inside. From its exterior, the place looked barely large enough to fit a few tables. After being told to seat myself wherever I liked, I tried to find a table near the back where it was unoccupied and I could do my photography without disturbing other patrons. Shortly after taking my seat, my server dropped off a menu for me to peruse:
Unlike all the other chicken houses, the menu at Whitehouse was short and sweet. It was chicken, chicken, chicken, and, okay, for you non-chicken eater out there, one fish dish. While the basic chicken dinner offerings were virtually identical to the other houses, the prices at Whitehouse were considerably more inexpensive. I ended up going with a "Classic White" dinner which included the breast, back, drumstick, and wing along with three sides all for roughly $8.99. A similar dinner at Belgrade would have set me back closer to $11.
After placing my order, the ubiquitous slices of white and rye bread made an appearance on my table:
As with the other chicken houses, there was nothing particularly noteworthy about the bread or the butter.
Unlike the other houses, however, my dinner made an appearance within about two minutes of me ordering it. In fact, when the food runner showed up at my table, I was almost certain that she had made a mistake. Apparently, I had arrived just as the kitchen had begun volume production of the fried chicken for tonight's dinner service, in anticipation of the dinner rush.
Because everything came out on one platter, I didn't get a shot of the entire thing. Instead, I decided to take photographs of different portions, with some of the foods overlapping from shot to shot. First up was the hot rice and mashed potatoes with white pepper gravy:
The tomato-based hot rice was hot, both in terms of temperature and spice level. I've never really developed a taste for this side at any of the Barberton restaurants, but other than the somewhat mushy texture of the rice, Whitehouse's version was decent enough. The mashed potatoes were also decent and seasoned well, but didn't really knock my socks off. The white pepper gravy was somewhat of a misnomer. Depending on how you read the description, it could be taken to mean that it was a gravy containing white pepper or a white gravy containing pepper. In this particular case, it was the latter. The gravy added a nice pepperiness to the potatoes and I think I would prefer it over just a plain brown gravy.
On the other side of the platter was the fried chicken and the homemade coleslaw:
Consistent with the rest of the chicken joints, the coleslaw was a simple shredded cabbage that had been dressed in a vinegar, sugar, and salt combination and allowed to sit until soft. Whitehouse's coleslaw had a nice balance to it, being neither too sweet or too acidic. I still think my favorite version was at Belgrade, but this one wasn't bad either.
Finally, the main event, the fried chicken:
The coating on the chicken was crispy and not greasy. While the crust wasn't quite as thick as the version found at Belgrade Gardens, it was still evenly coated and well seasoned. After cutting into the breast meat, I decided to snap one last photograph, to demonstrate how juicy the meat was on the inside:
I was most impressed with how well cooked the chicken actually was. For two dollars less than the same plate of food from my favorite, Belgrade Gardens, Whitehouse was astonishingly good. While I hadn't thought I was hungry enough to eat four pieces of chicken when I walked through the front door, by the time I was finished with my platter tonight, it was nothing but bones, cartilage, and tiny bits of meat that were inaccessible to teeth and fork. I finally realized just how difficult a decision it had been for Michael Symon when he had to choose the winner for his television show. Of course, there are many out there who will draw a hard and non-negotiable line over which chicken house is the best, for me, between Belgrade Garden, Hopocan Garden, and Whitehouse Chicken, the various shades of gray are incredibly close.
To me, Belgrade Garden still edges out everyone else in terms of overall flavor, crispiness of the chicken coating and juiciness of the meat. That being said, if a Barberton chicken dinner is what you are after and you aren't particularly dogmatic about your selection, I don't see how you could go wrong with Whitehouse Chicken. The good news is that you might even spend a little less to experience nearly the same meal. As I stood from the table in preparation of paying my check, I noticed that there were considerably more guests seated at tables than when I arrived. Given that Whitehouse Chicken just doesn't have the physical space to handle the massive crowds that the other houses do, I'd suggest getting there early unless you don't mind waiting.