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FRIED CHICKEN—the omnipresent American bird of choice—may well be the most difficult simple food to prepare. Many a restaurateur has tried and failed, but it’s Chef Rick Lewis whose Southern chicken restaurant is causing the latest fla . “I feel like nobody was trying to be true to the chicken,” says Lewis, who made his culinary start in bar fare and comfort food. “It was either too flou ed, too complicated, too breaded or too dry.” After eating his way through every dive and fine diner in Nashville, the epicenter of fried chicken, he picked up tips from the experts to nail down his own version of the specialty. Lewis opened his hot

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chicken joint in Grand Center last year, and St. Louis hasn’t stopped clucking about it since. While Southern’s chicken has a robust kick, Lewis prefers to let the fl vor of the meat do the heavy lifting. The bird is first marinated in a lemon-beer marinade and spices (Lewis blends them in-house), which provides the same acidity as buttermilk without the thick coating. He spices the chicken and flour with habanero and cayenne peppers and lots of garlic, and fries in spicy oil when he needs to amp up the heat; everything gets a final dusting of spices after cooking, just for good measure. “I cook it at a lower temperature, too. Most cook it at 350 (degrees Fahrenheit),” he says. “I

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