t takes a special kind of place to make it seem like chicken isn’t getting its due. After a few visits to the Fly, a new bar and restaurant on the border of Bed-Stuy and Clinton Hill, you might start to wonder why, at least in New York, so much energy and attention is lavished upon the hamburger, and so little, comparatively, on roast poultry, especially in taverns like this one, where the food is as much of a draw as the drinks. What if the go-to for alcohol absorption were, instead of a patty of greasy ground beef and a basket of French fries, a golden-skinned bird paired with steamy new potatoes?
It might seem that burgers are easier to produce, so casually are they slung. But roast chickens are not much harder, if you can get the setup right—as proved by the city’s many underrated Peruvian restaurants, which turn them out from rotisseries with astonishing speed. The Fly seems to have nailed its system right out of the gate. Letter boards display the elegantly efficient menu: a half or a whole chicken, a chicken sandwich, potatoes, French fries, salad, “long-cooked greens,” and a yogurt-based white sauce. On a recent Tuesday, just a few weeks after the restaurant had opened, I went at around 7 p.m., easily claimed a roomy booth, and ordered one of everything.
The entire spread arrived in what felt like moments. The chicken, plucked from one of the spits in the kitchen, which start spinning an hour and a half before service starts (each bird takes about as long to cook), came carved into easy-to-eat segments. The beautifully basted skin, fragrant and browned, strewn with citrus peel and traces of dry rub (coriander, fennel, paprika, Aleppo pepper, garlic, salt), glistened appealingly in the low light and slipped easily off of the plump, flavorful meat—which was wonderful, too, when shredded warm and piled with radishes, celery, and aioli on a compact potato roll.
Doubling down on tubers might feel excessive, but good luck choosing between the potatoes—gently smashed to extend their surface area for maximum crispiness, sprinkled with ground Hungarian pepper, which gives them a sweet heat, and served in the chicken’s drippings, which keeps them toasty—and the willowy, precisely rectangular, perfectly bronzed fries, seasoned with sea salt and paprika and accompanied by a pot of aioli. The greens were a tangle of broccoli rabe that had been coaxed slowly into earthy silkiness, punched up with sliced garlic and chili flakes. My only quibble was with the salad dressing, an overly salty Italian-style vinaigrette that marred an otherwise appealing bouquet of tightly ruffled baby romaine leaves topped with mandolined carrots, watermelon radishes, and red onion.
You could drink beer to quench your thirst, but the other thing that the Fly has zeroed in on is wine, particularly of the “natural” variety currently in vogue. Available in bottles or by the generously poured glass, the selection runs the gamut from the straightforwardly delicious—try the easy-drinking, juicy Valentina Passalacqua Sottoterra, from Puglia—to the “interesting” or “funky” or “polarizing,” words a server used when describing the Bichi Listan, a startlingly herbaceous, spicy, smoky red from the mountains of Tecate, Mexico.
The Fly is a sister establishment to Hart’s, two blocks away (it’s named for a popular cocktail there), and to Cervo’s, on the Lower East Side. All three achieve the tricky balancing act of the ultimate “local,” as a Brit might call her neighborhood pub, offering food and atmosphere that are good enough to make you feel very lucky to live close by, but not so unusual as to necessarily be worthy of a special trip—the kind of place the city could use more of. Around 9 on a Thursday, the room was packed, with a crowd building up around the bar, but the vibe remained remarkably relaxed. Two solo strangers on neighboring stools struck up a conversation. A couple seats away, a woman finishing dinner with a friend sighed contentedly. “I can’t wait to go home, put on my pajamas, and get into bed,” she said, and pushed off into the night. (Chicken, $18 for a half, $32 for a whole.)