Outrage on College: Where did the fried chicken go?

Summer Kitchen fried chicken

An email landed in Berkeleyside’s inbox the other day, subject line: “Outrage on College Avenue!” Reader Heidi, who lives in the Elmwood neighborhood, wrote:

Summer Kitchen Bake Shop has taken its fried chicken off the menu!

Everybody loved their fried chicken! It has been the gateway meat for many a small and so-well-raised Berkeley child. It has linked generations of foodies.

And why, I asked, has such a reckless decision been made? “Our menu is constantly evolving.” This is the understatement of this young year! Are they stonewalling us? Have they lost their source for the assertive black pepper in their breading? Can they no longer find sustainable oil for their deep fryer? Do they actually hate my daughters?

Please get to the bottom of this for us! We are helpless and in your hands.

Fondly,

Heidi

Summer Kitchen on College/Photo: Lance Knobel

Naturally, we wanted to help Heidi, who seemed quite upset, if a little tongue in cheek, and get to the bottom of the disappearing fried chicken question. So we wrote to Charlene Reis, co-owner with her husband Paul Arenstam of the Summer Kitchen Bake Shop at 2944 College Avenue. Here is what she had to say:

We loved that note and we are so glad our customers love our fried chicken. We love our fried chicken too!

In an effort to make the best possible food we are putting our fried chicken on the menu on Fridays (Fried Chicken Fridays). We will also have a limited amount on Saturday and Sunday. We always take special orders for fried chicken too. We will have our chicken tenders everyday of the week and they always sell out too.

But here is what is going on with our fried chicken….

Our business model is to have the best, freshest and most sustainable products possible. This includes our fried chicken. Now that you can get fried chicken at KFC, Popeyes and Safeway for cheap, the perception is that fried chicken is an inexpensive food. Well it really isn’t…. nor should it be. So we feel that because our fried chicken uses such premium ingredients (free range chicken, organic flour, etc) and therefore costs more, we really need to make sure it is done right. Having it only on certain days allows us to do this.

So I hope everyone will join us for Fried Chicken Fridays and we will have homemade biscuits too!

Thank you.

Charlene Reis

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  • Andrew

    Dang, I’m gettin hungry!

  • John Holland

    It was good chicken, but at $4-5 a piece, it seemed a little pricy.

  • shop Berkeley

    wonderful at any price….

  • BerkeleyMom

    Now if we can just get the lemon meringue cupcakes back (even one or two days a week) I’d be happy!!

  • rb

    damn it, now I’m hungry!

  • Kazfire

    Get a life. Take your children and go vegan.

  • shorty

    Something wrong with a business model that removes ‘big hit’ from the menu.

    Time to get down to Bakesale Betty’s on Telegraph and 51st!!!!’

    To ‘Kazfire': Quit preaching and keep yourself vegan!!!!

  • John B.

    Never mind the fried chicken; what happened to the terrific
    grilled ham and cheese sandwich with Dijon mustard…!?

  • anon

    Tongue in cheek or not, I find this sort of Berkeleyside entry annoying and elitist. Please stick to the more informative, interesting articles and leave this chatter for the innumerable Berkeley/Oakland blogs.

  • Name Withheld

    I, for one, enjoy entries like this and appreciate hearing about local businesses.

    I’ve never been to the Summer Kitchen Bake Shop, and after reading this I’ve put it on my list of places to go try out.

  • Zuzu

    I’m with @anon, though I’m not as graceful and respectful. People in Berkeley have way too much time and money on their hands, prefer the theoretically perfect to the practical good, and are too interested in fixing other people’s business. Yeah, I’m judging the judgmental. And don’t get me started on the police, who need three squad cars to deal with a jaywalker. Glad every day I moved out of Berkeley into Oakland. Yes, I said Oakland.

    People are struggling to stay off the streets. But those are nasty people, we have to put up bad public art, and my special fried chicken is missing! It’s an OUTRAGE! (Yes, I’m foaming at the mouth. Let me fix a gin and tonic (not a joint).)

  • Name Withheld

    “People in Berkeley have way too much time and money on their hands, prefer the theoretically perfect to the practical good, and are too interested in fixing other people’s business.”

    What does that have to do with a whimsical story about why a popular restaurant took a popular dish off its menu?

    I think you’re reading waaaaaaay too much into this article.

  • Heidi Pie Aronson

    I got my kid to stop griping about “what’s for dinner” by spending ten minutes introducing her to both satire and civic discourse. Heck, she even forgot she was hungry. I think that’s a good use of time, and not way-too-much time at that. Make me a vegan gin-and-tonic while you’re at it, people.

  • sojio

    Good fried chicken is hard to find. We’re not in the south, ya know. As for the price, you can pay $31 for a whole chicken at Ceser Latino, or you can pay $4-5/ea for the pieces you want at this place (supposedly). Like they say, good stuff costs good money – plenty of cheap crap chicken out there if that’s what you want. Never been there, but will show up on a Friday to see what’s what.

  • Jose Seis

    Jeez. Did they increase the daily dose of grumpy juice in the Berkeley water today…??

  • No name, please

    Damn. That’s it. I KNEW they was messing with my grumpy juice ratio today. I could feel it. I’m calling my man Jesse Arruguin and givin’ him a piece of my mind.

  • Yelper from Elmwood

    Unfortunately, you are all without facts, including the Reporter. The fact is, that marketing of food by displaying it at room temperature as Summer’s Kitchen did, is a violation of the Health Departments rules. Health Department records show that on 1/27/2010 they were cited for ‘Improper Holding Temperature’.

    California health codes make it is a violation to hold food at a temperature that may cause food-borne illness. The codes specify that food should be kept out of the temperature ‘Danger Zone’ (41°F – 135°F). However, Summer’s Kitchen continued these practices. Due to the short-handed status of the health department, they were not re-inspected until 12/28/2010. The inspector must have flipped out when they saw the plate of room-temperature chicken! Another citation was issued. You can check this out at the Berkeley Health Department web site.

    I understand that holding Chicken at the specified temperatures will cause it to dry out and lose flavor. However, as someone who eats out often, I prefer food prepared in accordance with the health department regulations.

    http://www.ci.berkeley.ca.us/environmentalhealth/inspections.asp

  • http://www.tktaylor.com Tracey Taylor

    Yelper from Elmwood: Following your comment, we spoke to Paul Arenstam, chef and co-owner of Summer Kitchen. He explained that he adheres to, and documents, a strict time-control system with regard to warm food, which is in compliance with health and safety regulations.

    Arenstam showed us the official inspection report, dated 12.28.10 which resulted both from a routine inspection, as well as a complaint made about the restaurant regarding uncovered food and unsanitary habits. The report concluded that the complaint was unjustified at the time of inspection.

  • Safe not Sorry

    I just went to the web site Yelper from Elmwood referenced to and looked up the place. I wasn’t surprised by what I saw.

    I have been to Summer Kitchen many times. I love their fried chicken. It’s better than any fried chicken I ever had from KFC or any other fast food joint. However, I don’t love the fact that they put it out at room temperature. Each time I ate it I always wondered if I would get sick. In my honest opinion, since they like to put it on display, it’s probably for the best that they are only serving it on the weekend. I would much rather have cold fried chicken and be safe, than get sick and be sorry.