“We thought it would be fun to change it up and simplify things, and it could be a model for when the weather turns cold,” he says. And it’s not a huge stretch — the longtime neighborhood restaurant has always served fried chicken. (Romano also runs Highland Fried in Inman Square, where fried chicken is a starring attraction.)
He’ll peddle poultry for a while longer, and then he might try something new, like pizza or tacos. As for when the restaurant will return to its old model, he’s not sure.
“We’ll come back whenever we can fully come back,” he says. Until then, walk up and order or snag an outdoor table on the small sidewalk patio.
What to eat: Fried chicken in sandwich, tender, or wing form. Definitely get the Korean-style fried chicken sandwich with pickled veggies; a healthy slather of sweetish kewpie mayo; and gochujang, the slightly salty, slightly tangy Korean chili paste. This sandwich is made with all-white breast meat, FYI; some might prefer the fattier, darker thigh meat. It’s lightly fried and not too heavy — a hungry human could possibly eat two. There’s also the classic fried chicken sandwich with shredded lettuce, pickles, and spicy buffalo sauce on the side (it’s really spicy, so watch out). Fries are thin, crispy, and salty. Pro tip: Order a side of pineapple sweet-and-sour sauce for dunking. Not the neon pink stuff you might find at the bottom of a greasy takeout container, this is a golden, syrupy concoction with real chunks of pineapple — imagine your Nana’s fruit cup mixed with something from McDonald’s. There are also pickle-brined tenders and wings, with your choice of sauce (barbecue, bleu cheese, honey mustard, ranch, sriracha mayo, and that delicious pineapple).
Healthier eaters can get grilled chicken sandwiches or tenders with a honey-lemon marinade; a black bean veggie burger with guacamole; and an array of salads. Try the shaved kale and Brussels sprouts with hazelnuts and pecorino in lemon vinaigrette — it’s tart and acidic enough to offset all that fried goodness. Most everything on the menu is under $10.
What to drink: Highland Kitchen and Highland Fried are known for their tiki drinks. Here, get cocktails to go (served in plastic takeout cups); my dining companion and I split a Mai Tai Dragon ($12) with orange curacao and a healthy splash of Orgeat syrup that easily — and tipsily — served two. Or just grab a $2, 12-ounce can of Budweiser or a $6 milkshake.
The takeaway: A tasty pivot, though it’s sad to see Highland Kitchen, with its only-in-Somerville bar scene and jukebox, temporarily dimmed. But in a chaotic world, there are worse things than eating takeout fried chicken.
Highland Chicken, 150 Highland Ave., Somerville, 617-625-1131, www.highlandkitchen.com
Kara Baskin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @kcbaskin.