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Houston's $50 fried chicken and why you absolutely must try it: A surprise seafood restaurant revelation

Houston's $50 fried chicken and why you absolutely must try it

Eating fried chicken at an upscale seafood restaurant may feel like missing the point, but that's what happens once a month at Holley's. Chef Mark Holley has mostly sought to leave the past behind at his Midtown restaurant, but he gave in to fans who insisted that Holley continue Pesce's tradition of monthly fried chicken dinners.

Beginning in August, Holley quietly revived the dinners on the last Sunday of every month. Even though the restaurant charges $50 per person and requires a minimum of six people to reserve a table, the dinners always sell out. The price includes all the dishes for a complete meal — a massive plate of fried chicken, three sides, biscuits and dessert.

 Paying $50 per person for fried chicken is, frankly, a lot of money. However, if any fried chicken dinner is worth that kind of money, Holley's serves it. 

Alcohol costs extra, but it's hard to resist the appeal of the restaurant's full lineup of 8th Wonder Brewery beers to wash it down.

Paying $50 per person for fried chicken is, frankly, a lot of money. However, if any fried chicken dinner is worth that kind of money, Holley's serves it.

The chef's old school technique, which includes frying high-quality free range chickens in cast iron skillets, gives the birds a crispy crust, a juicy interior and a slightly spicy flavor that sets it apart from any other fried chicken I've tried in Houston.

Even though I'd sampled 20-plus dishes that afternoon as a judge at the Saint Arnold One Pot Showdown, I couldn't resist eating four pieces and my share of the sides and coconut cream pie.

Part of the appeal comes from Holley's ebullient presence. When he's not frying chicken, the chef works the dining room where he greets regulars and makes newcomers feel like old friends. His good natured personality has clearly rubbed off on the restaurant's staff, who were quick with refills and advice about beverage choices. 

Still not convinced?

Watch the video above that shows Holley at the stove. If the images of that chicken in the pan isn't persuasive, so be it.

In the meantime, I'll be rounding up five friends for February's dinner. In honor of Mardi Gras, Holley plans to serve red beans and rice as one of the sides. 

Should I pay $50 just to eat Mark Holley's red beans and rice and more of that chicken?

Probably not. But after trying the chicken, sides and biscuits on Sunday, I really want to.

Holley's fried chicken dinner
A full plate of chicken, collard greens, mac and cheese, sweet potatoes and biscuits.  Photo by Eric Sandler
Holley's fried chicken dinner
This massive plate of fried chicken is designed to feed six people.  Photo by Eric Sandler
Holley's fried chicken dinner
That's a lot of mac and cheese.  Photo by Eric Sandler
Holley's fried chicken dinner
Holley's fried chicken dinner
Holley's fried chicken dinner