Caporal Chicken: Fried Chicken Legend Lands in Miami via Cuba, New York
Simple. Cheap. Worth the drive.
A small fried chicken joint so far west on SW Eighth Street it could be in the Everglades is breaking a lot of hearts on the outer edges of New York City.
Caporal Chicken is tucked inside an easy-to-miss cubbyhole in a remote shopping plaza, where Vincent Herryman turns out piles of juicy, salty, smokey-tasting fried chicken the same way his uncle did in Cuba and later in Washington Heights.
"I worked for him for 15 years and didn't have the recipe then," he says of his uncle. "Two weeks before he died, he said 'OK, it's time.'"
The menu is bare-bones and cheap. Chicken pieces, chicken tenders, and a combination of the two are the choices. There are hardly more than a dozen seats inside, and the walls are littered with praise and pictures from the New York shops.
Fried apple pie.
A juicy fried leg and thigh atop a crisp, sweet waffle with chocolate, almond, and strawberry butter, all made in house, is only five bucks. Caporal's $5 snack box, on which the restaurant built its fame, comes with three pieces of chicken and fresh-cut French fries. Feed todo tu familia with 24 pieces for $24. You can even keep it healthful and grab a whole rotisserie chicken for $10, but why?
Herryman in 2011 abruptly closed the original location and three others -- two in Harlem and one in the Bronx -- and relocated to Florida to run a retirement home business.
"The 157th subway station will never smell the same," local news website DNAinfo.com quoted from a dismayed Twitter fan.
The intent was never to reopen Caporal, but a desperate search for fried chicken in West Dade forced Herryman's hand.
"We kept looking for chicken everywhere we went, and I kept saying my chicken is better," he says.
Looking to grab a quick pizza one day, he came across an empty space in a nondescript shopping mall, and that was it.
If you make the trek for pollo frito, you might get an apology for the distance, but respite isn't anywhere on the horizon. Herryman says he is already being nagged to open another location. Though a 24-hour fried chicken joint might make better sense someplace within stumbling distance of a popular bar, Hialeah seems to be the next stop.
And apparently he's ready for it.
"The Harlem store was basically a plate-glass window with one opening to collect money and pass out fried chicken," he says.
Get the Dining Newsletter
The week's top local food news and events, plus interviews with chefs and restaurant owners, dining tips, and a peek at our print review.