Bang for your Cluck
This week on Cuisine Corner, I had the privilege of reviewing a Stevens nighttime favorite, Cluck-U. After hearing about its role in “nourishing” inebriated students at the wee hours of the morning, I set out to see how Cluck-U would hold up to a rigorous food test.
Upon walking in, an aroma typical of a pre “McCafe” McDonalds hit me. That is to say, Cluck-U is the definition of the stereotypical fast food restaurant. Identifiable by their colorful cartoon character mascots and for being one of the leading causes of childhood obesity, fast-food promises that food is cheap and fast. Since social dietary policy and subliminal marketing are not my mission, I was eager to try some food.
To represent a typical meal, I ordered the boneless sweet chili wings with a side of mac & cheese, and a drink. For dessert, I ordered the “Sugar Clucker bees”, which are essentially miniature donuts. Other items include bone-in wings, cheese fries, and even rice bowls, each offered with a variety of sauce choices.
For those interested, the sweet chili sauce was two-thirds of the way up the “Spicy-o-meter”. The sweet chili was not nearly as hot as the top choice, “Blazen”, and not nearly as mild as the bottom sauce, Teriyaki. The cashier was kind and helpful when not interrupted by the constant stream of phone calls for delivery orders. Having ordered delivery in the past, I was skeptical that the food would be out as promptly as it was. Happily, I was proven wrong when I received my food within a reasonable time frame of ten minutes.
With food in front of me, it was the moment I had been waiting for: taste time. I dug into the chicken and was met with instant satisfaction. Much to my surprise, the chicken was not greasy at all. It was cooked appropriately, tender but heated throughout. Say what you will about Cluck-U, but they know how to make great chicken! As good as the chicken was, the sauce was the absolute star of the meal. It was sweet with a subtle kick. The sauce was properly textured which your writer and Thai/British food expert sincerely appreciated. The portion size was also terrific, something I have come to expect with Cluck-U. Not only did they give me significantly more than my 10-piece order, but they were sure to give me plenty of sauce, something definitely most welcome.
Moving left to right, next I went for the mac and cheese. One thing that surprised me a bit was the mac and cheese was served in a plastic container, which I thought was only used for delivery. The macaroni was cooked well but the cheese had a dissatisfying artificial taste. It made me seriously consider that Cluck-U outsourced its mac and cheese and simply reheated it. Moving past the mac and cheese, I was encouraged the “Sugar Clucker bees” would make amends. The first thing I noticed when I picked one up was that it was a tad greasy. While disappointed in that, I was still optimistic that it was made in house and, unlike the mac and cheese, would have greater quality inspection for taste. Taking my first bite, the texture was light and fluffy with a subtle sweetness I was certainly not expecting. They were tasty and delivered a nice finish to an overall good meal.
Bottom Line: If you like relatively inexpensive food prepared quickly that will fill you up, Cluck-U is for you. It has a bunch of great features such as being open until 2AM on a typical night, delivering throughout Hoboken, and accepting duckbills. While the atmosphere and quality of food might remind you of McDonalds circa 1999, it’s a Stevens’s classic that deserves your visit.
A note about ratings:
Much like the great film reviewer, Robert Ebert, the ratings are relative, not absolute. The rating must be taken in context with the types of restaurant that I am reviewing. For example, I may give a fast casual restaurant “5 out of 5” stars for quality of food and a fine dining restaurant “2 out of 5 stars”. Does that mean the fast casual place has better food? No, of course not! It just means that in the context of fast casual restaurants, the restaurant is pretty good!