Chicken Feed

Fork and Hen Is Now Open on the North Trail

Enjoy Southern cuisine with a twist at this new restaurant in the former Leaf & Lentil space.

By Lauren Jackson June 2, 2022

Birria and grits at Fork and Hen.

Birria and grits at Fork and Hen.

Hot fried chicken and other decadent delights are being served at new restaurant Fork and Hen, which opened Tuesday on the North Trail in a space most recently occupied by Leaf & Lentil. The food is delicious, crispy and, most importantly, thoughtful.

“Let me get a side of mac and cheese for you to try,” co-owner Mark Traugutt says to a neighborhood couple. The pair hadn’t ordered the dish, but Traugutt and his business partner, Alfonso Duron, are so enthusiastic about their new endeavor that they have to share their signature dish with everyone.

The chefs both built their culinary resumes in Sarasota working at staples like Shore and Boca. “We love the people here,” says Traugutt. However, they originally opened Fork and Hen locations in Tampa and then Orlando before returning.

Still, "it was always our plan to come back to Sarasota. It’s our home,” says Traugutt.

Traugutt describes Fork and Hen's menu as “Southern eclectic, with our own special spin.” There's fried chicken of all kinds—wings, sandwiches, served over a waffle. But there are also interesting twists on classics, like birria and grits and falafel hush puppies. Traugutt and Duron's team executes each dish flawlessly, making sure to include plenty of bright acidity in dishes that may otherwise land too heavy.

Crispy Chicken Sandwich at Fork and Hen.

Crispy Chicken Sandwich at Fork and Hen.

Fork and Hen's crispy chicken sandwich is enormous. I can barely fit a bite into my mouth, which would typically be worrisome. But in this one case, I’m unbothered. The chicken is expertly seasoned and shatters as I crunch down. It’s accompanied by pickled cabbage and cucumbers with a cool Ranch dressing and served between house-made focaccia bread.

A chicken sandwich is rarely made with such consideration that the bread is baked fresh. It’s usually an afterthought—a thin, soft potato roll or something equally unremarkable.

Not at Fork and Hen, everything is purposeful. 

And while the chicken sandwich is excellent, I’ve come specifically for the birria and grits. Birria is best known in its taco form, as braised beef with a crisp taco dipped in consommé and smothered with cheese. For most, the dish is all about the beef—but for me, it’s the cheese. Fork and Hen's distinct riff on birria carries all the familiar components, but the corn tortilla is replaced by grits, the beef is braised with five different chiles and the consommé pools beneath it all, forming a lagoon of stock over the divots in the grits. Most importantly, the cheese is there, shining through the sweet grits and standing up to the rich beef. I’m thrilled to see a small cheese pull as I pull my fork from the grits.

Macaroni and cheese at Fork and Hen.

Macaroni and cheese at Fork and Hen.

The cheese doesn’t stop with the grits. One of the chefs presents me a taste of macaroni and cheese, too, as he seems to do to everyone entering the establishment.  I’ve lived a largely macaroni and cheese-less life because either the pasta is overcooked, the mornay is gritty or, in many cases, both. Not here. The cavatappi pasta is perfectly al dente and there is no evidence of uncooked flour. The cheese is salty, nutty and endlessly stretchy. I’m in heaven.

Fork and Hen is located at 2801 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota. For more information call (941) 960-1212 or visit their Instagram.

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