Fried chicken occupies an extra crispy place in the hearts of food lovers, with the warm, crunchy comfort of the juicy bird claiming a spot on many an eater’s “last meal” menu. It’s that fundamental fact that serves as the inspiration behind Bucket List, a relatively new fried chicken and comfort food joint in Rockville Centre.
Specializing in what the proprietors call “Northern Fried Chicken,” Bucket List’s menu reads like scrawled notes following an unabashed foodie’s fever dream. That is no accident, as the restaurant’s developers endeavored to create a menu made up entirely of items from their favorite “bucket list” meals. And topping that list, is fried chicken. The deep-fried bird makes its way into numerous preparations, with buckets of the aforementioned Northern Fried Chicken leading the way. The poultry is dredged in a mix of spices, then fried until golden and crispy. Fine on its own, the chicken is made that much better when dusted with a blend of spices from a silver shaker. The dusting elevates the chicken to such heights that one wonders why Bucket List doesn’t serve it pre-dusted.
The first bite of fried chicken is always eye-opening, especially when it’s from the king of chicken cuts, the thigh. Always the juiciest and most flavorful bite, the thigh shines just as brightly at Bucket List, with the perfectly seasoned taste emphasized by that telltale crunch. A full bucket of chicken consists of eight pieces—two breasts, two thighs, two legs and two wings—while the half bucket has four pieces. The eatery also presents its bird as Chicken & Waffles, with three pieces of chicken served with house-made waffles that are somehow both fluffy and crunchy. The heat gets turned up with Nashville Hot Chicken, with fiery, finger-licking spices adorning the chicken, as it sits atop white bread, garnished with a pickle and coleslaw.
Beyond the buckets is where the eatery gets creatively crazy in the best possible way. Topping the appetizer list is the Ferris Wheel Sampler, a downright fun presentation of fried treats, including whole fried pickle spears, fried corn bread bites, onion rings, popcorn chicken and funnel fries. Then there’s the dangerously decadent Mac & Cheese Donuts, featuring creamy macaroni and cheese shaped into a donut and deep fried, served with a side of cheese sauce. The result is a bite that will elicit audible grunts and groans of pure bliss.
Another starter worth diving into is the Nachos Bucket, filled with tortilla chips and topped with BBQ pulled chicken, melted shredded cheese, cheese sauce and sour cream. The presentation is playfully over-the-top, but the flavor is spot on as the thick and crunchy chips have no trouble supporting the intensely cheesy barbecue punch of the toppings. The appetizers are rounded out with smothered chicken wings, chicken biscuits and loaded sweet potato fries with brown sugar, a drizzle of marshmallow sauce and a graham cracker crumble.
Back to the main courses, the Chicken Mashup Bowl is perhaps the heartiest menu item. The dish starts with a base of mashed potatoes mixed with corn and shredded cheese, made meaty with popcorn chicken and a generous ladling of gravy. There’s plenty to like about the sandwiches too, especially the Mac & Cheese Chicken Sandwich, which is a fried chicken breast topped with creamy mac & cheese and crumbled bacon. Other sandwiches include Nashville Hot Chicken, pulled chicken and buffalo chicken. There are also soups (Chicken Pot Pie Soup, among others) and salads (the Bucket List Salad, with mixed greens, popcorn chicken, tomatoes, bacon, shredded cheese, croutons).
The foodie bucket list at this chicken coop continues into beverages and sweets. First, the restaurant exclusively serves Boylan sodas that routinely turn into vanilla ice cream floats. The Boylan orange soda float is a creamsicle in a mug and is the perfect refreshing antidote to a meal of fried indulgence. But if indulgence is what you seek, look no further than Bucket List’s shakes and sundaes. These Instagram-ready creations include The Sweet Shoppe—vanilla ice cream shake in a Fruity Pebbles-rimmed glass topped with whipped cream and fruit loops, garnished with a swirly lollipop, rock candy and cotton candy—and the Grand Slam—chocolate ice cream shake in a caramel popcorn-rimmed glass, topped with whipped cream, caramel sauce and Reese’s Pieces, garnished with a pretzel rod and nutty ice cream cone.
The sundaes are equally intense with takes on banana split, cookies and cream, s’mores and peanut butter. Then there’s the wild Bucket List Sundae, which loads every imaginable item into a sundae for those brave enough to tackle a truly monstrous dessert.
Bucket List’s approach to food demonstrably shows its passion for fun and comfort in every bite. And while the menu illustrates “bucket list” items, the restaurant encourages customers to relate their own bucket list wishes, with the eatery choosing a lucky winner each season and granting them their wish. The restaurant has already gifted a couples’ massage and Billy Joel tickets.
Open for lunch, dinner and late-night bites, as well as take out, delivery, catering and private events, Bucket List is a fanatical food seeker’s dream come true.
Bucket List, 201 Sunrise Hwy., Rockville Centre; 516-821-5478; www.bucketlistrvc.com.