Chasing a hot tip from a Heavy Table reader, we recently ventured to Northeast Minneapolis for wood-fired chicken at the newly renovated Holy Land market and restaurant. And if we’re serious about chicken, wait ’til you meet Holy Land’s affable co-owner and CEO, Majdi Wadi, often found working the restaurant’s new, impressive rotisserie, the centerpiece of an expansive, rejuvenated kitchen. According to Wadi, Holy Land added the rotisserie (and a tandoori-style clay oven) as part of a larger effort to live up to their motto: “Taste of the Old World Cuisine.” Previously, Holy Land had used “old world” (that is, Middle Eastern) spices and ingredients, but it didn’t use “old world” cooking implements. Clearly, that’s changed.
Wadi carefully plucks the birds from rods, precisely chops them in half, and lovingly rubs them with garlic butter. As he piles meat and tandoori-fired bread onto black disposable plates, he beams with the joyous pride of a new father. “With the new renovation, the chicken is my baby,” he tells us. “And that’s why you sometimes see me at the grill.” Fussy and particular with each serving, Wadi obviously takes pride in his staff, but still. This is his food.
Like everything served at Holy Land, the chicken is halal, which means that the fowl is raised free range, fed all-natural food, and slaughtered and drained quickly in accordance with Islamic law. Once they arrive at the restaurant, the chickens receive favored-child treatment. They’re cleaned and soaked with lemon, salt, flour, onion, and garlic. Next, they marinate overnight in a ginger-garlic mixture before getting a different massage in a concoction of cumin, coriander, all spice, black pepper, white pepper, ginger, kosher salt, and two mixes of Arabic spices. The birds then cook over burning wood and natural lump coal for 50 to 60 minutes.
The result is sensational. Blackened, crisp, and popping with smoky-spice goodness, the skin is first-rate. And the meat! The breast is as juicy as the legs and thighs of most other rotisserie chickens. Flavor penetrates all the way down to the bones. Because the bird’s so flavorful, we weren’t tempted to order anything but the “original” (also available: BBQ, spicy, and lemon garlic), but trust that we’re thrilled we chased the reader’s tip. We have a new go-to for rotisserie chicken.
And it’s a hell of a deal — $6 for a half and $10 for a whole chicken. The combination meal is even a better bargain. Served with bread, Greek salad, and rice, fries, or hummus, the half-chicken combo ($11) is easily big enough for two. While the salad is serviceable, the large helping of hummus is delicious (as a side note, we absolutely loved a side of baba ghannuj and wish it were available for the combo). Lest we forget, the bread is wonderful. Cooked in the new tandoori oven and brushed with garlic butter, it’s like naan, complete with tasty char. We strongly recommend ripping off a piece of the bread and filling it with chicken, salad, and hummus for a mouthwatering mini-sandwich. Oh, the possibilities!
Holy Land Supermarket and Restaurant, 2513 Central Ave NE, Minneapolis, MN 55418; 612.781.2627