Trend Watch: Rotisserie Cooking Heats Up

Chefs across the country are spinning chickens, lamb and more
September 15, 2014
by Patty Lee

Long relegated to the prepared-foods aisle of local supermarkets (or the counters of a certain New England chicken chain), spit-turned meats are making a comeback in the country's hottest kitchens. Big-name chefs like Clark Frasier and Mark Gaier — the James Beard Award-winning founders of Maine's acclaimed Arrows — have built their newest restaurants around the humble rotisserie, dishing up whole birds, fish and even vegetables spun over roaring fires. "There’s something inherently neolithic about seeing your dinner cooked in front of you over the open flame," says Frasier, who installed a 40-inch steel spit at the center of M.C. Spiedo, the rustic Italian restaurant he opened with Gaier in Boston this February.

Rotisserie cooking is also a remarkably simple technique that, thanks to the magic of electricity, often requires less attention than oven roasting. "The animal is getting heat constantly from three sides, so the cooking process is extremely even," Frasier explains. "You’re putting a chicken on stick and letting it go. It’s simple to master, and it's something that humans respond to. It makes you happy and hungry." Here are nine places to try the rotisserie trend right now, plus several others on the way.

Rotisserie Georgette in New York City

For her first solo venture, longtime Daniel Boulud publicist Georgette Farkas was inspired by childhood summers spent in the south of France. The menu of rustic fare, turned out by fellow Boulud alum Chad Brauze, centers around spit-roasted meats and French-accented sides, like a foie gras-topped "poulet de luxe," harissa-marinated lamb loin and Idaho potatoes stuffed with Parmesan mash.

14 E. 60th St.; 212-390-8060

M.C. Spiedo Ristorante & Bar in Boston

True to its name — spiedo translates to "spit" in Italian — this waterfront restaurant from powerhouse duo Mark Gaier and Clark Frasier features a 40-inch steel rotisserie used to twirl locally sourced ducks, chicken and suckling pig. Influenced by their travels through Italy and the cooking techniques of the Renaissance, the pair is hosting a series of large-format Sunday suppers that highlight a different spit-turned meat each week.

 606 Congress St.; 617-476-5606

TBD in San Francisco

At this fiery follow-up to his popular SoMa eatery AQ, chef Mark Liberman employs all methods of open-flamed cooking. From a custom 10-foot-long hearth, Liberman cranks out (literally — there are two sets of hand cranks that raise and lower the grills) a multiple-course tasting of flame-kissed fare. The menu changes weekly, but rotisserie-spun fowl make a frequent appearance.

1077 Mission St.; 415-431-1826

Chicken Shop in Chicago

This London-based chain crossed the pond in August, rolling out its first stateside outpost inside the trendy Soho House. The solo entree is — you guessed it — roasted chicken, served whole, halved or quartered with a variety of sides (coleslaw, french fries) and three types of pudding (chocolate brownie, apple pie or lemon meringue) for dessert.

113-125 N. Green St.; 312-754-6941

Narcissa in New York City

While most rotisserie restaurants focus on meat, this East Village hot spot from Michelin-starred chef John Fraser shines a spotlight on vegetables. The rotisserie-cooked beets — slow-roasted for up to five hours until crisp on the outside and tender on the inside — have become one of the restaurant's most popular appetizers.

21 Cooper Sq.; 212-228-3344

Republique in Los Angeles

Owners Walter and Margarita Manzke designed the layout of their stunning French brasserie with an oak-fired rotisserie in mind. The imported Tuscan grill sits in full view of the main room, where diners dig into pans of juicy, spit-turned chickens served with braised kale and fingerling potatoes doused in jus. 

624 S. La Brea Blvd.; 310-362-6115

Bar Sajor in Seattle

There's no stove at this Pioneer Square eatery, the latest restaurant from Sitka & Spruce's Matt Dillon — just a wood-burning oven and rotisserie that allows the award-winning toque to fuse his improvisational, locavore style with a primitive technique. Expect dishes such as chicken set atop yogurt, fresh dill and cucumber or lamb leg with sheep's-milk cheese and green almonds to come from the spit.

323 Occidental Ave. S.; 206-682-1117

The Partisan in Washington, DC

Opened by the Red Apron team in the space next to their gourmet butcher shop, this meat-centric spot has several items that spend time on the spit: chickens are brined, roasted, then deep-fried before hitting tables. Whole fish — dressed with griddled lemons, olive oil and fennel pollen — get a turn in there as well.

709 D St. NW; 202-524-5322

Work & Class in Denver

This sunny RiNo eatery is the brainchild of three partners with diverse cultural backgrounds, so it's no surprise that the house specialty comes in a variety of different flavors. The succulent, crispy-skinned bird currently is done two ways: with Jamaican jerk spices or seasoned simply with rosemary.

2500 Larimer St.; 303-292-0700

Coming Soon...

More rotisserie-focused restaurants are on the way, including three in Philly. For his next venture, Lo Spiedo, chef Marc Vetri will offer spit-cooked meats (octopus, pork shoulder) in traditional entree form, as well as stuffed in paninis, while Petit Roti — a quick-service French spot from Olivier Desaintmartin (ZincCaribou Cafe) — will sling chickens roasted on two imported old-school spinners. In Atlanta, Bantam + Biddy — a growing chainlet that rose to popularity thanks to its chicken dinners — has another outpost opening in the Avalon development in October.

m.c. spiedo
clark frasier