- LUCAS PETERSON
- You can eat as much of this fried chicken as your heart desires at Juniper's Sunday Suppers.
John Perkins knows that, right now, people need all the comfort they can get. That's why he and his team have decided to up the ante at their already soul-warming restaurant, Juniper (4101 Laclede Avenue, 314-329-7696)
, by offering a new Sunday dining package that is sure to please.
"I think the idea of sitting around a pile of fried chicken and drinking a pitcher of cocktails is the kind of comfort people want right now," Perkins says.
In that spirit, Perkins, executive chef Matt Daughaday and the Juniper team are excited to launch their new Sunday Suppers, a weekly event that will feature all-you-care-to-eat platters of either its regular or hot fried chicken, family-style sides and cornbread for the all-inclusive price of $24.99 per person. Pitchers of batch cocktails, which roughly contain four drinks, will be offered for $19.99, shots of bourbon and tequila are available at $1.99 a piece and Busch beer will cost you a mere 99 cents. The regularly occurring event will run from 5 until 9 p.m., beginning this Sunday.
As Perkins explains, the idea for Sunday Suppers harkens back to a popular dinner series called "Monday Night Meat and Three" offered at Juniper's original Boyle Avenue location. When he moved the restaurant to its new corner spot on Laclede Avenue in 2018, he discontinued the series because he felt it didn't quite fit for what he was doing there, though he always had it in the back of his mind that he might try it again. Perkins does not mince words about why the timing seems right to do so at this particular moment.
"On a very practical level, we need to find ways to drive revenue without overextending ourselves on the labor front," Perkins explains. "We're currently open five days a week, and within that time frame, we wanted to see what areas we could get more business. Lunches are not really an option right now, and the only service we aren't doing on a day we are open is Sunday night. We started batting ideas around and this just made sense because chicken has always been our calling card."
Fried chicken is not simply a revenue stream for Perkins, however. Though he has been frying up crispy bird for the past eight years, Perkins insists he is not tired of it and considers the dish to be a labor of love. He believes this is why Juniper's fried chicken has occupied — and continues to occupy — such a special place in the hearts of St. Louis diners.
"This is going to sound super cheesy, but it's true: I really love fried chicken," Perkins says. "I actually really love it and have never gotten tired of it. Maybe chefs at different times have gotten tired of it, but I haven't, and I think that matters on some level. I think it's easy for high-minded chefs to have a resentment toward it because it seems too low-brow, but Matt [Daughaday] doesn't have that approach. He gets it and really understands that there is still a lot of art in making really good fried chicken, as well as intention and thought that goes into it. He cares about making sure that it's the best version possible when it goes out of our kitchen."
To that end, Perkins and Daughady are not content simply following the usual recipe and sticking with how they have always made their famous dish. Instead, they are always driven to make it better, and take opportunities to tweak and perfect the recipe rather than making it from rote memory.
"We are constantly thinking about it and wanting to improve on it, because I don't think it is ever perfect, and it's worth improving what is already a good thing," Perkins says. "When you are always trying to make it better, I think you end up with a product that people really enjoy and love to eat."
Perkins plans on continuing Sunday Suppers for as long as there is demand. He suspects it to be a popular event, though he is not taking reservations; the dinners will be walk-in only. In addition to the chicken, side and drink specials, he plans to also offer comfort food-driven desserts for an additional fee, with items like a cast-iron skillet brownie on the horizon. He believes that, coupled with the shockingly cheap booze, will create the sort of end-of-weekend outing people need.
"I was joking with our staff at our meeting last week that we can finally be the truck stop we've always wanted to be now that we've adopted the 99 cent pricing model," Perkins laughs.
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