The Indiana Fried Chicken Tour: MCL Restaurant and Bakery

Were I a wagering man, I’d bet that MCL Restaurant and Bakery has had fried chicken on their extensive menu every day since their first location opened in 1950. Given that and the fact you can’t swing a dead cat in Indianapolis without hitting an MCL, it seemed fait accompli that Sherrel and I would visit one on the Indiana Fried Chicken Tour. MCL is an Indianapolis institution, with nine locations around the metro. The chain also reaches Muncie, Anderson, Richmond, Terre Haute, one city in Illinois, and four cities in Ohio. I know their location at 2370 W. 86th St. best, so that’s where we went. We brought our colleague (and frequent Down the Road commenter) Dani along.

MCL is a cafeteria. So you might think that the three of us, who all hover around middle age, would signficantly drop the average age in the place just by showing up. That was not the case. Our fellow diners were an even mix of those past retirement age and people around our age. Could it be that cafeterias start to gain some allure after you turn 40?

But I digress. MCL prides itself in homemade, fresh food. Given the dizzying array of choices as you pass through the line, they must work very hard every day to deliver it. I was momentarily distracted by a giant, juicy beef roast all pink in the center, just how I like it. Dani was tempted by some baked tilapia. With steely determination, we averted our eyes from the bounty as we ordered what we came for.

To me, a classic fried chicken meal involves mashed potatoes and green beans, so that’s what I chose. But many other vegetables were available, in even greater variety than the main courses. I had a diet soda with my lunch; coffee and iced tea were also available.

Even though I favor dark meat, I like to sample both dark and white meat when when on the Tour. Unfortunately, the menu board offered all-dark and all-white meals, but no mix. That didn’t stop Sherrel from ordering a breast and a thigh anyway, which I didn’t notice until it was too late for me to do the same.

The coating was very crispy, almost crunchy. It was mildly seasoned and a little salty. My thigh was plenty juicy, the leg less so. Sherrel reported that the breast was “one of the juiciest I’ve had.” By the end of the meal he placed this chicken among his favorites on the Tour. I was trying to decide what flavor the meat had when Dani declared it bland and I realized she was right. Clearly, the coating was meant to carry the flavor. But still, we were all impressed with this chicken, which tasted like it was fresh from the fryer.

I was less enthralled with the vegetables. The green beans were a little limp, but to their credit plenty of salty bacon bits were mixed in to add flavor. Given the amount of bacon, I expected the beans to be fatty, but they weren’t. I wished I had noticed the fresh green beans when I went through the line. Dani did, and she judged them crisp and very buttery. The potatoes were an outright disappointment. They were thin and smooth and had an off flavor, which Sherrel decided must be the flavor of the box from which they came. The gravy was salty but otherwise not flavorful, and had very little body.

I finished off my meal with a piece of cheesecake. I’ve eaten at MCL several times before and know that their cheesecake is a winner. I like straight classic cheesecake, and I like it plain, and MCL is always happy to oblige. And it helped ease my sorrow over the potatoes.

My lunch came to just over $14. The cheesecake was the most expensive item at $4, so if you’re looking for lunch at around $10 just skip dessert. The chicken and sides were plenty of food by themselves.

Even though I wasn’t overly thrilled with my sides, I’m certain I’ll come back for more fried chicken at MCL. With so many locations convenient to me, and so much variety every day, it’s an easy choice. But next time I’ll look for those fresh green beans, and maybe I’ll break from tradition and skip the potatoes.

This was the fifth stop on the Tour. Also check out Mississippi Belle, Kountry Kitchen, Kopper Kettle, and the Iron Skillet


19 responses to “The Indiana Fried Chicken Tour: MCL Restaurant and Bakery”

  1. Dani Avatar

    I thought it was the threat of not getting a ride back to the office that diverted my attention from the tilapia! Nevertheless, I am glad I tried the chicken and followed up with the delectable Carmel Chocolate Torte.

    1. Jim Avatar

      Ok, so I may have provided your steely determination!

  2. ryoko861 Avatar

    So it depends on what piece of chicken you happen to end up with. I think the overall rating would be “It Was OK But You’ve Had Better”.

    My grocery store makes fantastic fried chicken, rivals the Colonels!

    1. Jim Avatar

      That’s pretty much right. MCL is just so darned convenient, though. I’d say my favorite stops on the tour so far have been Kopper Kettle and Mississippi Belle.

  3. Todd Pack Avatar

    Great. I brought a peanut butter sandwich for lunch, and I was OK with that, but then you had to go and post a picture of fried chicken. I hope you’re happy.

    1. Jim Avatar

      Mission accomplished.

  4. MCL Restaurant & Bakery Avatar


    We’d like to thank you for your kind review. You are correct that fried chicken is one of the few MCL Restaurant & Bakery menu items to be featured daily since our start in 1950.

    We’re glad you enjoyed your fried chicken and Carnegie Deli Cheesecake. Our apologies for the side dishes not being up-to-snuff. We always appreciate customer feedback and we’ll pass along your critique to our Township Line store.

    -MCL Restaurant & Bakery

    1. Jim Avatar

      I’m delighted you stopped by! We did enjoy our visit overall. And I can’t get that wonderful-looking roast beef off my mind!

  5. Lone Primate Avatar
    Lone Primate

    Stop torturing me!! :)

      1. Lone Primate Avatar
        Lone Primate

        I’m not sure that helps! :)

        1. Jim Avatar

          Depends on your definition of help!

  6. vanilla Avatar

    Though I’ve not made the trip recently, I do like some MCL! And while I like the dark-meat chicken, I’m afraid I would not have been able to bypass that pinkish roast beast.

    You guys have way too much fun on your “chicken tour.”

    1. Jim Avatar

      Last night after work I had the evening to myself, so I drove over to MCL and had the roast beast. It was mighty tasty. I also had the fresh green beans, which were every bit as crisp and buttery as Dani reported. And I had another piece of cheesecake, natch!

      1. vanilla Avatar

        Way to go!

      2. Melissa Waggoner Dieckmann Avatar

        I always used to get the roast beef when I ate at MCL. And yes, it IS delicious! Glad you enjoyed the experience.

        1. Jim Avatar

          It’s very worthy. So’s the chicken, though. Tough choice to make.

  7. zorgor Avatar

    I am impressed! I don’t think I’ve ever tried the fried chicken at MCL, though I’ve eaten there dozens of times. I also had no idea they were local!

    1. Jim Avatar

      I didn’t know it either at first. I think I saw a TV ad for them some years ago that mentioned it.

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