Pepsi Chicken

Veteran restauranteur Jay Irvin marinades his chicken in Pepsi, making for a meat that's sweet, savory, and tender—think teriyaki chicken with a sorghum tinge.

By Rachel Ritchie November 9, 2009 Published in the December 2009 issue of Portland Monthly

1209 81 eatnow jc5ayr

Pepsi Chicken with dirty rice and fried okra

Slathered in countless sauces, steeped in marinades, breaded, fried, grilled, baked, braised—chicken has seen it all. But Jay Irvin, a proud North Carolinian with a drawl to match, has introduced Portland to a novel dressing for the ubiquitous bird: Pepsi.

At his four-month-old Southern eatery, Hillbilly Bento, Irvin marinates his trademark Pepsi Chicken in a mix of molasses and, yes, real Pepsi. He then slow-cooks it in its own juices and smothers it in a reduction sauce made with more Pepsi, resulting in meat that’s sweet, savory, and impossibly tender—think teriyaki chicken with a sorghum tinge. To complete your Hillbilly Bento box ($5.95), you’ll need to choose a base for your bento and a side dish from a menu of mouthwatering Southern staples. We recommend the subtly spicy Cajun dirty rice studded with andouille sausage and a side of fried okra. And if you’re feeling indulgent, treat yourself to a slice of Irvin’s blissfully rich chocolate-pecan pie for $3.50.

“I wanted to do something that was authentic to the core,” says Irvin, a self-trained chef who’s run pizza joints, steak houses, and other eateries in Portland for the past 16 years. “I thought, ‘What do I do for friends? What do I really love?’” The answer was easy: the traditional, down-home cooking he learned to love as a child in his grandmother’s North Carolina kitchen—with a splash of Pepsi.

Show Comments