Restaurant review: The Crispy Coop's fried chicken is easy to like
“What a difference a half-year makes,” I mumbled through a mask recently while entering The Crispy Coop — a rebranded, relocated and reconfigured Grandview operation once called Uncle Nick’s Greek Fried Chicken.
It had been six months since I’d visited The Crispy Coop, and that seemingly forever-ago lunch in early March was the last time I’d dined inside a restaurant with a mask-free face and a carefree mind.
I’d thought The Coop — which had just opened in February — was worth writing about back then because it offered appealing deals on pleasant meals. But when the coronavirus hit the fan shortly thereafter, I hesitated to showcase a modest new place before observing how it responded to the business pressure engendered by the worsened pandemic.
Well, March has given way to September — “pandemic time” can seem to drag from moment to moment, even as it races by in months — and The Coop is still serving.
Based on the takeout and delivery orders I saw continually being filled during late August visits — when I ferried my food to The Coop’s convenient little patio, and the eatery announced that it’s again offering dine-in service — the shop appears to be doing well.
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If anything, The Coop’s solid food had only improved since March while its prices remained unchanged, and such factors have likely bolstered the restaurant’s bottom line. Also contributing to The Coop’s staying power: Decent fried chicken is easy to like, but hard — and messy — to cook at home.
The Coop’s signature item is fried to order, so it’s best to phone ahead. Expect about a 20- to 30-minute wait.
And then expect brined, juicy meat beneath a thin-yet-crackly crust created with simply but effectively seasoned flour. If you request “traditional” chicken, expect a golden-brown exterior.
The two other flavors available had crusts reddened by cayenne pepper delivered by fat-based sauces so liberally applied they formed puddles. Named for the poultry made famous in the Volunteer State (where a chili-and-lard paste is popular), these more flavorful styles are called “Tennessee mild,” which I’d call “medium hot”; and (my favorite here) “Nashville hot,” whose cumulative heat never reached the intense burn I associate with Nashville hot chicken.
A la carte pieces are alluringly inexpensive. Thighs ($2) and breasts ($3.50) offer the most and best meat, but I was also impressed by the oversized and overachieving Strips (four for $8).
Dinners, which are served with two hefty and homey sides, offer a strong bang for your buck, too. For example, a half bird with my preferred sides — Mac & Cheese (cavatappi in a creamy-and-tangy sauce) and Greens (tender, appropriately bitter, packed with pulled pork but bereft of vinegar) — is only $10.50. Other recommended meal deals are the White Dinner with two breast pieces ($10.50) and the four-piece Chicken Strips Dinner ($10).
If you’d like different sides, The Coop’s other options have their draws: Coleslaw — semi-sweet, fortified with kale, carrots and abundant mayo; Texas Potatoes — fried wedges coated in seasoned flour and similar to “jojo” potatoes with softer interiors; and Cornbread — moist, not-too-sweet, somewhat crumbly.
If a healthful or bread-bound meal is calling, the fried Chicken Sandwich ($11 with a side) will provide a better answer than the large but underwhelming Mixed Green salad ($10) with added grilled chicken planks ($3.50) that almost seemed like they’d been steamed. The good sandwich stars a large, crunchy boneless breast piece garnished with slaw and sweet pickles loaded into a toasted sweet bun.
Desserts ($4) include Banana Pudding (a tad thin and sweet, but with appreciated butterscotch notes, plentiful fruit, vanilla wafers and whipped cream) and a cinnamon-swirled Honey Bun Cake (nice despite its sugary topping) with characteristic homespun appeal.
The Crispy Coop
1717 Northwest Blvd., Northwest Side