“Fried chicken is the conduit for fun and happiness.” That’s according to Casey Patten, and the idea behind Little Chicken, a new fry joint and backyard-style bar opening in downtown DC on Friday, May 20. Patten, who founded the original Taylor Gourmet hoagie shops and owns Wharf sub destination Grazie Grazie, teamed up with chefs Gerald Addison and Chris Morgan of Caribbean spot Bammy’s for the casual, all-day venture at Midtown Center. On tap: crispy chicken and buckets, jug-size frozen drinks, swing chairs, “old people shuffleboard” (i.e. the standup kind), and all the homemade pie you can eat.
Patten knows how to make a mean sandwich—millions by now—and his co-chefs are self-described “eternal lovers of all things condiment” (cue the killer condiment plate at their former restaurant, Maydan). A good start for chicken sandwiches and dunking tendies, but not everything. So they ate their way through 60-odd joints along the Great Fry Belt in the Carolinas, Georgia, and Tennessee: trendy places, classic spots, highway pit stops, and popular chains. Their big takeaway:“We landed on what makes us feel the warmest: classic American fried chicken,” says Addison, who created a throwback spice blend with plenty of garlic powder and black pepper. Another realization: it is possible to get tired of plain fried chicken, so you need a ton of fun sauces—they have nine, ranging from crispy garlic sauce to Alabama white—and bright, bold-flavored sides. We have our eye on the tangy cucumber salad, spicy waffle fries, and pickled onion rings with ranch for dipping.
Midtown Center is home to a lot of fancy restaurants (Greek tasting room Philotimo, sceney sushi spot Shoto), but Little Chicken is more laidback. There are about 100 seats between indoors and “the backyard” bar, which has shuffleboard and other games. Of course, there are decadent sandwiches, like a creation with fried chicken, crispy-garlic sauce, mayo, and cilantro. Groups can tuck into bone-in-chicken buckets—white and dark meat, spicy and regular—combos with sides, or boxes stuffed with tenders.
If you’re heading there for drinks, veteran DC barman Said Haddad has a bunch of fun group options. “With this place, we’re throwing a party in a back alley. We don’t need to fancify everything,”says the Maydan alum. Sure, there’s cocktail service, but instead of martinis it’s micheledas for four ($25). The treat comes with a 32-ounce Corona, a pitcher of house-made Michelada (essentially a beer-based bloody Mary), pickles, and glasses with Tajin-spiced rims. Most cocktails, including frozens, crushes, and homemade hard seltzers can be ordered individually or by the jug. It’s a similar situation for beers—PBR and its ilk, or “fancy cans”—which are sold solo or in buckets of six. Also, there’s fried chicken’s favored bubbly pairing: sparkling wine. They’ve got wallet-friendly Cava “and one baller bottle because you have to these days,” Haddad says.
The chefs hope you’ve saved room for pie. Or homemade frozen custard. Or both in the form of a “Pyclone,” a whirl of any pie (apple streusel, banana cream, shoofly) and either vanilla or salted caramel custard.
“As you can probably tell, we built fun around chicken,” Patten says.
Little Chicken. 1100 15th St., NW. Open Monday through Thursday, 11 AM to 11 PM; Friday through Sunday, 11 AM to 1 AM.
Peep the menu here: