Little Chicken opens in downtown DC. Photographs by Rey Lopez
“Fried chicken is the conduit for pleasure and happiness.” That’s according to Casey Patten, and the idea behind Little Chicken, a new backyard-style chip and chip bar opening in downtown DC on Friday, May 20. Patten, who founded the original Taylor Gourmet hoagie shops and owns sub-destination Wharf Grazie Grazie, has teamed up with chefs Gerald Addison and Chris Morgan of Caribbean spot Bammy’s for the laid-back, day-long adventure at Midtown Center. On tap: crispy chicken and buckets, iced pitcher-sized drinks, swing sets, “senior shuffleboard” (i.e. the standing kind) and all the homemade pie that you can eat.
Patten knows how to make an average sandwich – millions now – and his co-chefs describe themselves as “eternal lovers of all things condiment” (cue the killer plate of condiments at their former restaurant, Maydan). A good start for chicken sandwiches and dips, but not everything. So they weaved their way through some 60 joints along the Great Fry Belt in the Carolinas, Georgia, and Tennessee: hip spots, classic spots, highway stops, and popular chains. Their big takeout: “We landed on what makes us hottest: classic American fried chicken,” says Addison, who created a retro spice blend with lots of garlic powder and black pepper. Another realization: it’s possible to tire of regular fried chicken, so you need a ton of fun sauces – they have nine, ranging from crispy garlic sauce to Alabama white – and bright and bold accompaniments. We’ve got our eye on tangy cucumber salad, spicy waffle fries, and marinated onion rings with ranch for dipping.
Midtown Center is home to plenty of upscale restaurants (Philotimo Greek tasting room, quaint Shoto sushi spot), but Little Chicken is more laid-back. There are about 100 seats between the interior 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, mayonnaise and cilantro. Groups can feast on buckets of bone-in chicken (white and dark, spicy and regular meat), combos with sides, or boxes full of tenders.
If you’re heading there for a drink, veteran DC bartender Said Haddad has plenty of fun group options. “With this place, we are throwing a party in an alley. We don’t need to fantasize everything,” the Maydan alum says. 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 homemade Michelada (essentially a beer-based Bloody Mary), pickles, and spicy-rimmed glasses of Tajin. Most cocktails, including house-made frozen, crushes, and hard seltzers, can be ordered individually or by the carafe. It’s a similar situation for beers — PBR and its ilk, or “fancy cans” — which are sold singly or in buckets of six. Plus, there’s fried chicken’s favorite sparkling pairing: sparkling wine. They have Cava for the wallets “and a bottle of baller because you have to these days,” Haddad says.
The chefs hope you saved room for the pie. Or homemade ice cream. Or both in the form of a “Pyclone”, a swirl of any pie (apple streusel, banana cream, shoofly) and a vanilla or salted caramel custard.
“As you can probably tell, we had fun around the chicken,” Patten says.
Little chicken. 1100 15th St., NW. Open Monday to Thursday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.; Friday to Sunday, 11 a.m. to 1 a.m.
Look at the menu here: