Nestled in a hidden alleyway at D.C.’s shiny new Midtown Center, Little Chicken strives to loosen up D.C.’s 9-to-5 corridor with lip-smacking fried poultry, homemade hard seltzers, beers by the bucket, and bonafide shuffleboard.
Their playful new poultry pad, wedged between L and M Streets NW, carves out room for 40 patrons on its backyard-style patio and 70 inside the graffiti-soaked space. Hours are 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. during the week and noon to 1 a.m. on weekends (1100 15th Street NW).
A regulation-sized, stand-up shuffleboard — of the cruise ship and retirement home variety – hopes to become downtown’s latest summer pastime. “It’s a vibe outside,” says Patten. He got longtime DJ Stylus Chris to curate the tunes, who also lays tracks for Daikaya Group, Casta’s, and Salt Line, to name a few.
“We’re a boozy and fun hangout with badass chicken,” says Patten. “It’s lunch, it’s after work, it’s later in the evening – you’re not just going to come for a chicken sandwich, you’re going to want to stick and stay.”
That being said, there’s takeout and delivery too on pieces of bone-in chicken — pick white or dark meat, spicy or regular — by the box or bucket. There’s also combos, sides, salads, and fried or griddled sandwiches like a “Cluck Norris” that tops jalapeno popper dip and pepper jelly over fried chicken (or go meatless with a chicken-fried oyster mushroom). And because “we believe sauces are king,” there’s nine types to choose from, including Alabama white to crispy garlic.
“The ultimate goal here is to choose your own adventure,” says Patten.
The team went the extra mile in the name of research, embarking on a deep fried tour of the South to taste test 60 chicken shops — from iconic to everyday — all over Charlotte, Charleston, Atlanta, and Nashville.
“We tasted a lot of amazing things and learned from the bad as well,” says Patten. “We realized that what hits home the most is classic American fried chicken.”
One pit stop that stood out was the flavorful poultry at Price’s Chicken Coop’s, a decades-old Charlotte stalwart where cooks wear paper hats (sadly, it since closed during the pandemic). They didn’t discount the big chains, either (“they did a great job, quite frankly, at consistently putting out tasty, well seasoned products,” says Patten).
Another tip from the extensive chicken trip was how heavy all the sides can be. “We wanted to create the opposite,” says Morgan.
A list of fun and bright sides play up acidity to counteract the savoriness of the chicken. A three-bean salad is a play on the picnic classic, rounded out with parsley, chopped pickles made on-site, and extra virgin olive oil. The partners’ communal favorite is the raw broccoli salad, punched up with pepper, cranberries, pine nuts, and sour cream dressing. Familiar fried chicken compliments include mac and cheese, coleslaw, and biscuits and maple butter. A snacks section includes a fried shrimp plate, pickled onion rings, and smoked trout-topped deviled eggs.
Drinking is designed to be a communal affair, with cocktails by the glass or jug ($10-$65) by vet D.C. bartender Said Haddad.
“It’s what we would want to drink if we threw this kind of party in our backyard and invited all our peeps,” says Haddad, who turns traditionally low-brow cocktails up a notch at his latest post.
An offbeat Old Fashioned jazzed up with mint sorghum takes tips from a summery Mint Julep. A DIY “For the Coop” option for four plops down all the fix-ins to assemble sangritas and micheladas at the table.
There’s also margaritas and palomas, plus frozen, swirl-able options like vodka mixed berry mule or pineapple mint daiquiri. Beers by the can, glass or bucket swing from dressed-down (PBRs and Miller Lites) to a little more high brow (Atlas and Hellbender). For bubbles, there’s both a house and one “baller” bottle to consider.
Instead of going the Truly route, Little Chicken opted to create its own crushable, low-sugar hard seltzers in blackberry, watermelon, passion fruit, or citrus flavors.
“It tastes like it should – low sugar and nice and boozy, but not too crazy,” says Haddad.
All those fruit-forward cocktails means there’s enough juice to go around to do homemade fruit sodas (pineapple mint, chili pepper and cucumber lime).
Pie was always part of the plan (“who doesn’t like fucking pie?” says Addison). Seasonal slices of classic apple and shoofly pie can be topped with a dollop of frozen custard. A crazy creation it calls a Pyclone blends up pie and frozen custard. Soft serve makes another appearance on the beer menu as a “stout float.”
Bammy’s menu shines through in a banana cream pie, cooked down with Jamaican rum and finished with brown sugar. (The waterfront Navy Yard restaurant just made a huge hire with chef and Cane alum Peter Prime, who may contribute a Trinidadian fried chicken recipe down the line.)
Addison says the key to good fried chicken starts starts with the right seasoning (their blend packs in garlic powder and black pepper), along with sturdy-but-delicate breading, and the right amount of juiciness without being “not too wet.” A U.S.-made Henny Penny pressure cooker does the work.
Addison counts Little Chicken’s star offering as his biggest culinary challenge yet.
“It’s really hard to hit on the nail because there’s nothing to hide behind,” he says. “It’s easy to make pieces but hard to make super excellent fried chicken and get it to that next level.”