Fried chicken. Sparkling wine. Dining underneath a picture of Marvin Zindler, in a restaurant named after the bordello that catapulted the legendary Houston media personality to fame. If only every weekend could be this fun.
Soon it will be.
After two months tweaking recipes to perfection, former Goro & Gun/The Modular's Joshua Martinez and co-owner Paul Sedillo opened The Chicken Ranch's doors to the public over the weekend. Sunday's sneak peek of the Heights fried chicken restaurant was the first of several to come. If last Sunday is an indication of what the future holds for The Chicken Ranch, this is one house of pleasures that could have a longer staying power than the one in La Grange.
Housed in the former Bellissimo Ristorante on North Main, the outside of the restaurant is painted to resemble the infamous brothel. Community farm tables sit near the entrance on the patio provided a place to rest for early birds. Painted above the patio was a sampling of what's to be served served: fried chicken, okra, chicken wings, wine and champagne. The Chicken Ranch also promises to serve craft beer but none was available for purchase that day. Guests were instead served a complimentary glass of cava while waiting for the doors to open. The duo and staff were running slightly behind the scheduled 11 a.m. start time, but soon opened with a short line quickly filed.
Once inside, the space has a down home feel to it, and like Goro & Gun, whimsical touches such as a statue of a chicken. Counter service is offered and a door leading to the patio is designated for take-out orders (which will be available once the restaurant officially opens next month). Served as combos, most of the chicken dinners are named after The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas references, the movie and musical based off the brothel.
Three pieces of brined chicken, a side and biscuit are $11, while the most expensive combo is $42 (includes sixteen pieces, three large sides and eight biscuits). Diners chuckled at the Dolly Special, a combo named after the country singer/actress and includes two breasts, small side and a biscuit for $9.
The wings named after deceased country music legends weren't available (similar to Goro & Gun's homage to deceased rappers) but will appear on the menu either on opening day or shortly thereafter. Dirty rice, mashed potatoes, mac & cheese, creamed corn and okra and tomatoes rounded out the sides. There was a wait because each order is made to order, but nothing unbearable. Martinez rarely left the kitchen, but could be observed rolling dough for biscuits, frying chicken and making bad-ass sides.
Initially the restaurant hosted previews were to take place every Sunday leading up to its November opening, but Martinez has added an extra day. Martinez tells Eater Houston exclusively that he, "wanted to add another day and really get a workout of the space." The Chicken Ranch previews will be held Saturday and Sunday from 11 a..m. to 7 p.m.
[Photos: Patricia Dewey]