Eats Beat

It’s a secret no more: The story behind the extra-hot spicy chicken at The Cookshack

A chicken sandwich at the Cookshack.
A chicken sandwich at the Cookshack. Handout photo

In the Year of Hot Chicken, one chicken restaurant flies above the rest.

The Cookshack is a new chicken-and-ribs concept at 500 University Drive with everything your family wants: mild or incredibly hot chicken sandwiches and tenders, chef-driven salads, ice cream sandwiches and margaritas.

An old chicken stand was replaced with a new idea from Dallas restaurateur Mark Rogers, a former KTVT/Channel 11 sportscaster whose Dallas family co-founded Cheddar’s.

For months, as construction continued, the Cookshack kept Fort Worth in suspense about what was planned beyond a new hot chicken concept.

When the Cookshack opened, we saw more than a chicken stand.

Rogers said investors tried to buy two well-known hot chicken restaurants — Hattie B’s in Nashville and Joella’s in Louisville, Kentucky — before starting their own “Texas hot” chicken tenders and sandwiches.

“Texas hot” is the fourth of five heat levels and the second most popular (after medium-hot).

The hottest chicken is spiced with the Carolina reaper, scorpion peppers and ghost peppers. It’s simply called “AMF.”

Around Grandma or the kids, that stands for “Adios My Friend.”

Besides thick tenders and an AMF sandwich that would impress the Popeye’s following, the Cookshack also serves some less impressive pork ribs rubbed with hot pepper and topped with a sweet sauce.

The two grilled chicken salads are both next-level-up from fast food: a “Shack Salad” with avocado, dates, almonds, goat cheese and a champagne vinaigrette, and a kale-parmesan salad with a citrus vinaigrette.

The Shack Salad is inspired by one at the national Houston’s/Hillstone chain, Rogers said.

“We didn’t want something that just seemed thrown together,” he said

There’s also a hot-pepper dusting on the “Dragon fries.”

For dessert, there’s a butterscotch-cookie or chocolate-chip-cookie ice cream sandwich. It’s cut into wedges, so the family can share.

The Cookshack also has a bar with $6 margaritas and local drafts.

Rogers said the new company will look for other locations in DFW and Texas.

The Cookshack is open for lunch and dinner daily on University Drive at West Fourth Street (note: this is across from Austin City Taco and Deep Ellum Brewing, which has its own Asian chili-oil hot chicken sandwich); 817-367-9151, thecookshack.com.

Columnist Bud Kennedy is a Fort Worth guy who covered high school football at 16 and has moved on to two Super Bowls, seven political conventions and 15 Texas Legislature sessions. Since 1985, he has also written more than 2,000 “Eats Beat” columns about Texas dining, restaurants and food.
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