Fast-food chicken joints don’t usually rate the grand restaurant review treatment. But Super Chix isn’t your typical chicken joint.
Instead, it’s the optimistic prototype for a new concept by Yum Brands, owner of KFC and Pizza Hut. It’s been described as KFC’s stab at Chick-fil-A, with an eventual plan to unroll it internationally.
For now, it’s a single prototype located in a mildly grungy shopping center just south of the University of Texas at Arlington. If it’s true that it will never be developed in the United States, then this is an exciting chance to sample something that one day may only be available abroad.
It’s an interesting and mostly good experience with some nicely conceived touches. If you’re into chicken tenders and like to keep tabs on foodie news, it’s worth a field trip.
The menu is small: a chicken sandwich, boneless chicken tenders, french fries, frozen custard and milkshakes. But it has the same kind of micro-focus on details seen at “better burger” chains such as Five Guys. With the better-burger trend now having peaked, perhaps that obsessiveness is moving to chicken.
Each menu category has some kind of minor add-on or variation. For example, with your chicken sandwich, you select from a menu of “toppings” such as lettuce, tomato and pickles. In the fast-food world, these would automatically come with your sandwich, no questions asked. Now you must specify; you must have a dialog about your toppings.
Pickles come in three options: hot, sweet or kosher. Fries are available in three varieties: salt, sweet, or rosemary and black pepper.
All of these options are cleverly designed to make you feel like you’ve made an important foodie decision about your meal, while distracting you from the fact that there are precious few choices at all.
In our exploration of the options, we concluded that simpler was generally best. A plain chicken sandwich ($3.95), consisting of a chunk of fried boneless chicken on a standard soft hamburger bun, was better than getting it topped with a couple of strips of less-than-crisp bacon or melted pepperjack cheese.
The chicken came clad in a thin, golden-amber crust whose flavor was mildly sweet. Brined before frying, the white-meat chicken had an extra-tender texture. Combined with the softness of the bun, it made for a sandwich that offered little resistance. You could easily down it in a couple of bites — a reminder that, despite all the ordering trappings, it was still fast-food fare.
The toppings showed care. Jalapeños were fresh and sliced thin. Pickles were good: crunchy, and cut into differing size slices that gave them a hand-done artisanal flair. A topping of “haystack onions,” like extra-thin onion rings, added sweetness and crunch; the restaurant seems to be missing an opportunity by not offering them as a side.
Chicken tenders can be ordered in 3-, 4- and 6-piece sizes ($3.25 to $6) with your choice of sauce from a generic foursome that included honey mustard and sriracha.
Two salads ($4.95) are offered for those who don’t want chicken: a club with bacon and a Caesar with deep-fried croutons. It’s a nice effort, even if the greens were an unspectacular prechopped romaine mix. There was also a tiny side of coleslaw ($1.95) whose thinly shredded consistency soaked up the vinegary dressing nicely. But the better advice is probably to not come here if you don’t want chicken.
French fries ($2.50 for a small; $3.50, large) were very good: thicker than the typical fast-food fry, and clearly made from fresh potatoes, with skins still on. The sweet seasoning was just odd; the rosemary-black pepper tasted too much like chicken bouillon. Plain “salt” was best, but they tend to overdo; consider asking for light salt if you really want to taste the potatoes. Some early reviews complained about the fries being soggy, but we didn’t mind that some of ours were crisp and some were not.
We loved that they came in a cardboard cone, and that our drinks came in waxed cardboard cups. The food was served on cool aluminum trays lined with a sheet of paper. Those represented good environmental decisions, along with the serve-yourself soda bar that allowed diners to skip wasteful plastic lids and straws.
Dessert consisted of frozen custard ($1 per scoop) — basically a glorified super-creamy soft-serve that can be ordered in a cup, cone or sundae, or blended thickly as a concrete or thinly as a milkshake. In addition to vanilla, there’s a rotating flavor of the day such as s’mores.
Though aimed at Chick-fil-A, Super Chix borrows its cues from Five Guys, including the 50-pound sacks of potatoes and other raw ingredients stacked prominently in the industrial-themed dining room. The ordering method is also like Five Guys and other fast-casual places: You get in a single line that faces a towering menu, place your order, then pick up your food when called.
Despite the limited number of options, it’s not an easy menu to absorb. Staffers were solicitous but didn’t make the process any easier. But this is prototype mode. Hail thee, foodie adventurer.
612 W. Park Row Drive, No. 620, Arlington
Hours: 10:30 a.m.-9 p.m. daily