Fall 2014 is turning into Houston's fried chicken season. Even as diners got their first taste of The Chicken Ranch at Tuesday night's CultureMap Social party at Boheme, Facebook was buzzing with the news that H-Town StrEATs chefs Jason Hill and Matt Opaleski would be opening a fried chicken restaurant called The Bird House in the same space as seasonal crawfish restaurant Boil House on 11th Street in The Heights.
"We rent kitchen space there for StrEATs, and the space is super cool. We felt like it should be used for something," Hill tells CultureMap. "The owners are super cool and offered us the space for (a reasonable rate) . . . We came up with fried chicken and bad ass sides."
"This allows us to test the brand with low risk. If it works, we want to move it to a more permanent location."
The Bird House recipe uses locally-sourced chicken from Holmes Foods. The menu will also include a rotating selection of seasonal vegetable sides as well as specials like chicken fried steak, chicken sandwiches and chicken doughnut sandwiches that bring together The Bird House with the duo's soon to open donut shop Hugs & Donuts.
The restaurant will begin service this Saturday and will be open Wednesdays through Mondays going forward until Boil House resumes operations when crawfish return in January. Hill offers a reasonable explanation for why he and Opaleski would invest time in a concept that will only be open for a few months.
"We love fried chicken and believe Houston needs a place like Willie Mae's Scotch House, Lucy's Fried Chicken, Mary Mac's Tea Room and Gladys Knight and Ron's," he says. "This allows us to test the brand with low risk. If it works, we want to move it to a more permanent location."
Hill also sees the perks of a seasonal location. "It would allow me to be able to operate in non-crawfish season and I also look for crawfish with other dishes, because my hands get tired before I'm full."
Comparisons with The Chicken Ranch are inevitable, of course, given the restaurants' proximity to each other and similar set of influences. Choosing one or the other will vary depending on each individual's taste, but Hill isn't concerned.
"We both know there's enough space for the two of us," he says. "Plus, you can never have too much fried chicken."