The Houston fried chicken boom of 2014 will take another step forward Sunday when The Chicken Ranch opens its doors for a one day only soft-opening preview. Named for the famous central Texas brothel Marvin Zindler exposed (and later the subject of the musical The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas), the restaurant will display most of its menu for the first time: Fried chicken, chicken wings, biscuits and sides.
Since previewing the chicken for CultureMap and Houston hip hop legend Bun B back in August, co-owner Joshua Martinez has been tweaking his recipe. "I'm happy with it," he tells CultureMap. It's a classic brined Southern fried chicken that should feature a crispy crust and juicy meat.
Although the promised spicy version is still under development, the restaurant will open with three varieties of wings. Instead of naming them after dead rappers as Martinez did with his food truck The Modular, the wings at The Chicken Ranch will be named for deceased country music legends Waylon Jennings, Hank Williams and Johnny Cash. Opening day sides will include mashed potatoes, dirty rice, creamed corn, mac & cheese and okra and tomatoes with andouille sausage from Fifth Ward staple Burt's Meat Market.
The wings at The Chicken Ranch will be named for deceased country music legends Waylon Jennings, Hank Williams and Johnny Cash.
Martinez expects a crowd based on the number of inquiries he's been fielding daily via social media about the restaurant's opening, but he'll have help in the form of co-owner Paul Sedillo. "Paul and I are going to be on the line together," co-owner Martinez confirms. Although Sedillo hasn't worked in a restaurant since he was a college student, Martinez is confident the talented home cook can help keep the chicken coming.
The restaurant will likely close for a few days after the preview to assess diners' feedback, before opening full-time around Nov. 1.
Inside, the space is pretty bare bones, but it does feature Martinez's trademark flair for whimsical kitsch. A taxidermy chicken greets diners as they enter. Best of all, a custom painting of Marvin Zindler holding his beloved bichon frisé Magic adorns one of the walls.
Sadly, the restaurant still hasn't received its liquor license, so the promised craft beer and sparking wine beverage program will have to wait. In the meantime, the restaurant is BYOB; Martinez recommends neighboring convenience store Joe's as a source of craft beer for anyone coming on Sunday.
The Chicken Ranch will be open Sunday Oct. 26 from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.