PETE TITTL: On a wing and a flavor, hot chicken spots in Bakersfield | Food

The chicken sandwich/plank trend is accelerating in Bakersfield with a new location at both Valley Plaza and the opening of The Chicken Shack in the Northwest.

There will be more openings soon, and with all the fast food places following the trend, you’ll have no excuse if you crave such a treat late at night or in the morning. They are everywhere.

The Coop opened in the Valley Plaza food court in what was supposed to be Buddy Chicken, but it never caught on, just like your average piece of poultry. It’s a very simple menu: a few salads and sides, three “hot chicken” dishes: sandwich, tenders and hot chicken and waffles.

There are four heat levels: none, soft, medium and hot. I’ve often found today’s medium to be yesterday’s hot and the hotter is usually suited for a manhood challenge and I don’t want to destroy my taste buds. I ordered the four piece fingers ($8) with fries ($3) and had a honey mustard dip on the side.

The boards here are really close to Raising Cane quality, which pretty much sets the standards, and I saw the guy from my house at the counter bread them to order, fry them nice and crispy, then toss them with the oil which really added some power. The fries were of the standard crinkle cut variety, nothing to dazzle.

Considering the size of the boards, this seems like a decent value. And given how many places are closed in the mall’s food court, like the Thai restaurant and the venerable Hot Dog on a Stick, I think The Coop will bring some customers together.

The Chicken Shack is a small chain with other valley restaurants in Fresno, Clovis and Hanford, and the menu and sauces are much more varied here. They even offer burgers, bone-in wings, nuggets, homemade chili, and a waffle chicken slider. During our visit, we sampled the “single shack” burger ($11.49), six-piece wings ($12.49) and five-piece fingers ($10.49) drizzled with a hot sauce with garlic and chilli.

The burger is the least impressive thing we have tasted. Oh, the bun was a toasted multigrain with regular and black sesame seeds on top, the patty was made with Harris Ranch beef according to the woman serving us, but it was kind of like ordering a burger from a mexican restaurant. Why avoid specialties?

The wings were excellent: meaty, very crispy and impressive enough to order again, although the lemon pepper we ordered them with was a dry seasoning and we would opt for one of the 23 sauces for a stronger flavor impact . The fingers were about the size of what we got at The Coop, and the hot pepper garlic is a total winner, more nuanced than the spicy variety at The Coop. And there are so many that I want to try, like Korean BBQ, Creamy Garlic Parmesan and “Oh Jeez Szechuan”.

If The Chicken Shack has a competitive edge over its many competitors, I have to believe the sauces will be the thing. The fries are really interesting: long, lightly breaded, julienned.

The dining room is small and functional for fast food, but features an ultra-cool mural of old Bakersfield landmarks, including Buck posing with his old Cadillac. Service was very quick to get the order ready (10 minutes), but the still-training order taker was struggling to enter the order into the computer reasonably quickly.

Pete Tittl’s Dining Out column appears in The Californian on Sundays. Email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter at @pftittl.

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