Fried Chicken News
The list of casualties from Trinity Groves, the West Dallas restaurant incubator founded by Phil Romano in 2013, surpasses the success stories, but one tasty exception is Fat Chicken, the homey mom-and-pop serving excellent Texas comfort food, with fried chicken as a centerpiece.
The restaurant has had a more complicated journey than most, to get where it is today: a friendly neighborhood spot in Rockwall, in a small shopping center at 3045 N. Goliad St., where it draws locals for its signature fried chicken and homey desserts.
Credit the determination of husband-and-wife owners Linda Mazzei and DJ Quintanilla, not to mention the holy trinity of great food, service, and atmosphere.
The couple were part of the first crop of incubated concepts to launch at Trinity Groves, first with a global-cuisine spot called Resto Gastro Bistro, then rebooting as Fat Chicken in 2017, which they relocated to Rockwall in 2018.
In an unprecedented move, Fat Chicken briefly closed in July when Mazzei discovered she had pneumonia, requiring an eight-day stay at Parkland Hospital. Her family had to step in so that Mazzei would take time to recover.
"She's just go-go-go-go and she doesn't know when to stop," DJ says.
"My mother said, 'If you die, you’ll never get to open again,'" Mazzei says, laughing. "They convinced me that it's better to take care of yourself, even if that meant opening later than I wanted."
Walking into this cozy restaurant feels like being back in your grandma's dining-room. Mazzei, whose experience includes working with the Lombardi restaurant group as well as chefs such as Stephan Pyles, lovingly created this space with her childhood memories in mind.
She drew from memories of her great-grandmother's home, from the yellow paint on the walls, to the gingham curtains and country-style furniture. Much of the decoration came from her sister's garage, and from customers and friends that gifted her several chicken ornaments.
Regulars make up most of their clientele. Mazzei is there every day from open to close; if you visit, you see her greeting customers by name.
The decor matches the food, which is like a chef's version of homemade. There are funky dishes like fried pickles but also gourmet offerings such as an arugula salad with fennel and shaved manchego cheese.
Mazzei is also a masterful baker, turning out better-than-homemade cakes, cookies, and other desserts that have their own dedicated following.
Menu highlights include:
- deviled eggs
- jalapeno pimento cheese fritters
- Asian chicken salad
- chicken-fried steak with mashed potatoes and house-made cream gravy
- a burger topped with bacon and a fried egg
They cover chicken in all sorts of ways: chicken tacos, chicken pot pie, Korean fried chicken, and chicken & donuts, a decadent spin on the usual chicken & waffles.
Their signature fried chicken comes in combos with house-made biscuits and coleslaw, or in a variety of sandwiches with toppings such as pickles or blue cheese dressing.
They make their own buttermilk brine, and the breaded coating is from a recipe by DJ that uses garlic and fresh thyme, the perfect herb for chicken.
They pay close attention to the marinating time. "If you leave it in the marinade too long, the chicken loses its body," Mazzei says.
In a world of chains, it's a treasure to find something this personal.
The result: Whether a chicken tender or a fat chicken wing, the chicken was moist, with a pleasant buttermilk tang, enclosed in a crust that was nicely spiced but not spicy, and crisp. Probably crisp enough to survive the drive back to Dallas — although I can't say for sure, since mine didn't make it that far.