A fried chicken restaurant with a touch of Chicago has touched down in town: The sassily-named What's Cluckin'? has opened in Plano at 6505 W. Park Blvd., just west of the Dallas North Tollway in what was previously a location of the Burgerim chain.
What's Cluckin'? — which yes, has both an apostrophe and a question mark — specializes in fried chicken, and that includes all the cuts, from wing to leg to livers and gizzards.
The restaurant comes from Angela McCreary-Raybon, who has experience in this realm. She and her husband Chris previously owned a small fried-chicken chain in Chicago called Chicago's Chicken Coop, before moving to the Dallas area in 2014.
After landing in Dallas, they opened a Chicken Coop on Frankford Road in far north Dallas. When the lease came up in summer 2019, they decided to sell off their restaurants in Chicago and turn a new page in Dallas, Angela says.
"We knew that we wanted a location that was bigger and more centrally located, and with the change, we decided to give it a new name," she says. "The menu is similar, the taste is still the same but we've also introduced new items."
Their signature is fried chicken, which they marinate for 24 hours before cooking.
"I think that sets us apart, the seasoning is not just in the batter, it's in the chicken, too," she says. "And then we fry just about everything on the chicken. Foodies come for our fried livers and gizzards."
One difference she has noted between Dallas and Chicago is the local passion for chicken tenders.
"It's a real thing for people here, and it's been a surprise as to how popular they are, because we definitely didn't sell as many of those in Chicago," she says.
As far as what she calls "things that don't cluck," they also offer fried catfish, tilapia, and shrimp.
The big-deal additions are two items dedicated to their Chicagoan following.
"We have two dishes that are really indigenous to Chicago," she says. "One is the pizza puff. It's a pocket of deep-fried yumminess, like a hot pocket or a calzone, but deep fried. In Chicago, you find different variations of what's inside, but one of most popular is the most simple, just tomato sauce and sausage. It's tucked inside a perfect little square of dough and deep-fried. In Chicago, everyone knows what that is."
The other item is what they call the Maxwell Street Polish, a sausage with grilled onions served on a hot dog bun.
"It's named for Maxwell Street, which used to be an industrial area but now it's all hip and cool with expensive townhomes," she says. "But back in the day, it was a flea market area where you could get a dozen socks for $2 or a used carburetor. There was this stand where they sold these Polishes. There's a famous meat company in Chicago, Vienna, they do hot dogs and Polish sausages. Restaurants post their little Vienna logo so you know that's what they serve."
"So our Polish has sausage on a hamburger bun with grilled onions and mustard — Chicago people like mustard before ketchup — and sport peppers," she says.
They have one other Chicago tradition, a sauce known throughout the Windy City as "mild sauce" — "you drizzle it on anything deep fried, and you definitely drizzle it on our chicken wings," she says.
And just for a change of pace, they've also added a Philly cheesesteak.
They do skinny-cut French fries, and that brings up one more difference between Chicago and DFW.
"At Chicago chicken shacks and rib houses, it's a tradition that what you order will be plated on a bed of fries," she says. "At What's Cluckin'?, we have fried okra, fried mushrooms, French fries, tater tots, or onion rings. That's one thing we had to change. We do have a strong Chicago following, but we've learned that people here absolutely want to choose their side."