New Restaurant: Crack Shack Offers a “Fresher” Fry

Upscale fast food chicken spot opens in Old Pasadena

Published : Monday, November 12, 2018 | 5:40 AM

Everyone loves fried chicken. Let’s start there.

Michael Rosen, one of the owners of Crack Shack, Old Pasadena’s newest eatery, shares that popular affinity. Rosen’s other restaurant, Juniper and Ivy, in San Diego, has always prominently featured chicken as well, he said Friday at a special media preview for the new restaurant.

This Crack Shack is the fifth in Southern California. The others are in Encinitas, San Diego, Costa Mesa, and Century City.

As Rosen told Pasadena Now, “One of the secret little idiosyncrasies I have is that I love chicken.” But as he explained, after he visited a Michelin-rated restaurant in the Tribeca section of New York City a few years back and was served a roasted chicken with foie gras, he was convinced that the everyday dish could easily be something special.

“They convinced me that you can take a humble ingredient like chicken and transform it so magically,” he said.

But, meanwhile, over in the “Better Burger” category, explained Cohen, by way of example, “Things are exploding, because people love burgers, but they know the quality of the product at a lot of fast food restaurants is generally very poor.”

Thus there was a lot of room for the Slater’s 50/50s of the world.

“But nobody was really doing that with chicken,” he noticed.

“You have all these chicken places, KFC, Bojangles, Popeye’s, and it tastes delicious,” he continued. “But they’re using the worst ingredients. And bad chicken is probably worse than bad steak, and maybe people know they’re getting bad ingredients, but they don’t care, they don’t think about it. If you go to an industrial chicken farm in North Carolina, you won’t want to eat chicken ever again. We thought, if you took the same ingredients as in a fine dining restaurant, some people might not like it as much.”

As curious as that sounds, Crack Shack’s chicken is not the same bird as you will find at most fast food places. It doesn’t come from North Carolina.

As a tag on a tray of their “fresh” additive-free fried chicken explains, “This chicken is fresher than the commercial chicken that you may be familiar with, and it may appear undercooked in spots. (Note: we never saw this). This is because unlike many large-scale chicken producers, (The restaurant) does not inject their chickens with dye, nor do they use additives in the feed to make the meat appear more yellow and golden.”

Indeed the Crack Shack looks slightly different than, say, KFC. The skin is flat, and less puffy, but just a touch spicier. The flavor is vaguely more earthy, (which is not a bad thing), and very juicy and flavorful. What you taste is the chicken, the frying oil, and some secret combination of spices for an interesting tang.

The chicken comes in a playful assortment of stand-alone fried chicken in full or half sizes, and a California-friendly assortment of sliders and sandwiches.

To wit, the California Dip, with pollo asado, schmaltz fries, pickled jalapeño, bolillo bread, posole broth, and avocado; the Coop Deville with fried chicken, pickled Fresno chilies, lime mayo, napa cabbage, brioche; the Malibu Barbie Q, featuring a bbq thigh, cornmeal onion ring, smokey bacon, pineapple mustard, on a potato roll; the Firebird,with a spicy fried thigh, cool ranch dressing, crispy onions, and pickles, on a potato roll.

For the morning people, there is the Señor Croque, with crispy chicken, bacon, fried egg, cheddar, miso-maple butter, on a brioche bun, and The Royale, a chicken sausage, sunny side egg, smoked cheddar combination on an English muffin.
Not in the mood for chicken? It happens. The Crack Shack also features the Sea Señorita—seared rare tuna, pepper rub, mustard seed tartar, romaine lettuce, and pickles, on a whole wheat brioche.

(We won’t mention the Mexican-style Poutine, which no self-respecting Montrealer would ever recognize. It’s good, it’s just not Poutine. I lived in Montreal. I know. )

The Crack Shack is essentially a fun, family-friendly upscale fast food restaurant, so you order at a counter as you walk in, take your number, find yourself a table in the large, rustic farmhouse dining room, , and a server will bring your order to you. You get your own soft drinks from a dispenser, but there is also a full bar in the corner.

The 6,020 square foot location itself was originally designed by Lloyd T. Boers and constructed by Daniel Jones, one of the original designers of the Old Pasadena Historic District. It was the original home of the Pasadena Automobile Radiator and Lamp Repair Company. It later became the Firehouse Recording Studio where such artists as Phil Collins, Chaka Khan, David Lee Roth, Patti LaBelle, Neil Diamond and many more, recorded.

The Crack Shack could be a fun lunch spot for shoppers, a family dinner spot, the place to celebrate your little league victory, or even a first date spot.

Because everybody loves fried chicken.

The Crack Shack, 30 West Green Street, Pasadena, 91101. www.crackshack.com. Open 7 days a week, Sunday – Thursday from 10:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Friday- Saturday from 10:30 a.m. – Midnight.

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