It could be the Year of Fried Chicken in Wichita.
Dempsey’s Biscuit Co. brought hot chicken into town in February. Hurricane Sports Grill will bring another local chicken wing option in October. Church’s says it is returning to the market. Chick-fil-A is likely bringing yet another free-standing restaurant to town. And rumors abound of other chicken nugget and chicken tender restaurants headed for Wichita.
Then there’s Slim Chickens.
In early May, Wichita got its first location of the Arkansas-based chicken restaurant chain, which specializes in fried chicken tenders, wings and breasts, at 2313 N. Greenwich – right in the center of all the rapid restaurant and retail growth at 21st and Greenwich. And it likely won’t be Wichita’s last Slim Chickens. Local owner Mark Killeen says he hopes to open between three and five in the coming years.
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For the first several weeks of business, the restaurant was jam-packed, and it’s still pretty busy at all hours of the day.
Slim Chickens’ slogan is “life-changing chicken,” a claim the chain says it can make because all of their chicken is made fresh with each order, making it taste better than its competitors.
I’ve now visited the new restaurant several times, and my life remains unchanged. Many of the dishes I sampled at Slim Chickens were good – and my kids loved the place. But I feel the same about fried chicken options in Wichita now as I did before I ever heard of Slim Chickens.
▪ On the menu: No matter how you like your chicken prepared, Slim Chickens has it: Fried or grilled. In a sandwich or on a salad. On a waffle covered with syrup. In a wrap. In wing form. With a side of fries. With a side of cole slaw.
The restaurant specializes in combo meals served with chicken, a side and choice of homemade dipping sauces, of which it serves 10 different flavors, from Ranch to Mango habanero to white gravy.
Slim Chickens also serves some unusual items like fried okra, fried mushrooms and lovely layered desserts built in glass jars you can keep.
▪ Don’t-miss dishes: The chicken obviously does come out of the Slim Chickens kitchen fresh from the fryer, evidenced by the fact that it’s so very hot. But the breading on the chicken isn’t as crispy as I’d like it, and although the flavor is good, the chicken lacks crunch.
We tried it first in chicken tender form and ordered it as part of a “Chicks Plate” that comes in a disposable, paper-lined basket with three tenders, two dipping sauces, a side of fries, Texas toast and a medium drink. You also can substitute your fries for other sides like mac and cheese, coleslaw and potato salad. The white meat in the tenders was nice and juicy, and we loved all the dipping sauces – particular a cayenne Ranch that had a subtle kick. The fries at Slim Chickens also are good and served as hot as the chicken, with a crispy exterior and soft potato innards. The restaurant also serves meal combos that include fewer or more tenders, six to eight wings or a combination of wings and tenders.
One nice touch: Nearly every meal on the menu, even a salad or chicken sandwich, comes with a medium drink included in the price. That’s not insignificant considering that sodas tend to add another $2-$2.75 a person onto a restaurant bill these days.
We also ordered the chicken served as part of the restaurant’s version of chicken and waffles. The dish featured a big, fluffy Belgian waffle topped with three chicken tenders, a big scoop of melting butter in the center and maple syrup drizzled all over it. It was a sweet-and-salty treat that again could have been improved only with more crispy chicken.
Slim Chickens’ wings are substantial and meaty, and we ordered ours coated in honey barbecue sauce. Buffalo, sweet red chili and garlic Parmesan are among the restaurant’s other sauce choices. The honey barbecue was super sweet, but the cayenne Ranch dipping sauce on the side toned it down a bit.
Instead of the chicken sandwich, we ordered a wrap filled with buffalo chicken and asked for a side of mac and cheese, which was stick-to-your teeth thick and perfectly creamy. The wrap was less exciting, and the flavor of the spinach tortilla and all the shredded lettuce inside overwhelmed the otherwise tasty buffalo chicken strips. We ended up tearing the sandwich apart and just nibbling on the chicken.
I love fried pickles and tend to order them wherever I find them, but Slim Chickens’ version had breading that was overly salty, and I stopped eating after just a couple. That’s okay, though, because it left me more room in my stomach for the dessert-in-a-jar we ordered. Slim Chickens has several options in the cooler by the counter, and they’re beautifully layered with things like strawberries, chocolate, whipped cream and cake. Ours included chocolate cake, chocolate pudding, toffee bits and whipped cream, all piled in a clear glass jar that’s printed with the Slim Chickens logo and closed with a lid. You get to keep the jar, which is a good thing because we didn’t come close to finishing this decadent dessert – even though three of us were gleefully digging in – and we were able to take it home.
▪ Ambience: The dining room is slick and modern with cement floors, red and silver metal chairs and a mixture of booths and tables. There are also multiple television sets hanging in the dining room. The restaurant also has a large covered patio on the front.
▪ Price range: Combo meals are $6.99 to $11.79. Salads are $8.29. Sandwiches and wraps range from $6.49 to $8.19. The awesome layered dessert in a jar is $4.99.
▪ Service: At Slim Chickens, you order your food at the counter then fill your own drink while you wait for your order to arrive. We’ve encountered only friendly employees, and several are tasked with roaming the dining room and keeping things picked up.
If you would like to nominate a restaurant to be reviewed, call 316-268-6327.