When 5280 broke the news in May that James Beard Award–winning chef Alex Seidel was opening Chook Charcoal Chicken with Adam Schlegel of Snooze and Randy Layman of Leopold Bros, the restaurant seemed like a long way off. No longer, as 41-seat Chook (which rhymes with “look”) opens in Platt Park today.
Chances are you won’t recognize the former Village Cork space on the corner of South Pearl Street and Louisiana Avenue. What used to be dark and tucked away is now bright, polished, and inviting. Sharp observers will note the reoccurring hexagon theme, which is a nod to chicken wire. The underlying message: This place is all about the bird.
Chook’s fast-casual model is devoted to the homey comfort that only a well-cooked chicken can provide. Ordered at the counter, the food here is easy, mostly healthy, and downright delicious. Chook’s inspiration hails from Australia (Schlegel’s wife Sarah is from Melbourne), where chicken shops selling charcoal-rotisserie-cooked birds dot street corners. Diners young and old line up for chicken (called “chook”) and sides for lunch and dinner. No doubt that’ll be the case here too.
Choose from a quarter ($7), half ($13), or whole chicken ($20). Or if that’s too much, select one of the three sandwiches—don’t miss the sliders, in which pulled chicken is tossed in savory gravy and topped with crunchy slaw on a soft Hawaiian roll.
Then get busy with the sides. There are classic mac and cheese and mashed potato pairings, but the stars of the show are the vegetables. Seidel’s chef skills shine through with dishes such as roasted delicata squash with Fruition Farms feta and brown butter; grilled carrots with more feta, arugula, dates, and dukkah (a mix of herbs, spices, and nuts); and charred broccoli with greens, almonds, dried cherries, and lemon tahina.
The food aside, you should know that Seidel, Schlegel, and Layman are mission-driven. They hope you cut down on food waste by purchasing a Booyah Kit ($10) to make stew with your leftovers. They hope to connect you with your community by donating one percent of every dollar earned to a rotating selection of local charities and nonprofits. And, perhaps most notable, they hope to change the chicken industry. Yes, Chook is catapulting the trio into the world of agriculture. “Looking at the Chipotle model and what they did for the pork industry—we want to do that for chicken,” Schlegel says. That’s a lofty goal, but if anyone can do it, it’s these guys. And even as Chook Platt Park opens today, Seidel, Schlegel, and Layman have their eyes set on what’s next…because that’s where you make an impact.
If you go: Chook is open daily from 11 a.m.- 9 p.m., 1300 S. Pearl St., 303-282-8399