Top Chef alum Richard Blais’ new chicken-and-egg concept is nothing to yoke about.
By Sara Smola, Images: Courtesy of The Crack Shack
Chef Richard Blais is best known as a winner of Bravo’s Top Chef All-Stars, a James Beard Award-nominated cookbook author, and, of course, a successful restaurateur. One of Blais’ early ventures, Juniper and Ivy, is an upscale San Diego eatery serving modern American cuisine. But whereas Juniper and Ivy offers a top-tier dining experience, Blais’ family-friendly casual-dining concept, The Crack Shack, is committed to bringing quality ingredients and memorable meals to the masses, and the Pasadena masses in particular can rejoice as the newest shack will be making its home on Green Street.
“Even though The Crack Shack is a more casual concept than Juniper and Ivy, we use the same ingredients and take the same care in using these ingredients as we do at our fine dining restaurant. This isn’t your run-of-the-mill fried chicken and standard sides,” Blais explains. “We take extreme pride and care in our casual setting. For example, we use Southern Californian pasture-raised birds from Jidori and a custom spice blend from Le Sanctuaire. It’s taking formerly inaccessible ingredients found in almost exclusively fine-dining settings and making them accessible to everyone.”
The fried chicken is admittedly addictive, but illicit substances aside, The Crack Shack’s eyebrow-raising name comes from the chicken-and-egg theme as well as pays homage to its original location: a literal metal shack on the same property as Juniper and Ivy. Blais wanted to take advantage of the smaller space for a more casual, open-air concept.
Blais combined forces with business partner Michael Rosen to open The Crack Shack, with the goal of creating the tastiest fried chicken in town. “While it’s easier to cook a beautiful steak or burger, people rarely get it right when doing chicken,” Blais says. “Yet, in every culture, people love their version of fried chicken. It’s a favorite guilty pleasure among us, and we saw a need that we could meet—a place where we could serve the highest quality, Southern California fried chicken, playful sides, and salads, with a full bar and a fun environment. While there are several fried chicken concepts, there aren’t many places that you’d want to go to hang out with your friends, have a cocktail and eat fried chicken. We wanted to change that.”
Hungry diners can choose between the 5- or 10-piece meal (with your choice of dipping sauces), or bite into a juicy chicken sandwich. The menu’s “other cluck” side options are revamped comfort food classics like mini biscuits, schmaltz fries, Mexican poutine, and chicken oysters. There are also plenty of offerings for the meat-averse and calorie-conscious, including freshly made bowls such as the Downward Dog, a mixture of grilled vegetables, sunflower seeds, quinoa, and hummus.
The date of The Crack Shack’s Pasadena opening is still TBD, but until then, Pasadenans can rejoice in knowing it will soon be up and running in the neighborhood, especially considering The Crack Shack’s limited locales. Says Blais, “We’re trying to be mindful in our expansion to make sure we are entering the right markets at the right pace. Beyond our two upcoming L.A. locations, we have no concrete plans but are open to new locations (and states) that fit with our concept, so we can bring the bird to the people!”
The Crack Shack, 30 West Green Street, Pasadena, CA