Over the past several years, restaurants like Babe's Chicken House have redefined what it means to be a piece of fried chicken: popular.
A food that was once thought of only as diner/dive fare or geared toward people with working driver's-side windows, fried chicken is finally, so to speak, spreading its wings.
More recently, Sissy's Southern Kitchen & Bar and Chicken Scratch have carried on what Babe's has done -- but also made fried chicken hip and happening. At Sissy's, you can get a mixologist-made cocktail with your bucket of fried chicken, and over at Chicken Scratch, you can see a cool, local music powerhouse -- bound to put the local music scene on the map! -- while you gnaw away at fried legs and thighs.
A tiny new counter-service place in Burleson has jumped on the fried chicken trend, too: That Clucken Chicken, found off I-35, down Farm Road 1187, on a little gravel lot. This is owner/cook Michael Perkins' first restaurant. Before he opened this itty-bitty shack with four tables inside, two outside, he was a truck driver. He runs it with his wife, Jennifer; a cousin runs the Back to Basics Bakery in Burleson, which supplies That Clucken Chicken with freshly made desserts, such as Bundt cake and cookies.
You won't find any hipsters or singing servers here. Instead, it's a place where locals and neighbors gather to talk about their tree service and stone masonry businesses over Styrofoam plates of crispy, delicious fried chicken, easily some of the best in the area.
The menu is as tiny as the restaurant. You can get fried chicken, fried tenders, fried gizzards, chicken-fried steak, barbecue sliders, sides and desserts. Perkins says the sides are made in-house and the deep-fried chicken is cooked to order; you can watch him work the dual fryers.
We started with an order of BBQ sliders ($6.99), served four to an order, stuffed with pulled chicken and doused with barbecue sauce -- so much so that we had to eat them with a fork. The sauce was incredibly sweet and there was so much of it that it masked the flavor of the chicken. And this is chicken that you definitely want to savor.
Fried chicken comes by the bucket or plate. We ordered a two-piece dinner ($6.49), served with a roll and a side. A combination of a Krispy Mix recipe and Perkins' own seasonings, the batter had a light texture, good crunch and snappy seasoning. It clung tightly to the tender, juicy meat and barely dripped a drop of grease.
A chicken tender dinner ($4.99) came with four tenders, a roll and a side. Perkins says the tenders are made of hand-pulled, whole chunks of chicken breast, which you could tell when you pulled them apart to find luscious white, juicy meat through and through. The cornmeal-flour-based batter was similar to the chicken's in flavor and texture: crunchy, not a lot of grease, with a slightly spicy flavor.
Among the sides, we liked the mac and cheese, accented, strongly, with white ground pepper; slightly sweet coleslaw and simple mashed potatoes and peppered white gravy.
Waits can be long and the place is so small, you might miss it.
If it's packed, you may have to wait outside for your food.
But it's all worth it; this is some Clucken good chicken.