This is why Toronto is getting an influx of fried chicken restaurants
Fried chicken has become one of the most popular foods of the pandemic for its portability and deliciousness, and restaurants and concepts that serve it keep on opening up in Toronto.
Similar to smash burgers, fried chicken has become so popular that not only are new restaurants opening that are dedicated to the fried bird, but old restaurants are completely transforming to serve chicken or doing it as a side project.
For example, what was once Tuk Tuk Canteen is now Ding-a-Wing, Mi Taco is serving fried chicken as Bubba's Crispy Fried Chicken, and Otto's Bierhalle is doing smash burgers and chicken sandwiches as Sammy's.
"With COVID we saw a huge drop in Mi Taco sales since indoor dining was restricted. My wife and I determined we need to adjust to the situation and we have the kitchen capacity to pump out a lot of food," Greg Rabin of Mi Taco and Bubba's told blogTO.
"Having relocated to Toronto from Dallas, Texas and being huge fried chicken fans, we thought let's bring our buttermilk dipped crispy fried chicken recipe to Toronto. I've also spent time in Nashville and love their hot chicken so we focused on perfecting the perfect Nashville Hot sandwich."
They've also got chocolate, Italian, jerk and vegan versions of fried chicken sandwiches in an attempt to be creative and stand out.
"The public is craving comfort foods. And who doesn't love fried chicken? With Bubba's we wanted to create a premium quality fried chicken product with a creative twist for the adventurous types. We are receiving great feedback from our customers," says Rabin.
"Many have said they are starting off with trying one sandwich and then working their way down our menu. It's been really fun to see.
"Bubba's was created to be a virtual brand using our Mi Tacos for the kitchen and food prep. But amazingly we are getting a ton of walk in customers."
It's a similar story over at Sammy's, operated out of Otto's Bierhalle by the same team. The spacious hall meant for gathering with large groups at communal tables, feasting on German food from platters and sampling beers is currently being used as a space to turn out burgers, onion rings and fried chicken sandwiches.
"COVID and quarantine have forced people to mostly have their meals cooked at home. The majority of people at home don't have a deep fryer or will think putting a large pot of hot oil to make fried chicken is a lot of work. So when they do eat out, they get foods they can't easily replicate well at home," Nancy Chen of Otto's and Sammy's told blogTO.
"Ordering in then becomes a bit of a special event where you want to chow down on some calories and where people then gravitate to the comfort foods that they know restaurants can do well versus trying to recreate it at home."
Chen also thinks that while people are looking for something special, they're still looking to keep costs low, making fried chicken an ideal treat.
"It comes down to price point as well. Whether or not people have lost income during COVID, people in general are budgeting a bit better. Fried chicken is one of those foods that is so easy to keep costs low. While things like veal or lamb have been unpredictable in price for us, chicken has stayed really stable," says Chen.
Otto's starting dabbling in fried chicken in the summer, serving it on their patio, figuring they could apply their mastery of their popular deep-fried schnitzel to another deep-fried dish.
"We try to stay competitive by trying out every spot in the downtown and doing our research into different styles...Nashville Hot, Southern, LA-style, etc...to create our own brine, batter and rub. It's been many months of tweaking but we're pretty happy with where it's at, but we'll probably still tweak more," says Chen.
"We have seen that it's easily in the top three most popular items, just being beaten right now with our new smash burgers."
Unlike Bubba's and Sammy's, one of the best fried chicken joints in the city — PG Clucks — is by no means new to the game, and has some light to shed on the uptick in popularity for fried chicken in Toronto from their perspective of experience.
"The demand for our fried chicken over the past little while has been sky high. Fried chicken is the ultimate comfort food, so during these weird and uncertain times, it only makes sense that people would be drawn to it," Pawel Grezlikowski of PG Clucks told blogTO.
"While there are a huge number of fried chicken places opening up new locations, as well as countless ghost kitchen fried chicken options, it hasn't really affected our business. We don't really pay attention to the competition, and work hard every day to put out the best product possible."
He says the number of competing fried chicken brands opening up is actually good for business.
"We've been open for nearly five years now, and were one of the first independent fried chicken places to open up. We were also the first place in Toronto to specialize in fried chicken sandwiches and Nashville Hot chicken both huge trends now," says Grezlikowski.
"Whenever anyone searches for 'best fried chicken in Toronto' or 'best fried chicken sandwich in Toronto' we're the first place that pops up. With the increased hype and interest in fried chicken, it only means that more people find out about us when they look for different options."
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