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Restaurant Review: Hot Chicken Takeover (Clintonville Version)

Miriam Bowers Abbott Miriam Bowers Abbott Restaurant Review: Hot Chicken Takeover (Clintonville Version)All photos by Lauren Sega.
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There’s a little stretch on High Street, up at the North end in Clintonville, that is growing suspiciously similar to the North Market. First, it got a Jeni’s. Now Hot Chicken Takeover has moved in, and right next door? Signs for an impending Little Eater.

Not that it’s got the same character as the Market. At all. The buildings are strictly strip-mall, nouveau brick with passageways from ample parking lots that lead to entrances at the front of the establishments. Wait, correction: the parking lots aren’t exactly ample. Given the crowds, there’s plenty of spillover into the neighborhood streets. But, still, parking is pretty easy and very free.

The aforementioned crowds and lines seem to follow HCT wherever it goes. It’s not a contrived thing, it’s not like the ordering process is slow or deliberately convoluted to generate the appearance of a line. HCT is about as streamlined as a KFC. The menu choices are straightforward (chicken, chicken, chicken), order at the counter, pay, leave your name, and someone will call it out as they bring you chicken when your order is ready.

So, no tofu on the menu. There are no real entrees for vegans or those who avoid gluten. HCT’s reputation probably makes that clear.

The Chicken Breast Meal ($12) would be a classic start. It’s built on a foundation of a big bone-in breast with cracklin’ breading that sticks tight to the bird flesh. You can choose from four levels of heat for your bird, even the “cold” version delivers a teeny, tiny burning sensation that hits just at the end.

Or Chicken Drumsticks Meal ($10.50): You get four appendages, more bone, more crunchies, and meat that’s not too mysterious (as dark meat pieces can sometimes be). They’re good vehicles for more spice like the “hot” option. It’s enough heat to produce a defined pause in the eating process.

There’s still more ways to eat chicken. There’s the Boneless Breast Meal ($12): It’s a gigundo piece of meat — it’s not like ordering a chicken finger or a typical chicken breast sandwich. HCT’s version is a two-lobed thing, flattened and brined and battered (but not abused).

In any meal, the chicken is served atop spongy white bread and crowned with relentlessly crisp pickles. On the side is a light slaw — a good remedy for the spicy heat. There’s also the house macaroni, baked and served with especially appealing bits of caramelized cheese. Fans of macaroni can score it solo, but you get about the same amount of mac in a $6 side order that you would have gotten on the side with a meal.

Prior experience with the Banana Pudding ($3.50) inspired an order of several . . . and that’s coming from someone who is not a huge fan of bananas or pudding. HCT did not disappoint. The order yields a parfait of sweet, banana-infused pudding in a hue that isn’t fake golden, but more like caramel. It’s topped off with crunched-up vanilla wafers and whipped cream. As a desserts go, it feels like something worth eating unto pain or nausea, whichever comes first.

We visited the Clintonville installation (4203 High St.) at 11:30 a.m. on a weekday, and saw food within 15 minutes of hitting the front door. That said, there are also big lines that spill outside the entrance at other times, so plan accordingly.

For more information, visit hotchickentakeover.com.

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  • traviscols

    I’ve tried to go twice since they opened in Clintonville and both times the line went out the door and down the sidewalk…
    I instantly thought of the soup-Nazi episode on Seinfeld…
    “No HCT for you!” …”Next!”

  • I tried to go last Sunday around 3pm. The line went to the door, which didn’t seem very long considering how fast it moves at the North Market. After 15 minutes I left because the line did not move once in that whole time. Other people started leaving around the same time.

    I don’t know what was going on, but I hope it is not indicative of that location’s regular service.

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