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Good News/Bad News: The Early Word on The Crack Shack

Can the chicken-and-egg “fast-casual” put a feather in its cap?

Lyudmila Zotova

When this hotly anticipated eatery from Mike Rosen and Richard Blais cracked its doors for a November 11 soft opening last year, a line of hopeful diners snaked through Little Italy for almost a block. In fact so many flocked to sample Blais' newly famous gourmet fried chicken (some waited for two hours!) by 7 p.m. they were forced to temporarily close.

For the as-yet-uninitiated here's a slice of what's on offer: various incarnations of fried (free-range and Jidori) chicken in sandwich, 'oyster' and lollipop form, Mexican poutine with chicken fat fried French fries, plus housemade sauces like kimchee BBQ and 'cracksup'. Design-wise the stylish outdoor-only seating area is suitably hip and happening thanks to modern furnishings, a Bocce court, giant chicken statue, and full-service bar with a drink menu penned by noted San Diego barkeep, Eric Johnson.

After an initial flurry of opening excitement, has the all-day menu of chicken and egg-based dishes continued to impress? With only a modicum of grumbles regarding pricing, cashier woes, tough parking and limited pre-10:30 a.m. menu, it's fair to say this fast-casual counter spot has garnered a slew of favorable online reviews, and is frequently packed with happy, greasy-fingered campers.

For our latest installment of Good News/Bad News we parsed the Internet to find out what bloggers, chowhound foodies, Yelpers, critics and more have been ranting, or raving, about Crack Shack.

The Richard Blais Fan News: There was plenty of love across the board for this native New Yorker-turned San Diegan with one Yelper writing: "Thank you Richard Blais and bravo to this wonderful place that has somehow managed to make fried chicken even better". Over on Facebook another reviewer stated: "How could you go wrong with Richard Blais and fried chicken?". Quite.

The Señor Croque News: So far the Shack's most reviewed dish (25 Yelp posts and counting) is this miso-maple butter slathered fried chicken sandwich. "The Señor Croque probably saved the meal for us", writes one Yelp reviewer. "The chicken was super juicy, the cheese added a nice kick and the egg inside just made it that much better - YUM!" Another writes: "The chicken was perfectly fried and crispy, the breast inside was tender and moist and the miso-maple butter was subtle -- great stuff". This reviewer just said: "Señor Croque, nom, nom, nom!" FUN FACT: According to Erin Jackson's review on Thrillist "the place sells between 100 and 150 of this particular 'wich every day".

The "Overall Consensus" News: One Facebook reviewer writes: "The chicken is superb; biscuits are possibly the best in town, great atmosphere and a Bocce Ball court too. I'm sold". At Chowhound reviewers discussed future visits: "A friend of mine went to Crack Shack and raved about it! Looking at the Yelp pictures makes me determined to go there in the next week... the fried chicken sandwiches look so good!" Another chimed in to say her co-workers had recently been and declared "the biscuits as excellent". On Yelp, the housemade sauces have also frequently been referred to as  "incredible", the chicken "moist, succulent and tender" and the biscuits "fluffy".

The "Critics Have Spoken" News: At the Union Tribune Pam Kragen called the venue "beautiful", staff "friendly", service "quick", and signature product "delicious" – touting the chicken oysters (creamy pearls of back meat brined in pickle juice) as "one the best dishes". Meanwhile the 'Shack also topped several "Best Of" lists including Modern Luxury (Best Of The City 2016) and Thrillist (Best Food & Drink Of 2015); while Zagat's Darlene Horn named it as one of her Top 2015 San Diego Restaurant Newcomers in our Year In Eater round-up. While food blog Kirbie's Cravings said the Coop Deville (chilies, lime mayo, brioche) was "juicy, crunchy and everything you want in a fried chicken sandwich". And, last but not least, Elyssa Goldberg called it "the hottest new dinner spot in town" in her San Diego guide for Bon Appetite.

The "How Much?" News": One Google reviewer simply writes: "This much for chicken and eggs?" and another "$15 for 5 pieces of chicken? I mean it's good but not GREAT". While one person stated: "Interesting concept, tasty food and nice ambiance but way overpriced for chicken and eggs". And finally, "Pricy even for San Diego - you'll be about $20+ in for a chicken sandwich, side and a beer".

The Service News: One Yelper writes: "Service was great, and the waiters/waitresses were friendly - will definitely be back", with another adding: "I would rate this place higher if I didn't have to wait so long in line to get some chicken. They have two cash registers but the four times I've been here they never open up the second one". This Yelper said: "On the positive side the service was great, our server even brought us some extra fried chicken to make up for the over cooked ones we didn't eat". One Facebook reviewer, who said they would "definitely return", reported that "everything was delicious, the long line went quickly and the food came out fast and hot".

Plus, New Menu Items: Noteworthy additions to the line up include a Softly Scrambled Egg with chorizo, potato and basil burrata with a poppy seed Kaiser ($11); G-Bird chicken breast, shishito pepper relish, Swiss on a sprouted grain brioche (12); Thai flavored grilled chicken Satay with peanut sauce ($9); and So-Cal Scramble with charred poblanos, Cotija, guacamole and English muffin ($9).

And, come February 15, you'll be able to banish those 'first day of the week blues' as Crack Shack will be open again on Mondays.

The Crack Shack

2266 Kettner Blvd, San Diego, CA 92101 (619) 795-3299

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