Recently, my dad and I had the pleasure of eating at the Crack Shack in San Diego. With a name sounding that criminal, I think they must be breaking some laws to make their chicken taste so good. This local, micro-chain of fried chicken restaurants--with multiple locations including Costa Mesa, Century City, Pasadena, Encinitas and San Diego--is a firecracker. While tasting Southern food you are sitting in a very SoCal space. The Crack Shack is an all outdoor space and an open atmosphere which, as the website says, welcomes in the ocean breeze. Hipster, but also family friendly, the restaurant even has lawn games. The line started to wrap around as we waited for our sandwich showing how popular of a place it is.
Both my dad and I ordered the firebird sandwich. To say we are strong supporters of the hot chicken trend right now is an understatement. The chicken was crisped up to the edges and the inside was perfectly cooked, juicy thigh meat. Smothered in a sweet and spicy sauce, the sandwich fits my description of a perfect meal. The crispy onions and ranch sauce perfectly complement the spicy flavor and give your mouth a cool down. Among many hot chicken and fried chicken places popping up, this one stands out because of the venue and sides that are just as delicious as their sandwiches.
Along with our sandwiches, we ordered the Baja Chop salad which came with fresh tasting ingredients and went surprisingly well with the sandwiches. The Baja Chop consists of a lettuce/greens mix, guacamole, radishes, cotija cheese, and charred poblano dressing. With five simple ingredients, the salad perfectly tied together the meal. There seems to be an assumption that places serving fried or fast food don't use fresh ingredients. The Crack Shack proves this assumption wrong with plenty of fresh and healthy options. Some of these options include their Anti-Salad Power Bowl and the Miso Healthy bowl.
But, to be honest, the thing that stood out to me the most at the Crack Shack was the schmaltz fries, some of the best fries I have ever had in my life. Schmaltz is clarified goose or chicken fat used to fry or as a spread on bread. Schmaltz has a strong connection to Jewish culture. Since the Jews were forbidden by dietary laws to fry their food in butter or lard (deriving from non-kosher things) shmaltz was the best substitute. To make schmaltz fries they start out by soaking the potato pieces in beef fat, then boiling them in water. To obtain a creamy inside, they fry the potatoes in a low-temperature fryer and freeze them overnight. Then they fully fry them to have a crispy outside and smooth mashed potato-like inside when ready to be served. With a variety of dipping sauces to choose from including chimichurri, baja hot sauce, kimchi bbq, buttermilk ranch, cracksup, and a sweet and sour sauce, these fries are bound to change your life and perception of fries.
In the future, I hope to learn more about the hot chicken fever that has hit Southern California and explore chicken places in my home town of Long Beach. If this tickled your fried chicken bone I urge you to check out Brian Addison's article on Kim Prince's hot chicken. Have a tasteful day!