A sign that things are slowly returning to some semblance of normal activity is when businesses expand.
Such is the case with Cluck It/Cowch Burger (www.cluckitchicago.com/&, which co-owners/spouses Cainan Edwards and Samantha Zubli) have moved from a cloud kitchen on Chicago's Near South Side to a 3,600-square-foot space in Lincoln Park, at 2518 N. Lincoln Ave.
However, this spot is not quite ready for prime time, as they say. Cluck It/Cowch Burger is open for pick-up and deliverybut the dine-in option has not kicked in yet, as Edwards and Zubli are the only staffers present. "I want everything to be perfect when we open."
Edwards provided a sneak peek of the dining space, which includes two impressive chandeliers; a semi-private dining area on the second floor; and another semi-private area on the first floor with lights to make patrons feel like they're dining under the stars. "This was already here," Edwards said of the latter item. "We hated it at first, but then I was, like, 'I like it.'"
Once everything's in place, the couple plan to launch Oona in part of the space. And what is Oona (which means "one" is Gaelic), which will be a more upscale part of the venue. "We have do ramen there one night, or we might do a five-course tasting," Edwards said. "We eventually want to be a neighborhood spot."
As for Cowch Burger, Edwards said he wanted to maintain it as a separate brand: "I've worked on with Slagel [Farms] for years and we worked on it until we got the right brine. We wanted to do it at the cloud kitchen, but it was [impossible] there. At first, we were just going to have that good burgerbut I think we're going to have some other fun burgers down the road.
"We just want to make really good food."
And that's exactly what Edwards and Zubli dobut be careful. Cluck It's famous chicken offerings are delicious, but they're offered at four heat levels: Country (No Spice), Mild, Hot (habanero) and XXHot (scorpion chili and habanero). This writer's good with the first option, but they are definitely more adventurousor masochisticsouls out there.
Edwards constantly iterated the idea of having funand that's exactly what one has trying to choose items from the menu. Under "The Bird" section of the menu, there are items such as chicken-fried lobster tail and grilled breast (a sandwich with a lot of meat). There are also "Fancy Stuff" offerings like chicken and waffle as well as lobster and waffle; and sides such as collard greens (genuinely tasty) and cheese waffle fries. Even the desserts (Zubli's bailiwick) all look enticing, with items such as banana pudding (made from scratch), Belgian waffles, corn-flake cream pies and Cowch crumb cookies.
As for vegans and vegetarians, "we'll eventually have something out there for them as well," said Edwards, adding that the current Impossible burgers "weird him out."
A final note: The business owners show their irreverence in the products they sell, such as Liquid Death mountain water. "It's from Adult Swim's Mr. Pickles," Edwards said. "I love their brandingthey're proudly not for everyone."
And the music in the spot can be polarizing. They day I was at the spot, there was hardcore rap blaring through the speakers (although the music also reminded me how much '80s and '90s music has been sampled).
Even Cluck It's logo is controversialas well as, of course, the spot's name. I mentioned to Edwards that someone I know loves the food but hates the logowhich features a chicken (named Clarence) giving the bird (get it?) to customers. "That's fair," Edwards replied, indicating my friend's reaction is not the first. "We just want to have fun. That's important."
If you're easily offended (or don't like to have fun), the best thing with Cluck It/Cowch Burger/Oona might be to order the food and ignore the logo. However, the reward (food) is definitely worth the "risk."