WHAT’S FOR LUNCH? RELIABLE FRIED CHICKEN

Lunch specials numbers 1 and 3 from Chicken Kitchen in Shrewsbury Plaza. (Photo by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

Shrewsbury Plaza in Shrewsbury has seen its share of transition, with businesses coming and going, but the Chicken Kitchen, shoehorned into a spot next to a tile store and a nail salon in the strip mall, can boast that it’s been there longer than most.

Matt Kascsak, the restaurant’s third owner, tells PieHole he was born the same year, 1982, that the restaurant was launched. Working for the second owner, he got a feel for what was good and what could be improved. Which was not a lot, apparently.

Customer Adria Glass, at right above, waits for takeout order. Owner Matt Kascsak, below. (Photos by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

“The menu is basically the same,” he said. “We’ve kept most of the  same customers and added some new faces, but we improved customer service.”

Loyal customers come and go while we peruse the big yellow menu on the wall above the register that Toni Hildebrandt works.

She knows, by name, almost everyone who walks through the door, and in the persona of an old-fashioned diner waitress, calls them “hon” or “sweetie.” In the age of politically correct expression, she’s full of character and a true day-brightener.

While waiting for her chicken salad order, customer Adria Glass tells us she’s been coming here for 12 years. Today, she’s eating healthy, which is why she went with a salad.

At Kascsak’s suggestion, we order a couple of lunch specials. The #1 ($5.50) includes three pieces of fried chicken, a regular size side and a soda. We also go with a #3 ($6.49), a sandwich with any kind of chicken on it.

Influenced by Glass, we start with a chicken salad sandwich and a side of fries. The sandwich is served on a large, fresh kaiser roll with lettuce and tomato. The salad, made from rotisserie chicken, includes dark and breast meat, is not overly wet with mayonnaise, and is just what you’d want and expect in a chicken salad sandwich. The fries were crispy and typical.

Kascsak says that the fried chicken is the hottest item on the menu, followed by the wings. It takes us all of a nanosecond to see that it’s the crunchy, breaded coating and properly cooked and succulent chicken meat that keeps the customers returning again and again.

Our second side, the macaroni and cheese turns out to be a little kid’s fantasy. A Cheese-Whiz-Velveeta-style concoction that has no sense of gourmet fanciness, it’s sometimes all you want. Simple.

Booths and tables in a bare-bones dining area accommodate those who want to eat in, but the bulk of business here is takeout or delivery. Still, it’s important to know that everything here is made to order and will take a little while.

Chicken Kitchen is located opposite Marshall’s in the Shrewsbury Plaza shopping center at Shrewsbury Avenue and  Broad Street (Highway 35) in Shrewsbury, and is open from 11 a.m. until 10 p.m. every day.

SUSAN-ERICSON

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