Some like it hot, as in spicy. Others like it nutty or fruity or smoky. However you like it, Chicken Salad Chick, with 15 different varieties of the beloved Southern staple, has something to please every palate – even for people who don’t particularly care for chicken salad. For those folks, offerings include pimento cheese, soup, several sides and other deli sandwich options, such as turkey, roast beef and ham.
However, it is clearly the chicken salad that has put this place on the culinary map. It’s an Alabama-based chain that began in Auburn in 2007 and is spreading across the Southeast like proverbial wildfire. Misty and Heath McClure, of Daphne, opened the first South Alabama spot in November and are already angling to open another in late autumn. The McClures are currently looking at locations on both sides of the Bay. Business is booming. “I have been completely blown away by the number of everyday customers. People come for lunch and then return for dinner, ” Misty says. “I think it’s just such a fun, friendly, welcoming environment. It’s also the fact that the food is homemade.” She says they prepare everything in house, including steaming and handpicking the chicken and cooking the bacon for bacon bits. The McClures have localized the casual, upbeat decor with large black-and-white photos of landmarks, including the Battleship and Bienville Square. Misty says they also use local produce, especially fruit, whenever possible.
It all started with a simple recipe called “Classic Carol.” (All the salad varieties have chick names for the friends and family of franchise founder Stacy Brown.) The original is still the bestseller, featuring finely shredded chicken combined with Duke’s mayonnaise, minutely minced celery and secret seasonings. From this tasty base, all the rest are born. The gussied up versions range from traditional ingredients, such as sweet pickle and egg (Olivia’s Old South) and apples, grapes and pecans (Fancy Nancy), to the more exotic, such as macadamia nuts and pineapple (Luau Lydia) and cheddar, bacon and cayenne (Jazzy Julie – the hottest of the bunch). Jalapeño Holly, with minced pickled peppers, is Misty’s personal pick. You can dine-in, takeout, drive-thru or eat al fresco at the café tables out front.
ON THE MENU
Chicken & Artichoke Florentine Soup
Rich and velvety, brimming with tender chunks of chicken, laced with spinach and a light, delightful tang of artichoke hearts
A dandy version of an old-fashioned favorite: sliced red and green grapes are bathed in sweet sour cream dressing with brown sugar and chopped pecans
An ultra-cheesy, nicely creamy, pleasing blend of shredded sharp cheddar and pepper jack cheeses studded with chopped pimentos
Kickin’ Kay Lynne
This savory, slightly smoky, salad could easily double as a dip. It has a little bit of everything in a delectable combination of chicken, shredded cheddar and real bacon bits with just the right spice from Buffalo sauce and pickled jalapeños, all gilded with a touch of Ranch dressing.
Chicken Salad Chick • 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. M – Sa. • 2370 S. Hillcrest Road, Unit R. 660-0501.
text by Sallye Irvine • photo by Cary Norton