Review by Murray Wong
6041 North St, Halifax
Food trends come and go, and when they do come to Halifax, it’s usually with a bit (re. four years) of a delay. While rotisserie chicken isn’t exactly a trend, it’s very much a thing in Quebec. A very, very big thing. St. Hubert and Scores dominate the chain scene, while countless other shops sling their spit-roasted poulet across the province. In Montreal, Portuguese immigrants have turned their charcoal-roasted, piri piri-slathered fare into one of the city’s iconic dishes.
Haters take note, co-owner of CHKN Chop, Jenna Mooers (of EDNA fame, and jane’s on the common lineage), has specifically stated that this small North Street joint is most definitely not a Portuguese place. Although it is rotisserie chicken cooked over coals, I found that the menu has more of a Latin American influence with the likes of elote corn, and aji-flavoured sides. So if it doesn’t meet your expectations of being like it is in Montreal, that’s because you’re ill-informed.
With a minimalist but still noticeable signage, and fun mural, it’s definitely a better strip mall-mate for Unfiltered Brewing/Charm School than Robin’s Donuts was. The interior is fairly small, with just a handful of tables and a small communal high-top. A series of offset pipes bearing their tap list guides you from the front door to the counter where you order, while a wonderfully symmetrical set of square shelves holds some pantry goods, dishware and knickknacks (why, hello there, retro Kellogg’s Smacks tin). When I arrived, it was still early for dinner at just after 5pm, so it wasn’t completely full, but still quite steady.
The menu is quite lean (figuratively), with a handful of chicken options – ¼, ½ or whole, plus combo options with sides like coleslaw, salad, green beans, fries and the aforementioned elote. Not feeling like fork and knifing it? Pulled Chicken Sandwiches ($10) are here for you. The Hot CHKN Ssandwich ($10) is probably not finger food, unless you don’t mind first degree burns and have one of those disturbing squishing fetishes.
Captain of the ship, Jenna Mooers herself, was working the counter and took my order of a ¼ Chicken Leg Plate ($12) which comes with coleslaw and one side, which I used to get green beans. To further indulge my gluttony, I tacked on an order of the elote (all ala carte sides are $3.75), and got a pint of Good Robot’s Mexican-style lager ($8).
I sipped on my refreshing beer while taking in the sights and sounds, and being mildly hypnotized by their boozy slushy machine.
The food came in the utilitarian stainless steel containers that figure prominently in mise en places across the world, and while I am fine with the portion sizes here, something that deep runs the risk of not being visually flattering to the portion size.
Naturally, I had ordered the leg portion for the ¼ chicken instead of the breast, preferring the superior flavour and moisture levels of that cut. The meat was wonderfully juicy, and the skin was nice and crisp, and the touch of smoke from the charcoal was definitely a difference maker. Hot sauces were over by the shelf; I found the spicy one to have a good amount of heat, without melting my face off, with a hint of fruitiness that made it better balanced than a straight up hot sauce. Sure, it’s not the Portuguese chicken that many think it’s supposed to be (which it’s not), but it is damn good chicken.
The elote ($3.75) was comprised of two pieces that seemed to add up to a full cob, rather than the advertised half cob, so things appeared to be coming up Murhouse. Topped with lime and aji mayo, cheese curds, pickled onion and cilantro, it was some great corn. And this is coming from a guy who generally takes a pass on regular old corn on the cob. I’m not flossing my teeth for 10 minutes for that, but CHKN’s elote is worth it.
And speaking of worth it, when you come here: Get. The. Green. Beans. Often a generic side dish, steamed and with origins in a freezer, these verdant sticks of flavour were the best green beans I have ever had. Although the menu says they’re sautéed with smoked paprika in garlic butter, it tasted more like chicken drippings, which I would be very supportive of. They still had a nice snap to them, and some char from the grill added an extra hit of flavour. If you don’t like these beans, I will mentally discount your opinion on everything else.
For all the people complaining about the prices here, please don’t. Just go to a chain like KFC or Mary Brown’s with the coupons you got in the mail. There’s trained cooks here, a nicer atmosphere and a better product. Not only does that cost money, it deserves it, and your taste buds deserve CHKN Chop.
Murray Wong is a Nova Scotian expat living in Ottawa. You’ll find him chasing down the best food trucks, Chinese food, and Halifax-style donairs in the capital, and waxing nostalgic about Pictou County pizza. In his spare time, he’ll be pickling vegetables or his liver, and using Simpsons references for every imaginable situation.