Chicken Guy!, the exclamation pointed partnership project between Orlando resident and global restaurateur Robert Earl and celebrity chef and tv host Guy Fieri, has opened its second area location.
They’ve taken over a former Steak ’n Shake structure on Orlando Avenue in Winter Park, removed all things cow and chickened the place up. (There are still shakes, but we’ll come back to that.)
A key feature to the new location is a double drive through. That doesn’t mean you have to go through twice, just that twice as many cars can order at the same time. Pickup, however, is at a single window on the other side of the building.
The setup inside is similar to the original CG! at Disney Springs. It’s a quick-serve operation, so you order your food at the counter and wait for it to be delivered to your table. Besides indoor seating, the new location has an outdoor area that can convert to indoors with the closing of a garage-type door. There are some subtle differences from the Disney Springs store, such as the phrase “Great frickin’ chicken!” written over a kitchen window that the Disney censors would never approve of.
I stopped in to the new location on Wednesday afternoon just hours before an unannounced opening and I immediately had food flung at me, including four sandwiches, a container of macaroni and cheese, “loaded” fries, unloaded fries, and fried pickle chips.
I’ve of course tasted most of the food before, when the first Chicken Guy! opened in 2018. I liked it then and I like it now. The key is the chicken tender tendered in the sandwiches (or by themselves, if you prefer). They are, Earl would want you to know, “fresh, never frozen” and do not contain hormones, which is a negative thing only if you’ve come to enjoy the flavor of hormones.
Also, the tenders are flattened, which gives them more surface for the crispy stuff.
My favorite sandwich is the Big Bite B.L.A.T., the B, L and T representing what they usually do in a sandwich with the added A for avocado crema. There were two tenders, still a good thickness despite the pounding, and substantial rashers of bacon, plus lettuce, tomatoes and buttermilk ranch sauce.
The BLAT was easy to figure out, but it took me longer to decode the LTOP listed in the CG Classic, which reads “cheddar, special sauce & LTOP. I’m guessing this is Fieri-speak for lettuce, tomato, onion and pickles. (I still haven’t deciphered SMC but I think it has something to do with macaroni and cheese.)
“Special” Sauce, by the way, is one of 22 sauces available to add to sandwiches or deploy as a dip. Special Sauce is made with mayo, ketchup, mustard, pickle juice and special sauces. Donkey Sauce does not contain any animal products.
You’re free to mix and match sauces – you get two with your order and can buy others for half a buck each – but some items comes with a recommended sauce. Such as the fried pickle chips and buttermilk ranch sauce. The buttermilk helps counter the spiciness in the pickle batter.
Oh yes, I promised to mention shakes. Flavortown Shakes, to be precise. I sampled the mathematically challenging Triple Double Mint and the more sedate strawberry and liked both. I chose not to try the Apple Cinnamon Cereal shake because I have to draw a line somewhere.
There are technically seven Guys! Chicken now but two of them are in sports venues – Levis Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif., and FedEx Field in Landover, Md. – and are open only on game days. Besides the original in Disney Springs, there is a CG in Aventura Mall in Miami and two Tennessee outlets, Gatlinburg and Nashville.
But more are on the way as franchisees start signing up. And here’s something to look forward to: The Winter Park Chicken Guy! will soon add a breakfast menu, which is likely to dredge up that whole chicken and egg argument.
Some readers have noted that there is no dearth of chicken places along this stretch of U.S. 17-92. One suggested it be dubbed Chicken Way. Rooster Row, maybe? But word is the Popeye’s on the corner of Fairbanks Avenue is closing soon, so you’ll have fewer choices. And when you’ve got a Chicken Guy! in the neighborhood, the choice is really a no bird-brainer.
Chicken Guy! is at 818 S. Orlando Ave., Winter Park (map). It’s open for lunch and dinner daily. The phone number is 407-498-3880.