Restaurant pop-ups are still alive and well in Edmonton, showcasing everything from entrepreneurial concepts to collaborations with out-of-town chefs. Personally, my favourite pop-ups remain those that function as testing grounds for new ideas – they feel more raw and honest, with chefs putting out their heart and soul with the hope of being embraced by Edmontonians. Prairie Noodle is the most successful example of this, launching their brick and mortar shop after a series of sold-out pop-ups to test flavour profiles and their contemporary take on ramen.
Northern Chicken is the most recent pop-up of this nature, beget by the industrious chefs Andrew Cowan (of Packrat Louie and formerly of Century Hospitality Group) and Matt Phillips (most recently of Century Hospitality Group). The duo’s Northern Chicken celebrates comfort food done right, focusing on fried chicken and all the fixings.
Chefs Matt Phillips and Andrew Cowan
Their first pop-up took place at Dovetail Deli on Sunday, and the weather couldn’t have been better. Mack and I took advantage of the sunshine and walk over to 124 Street, and upon arrival, was greeted by a (thankfully) fast-moving line.
Hungry for fried chicken!
It was great to see many other chefs in attendance to support Northern Chicken, include Blair Lebsack from neighbouring RGE RD, Paul Shufelt (formerly of Century Hospitality and currently at Workshop Eatery), Levi Biddlecomb (of food truck Attila the Hungry, and fresh off his own pop-up at the nearby Prairie Noodle). Avenue Calgary Magazine recently conducted an interview with several Calgary chefs who spoke very highly of their collaborative, supportive food community, and I’m fairly certain something similar could be said of the scene in Edmonton.
At any rate, the menu was short and sweet – the choice between Matt’s fried or Andrew’s spicy chicken, a fried chicken sandwich, and sides of bacon truffled cream corn, Doritos mac and cheese, and coleslaw. Apple and buttermilk pies also tempted on the counter.
Mack and I both opted for the fried chicken sandwich ($9), and chose to share a side of mac and cheese ($8). We grabbed a couple of cold drinks and took our takeaway order outside to the picnic tables down the street.
We were most impressed by the size of the sandwich, with a hefty piece of breaded white meat, between a housemade sourdough bun, pickles, slaw and spicy mayo. We found the breading to be crispy, sealing in the juices of the meat. I also loved the thick slices of pickles for texture and taste. Our only critique was dense sourdough bun – we appreciated that it held up nicely, but our preference is for a more yielding type of bread.
Fried chicken sandwich
The Doritos mac and cheese didn’t quite live up to its name – we were expecting a very obvious dusting of chips on top, or somehow visually integrated into the pasta. But besides the vibrant orange of the mac, we were left with an aftertaste we couldn’t quite place.
Doritos mac and cheese
It’s great to see more concepts bubble up in Edmonton. I wish Chefs Andrew and Matt all the best as Northern Chicken comes closer to fruition. Follow them on Twitter to find out about their next event!