Food News

Cattivella Chef Elise Wiggins Returns to Her Roots With Fried Chicken Trailer

Elise Wiggins is converting this 1962 Shasta camper into a fried chicken trailer to be called the Lil Yellow Chick.
Elise Wiggins is converting this 1962 Shasta camper into a fried chicken trailer to be called the Lil Yellow Chick. Elise Wiggins
Cattivella has been going strong in the Eastbridge Town Center since it opened at 10195 East 29th Drive in 2017, but chef/owner Elise Wiggins doesn't want all her chicks in one basket, especially with cold weather approaching to put a damper on patio dining. So she just bought a 1962 Shasta camper and is about to embark on a new adventure.

No, Wiggins isn't heading out on an epic road trip with camper in tow; she's converting it into a food trailer called the Lil Yellow Chick that will serve fried chicken, biscuits and side dishes. Wiggins was born and raised in Louisiana, so is returning to her roots with buttermilk-marinated chicken that she'll sell by the whole, half or quarter bird from a permanent parking spot on the Eastbridge plaza.

The chef did have to make a road trip to Tennessee to retrieve the trailer, and it's now in the hands of Mile High Custom Food Trucks, where it's being tricked out with a full kitchen. From there, it will receive a new paint job and a crowning neon sign to guide neighbors to their Southern-fried destination. Wiggins anticipates that the majority of the work will be done in thirty days, and the paint job and final setup won't take long after that.

The menu hews close to Louisiana classics, especially the fried chicken. "Where I'm from, we like it crispy and flaky," she describes, so the bird gets a very short bath in buttermilk (otherwise the milk sugars tend to burn when fried) and a single dip in a flour dredge "so that it's not too bready."


Seasoning options for the chicken will be "naughty" (spicy) or "nice" (not too spicy), as a nod to Cattivella, which means "naughty" in Italian.

click to enlarge Chef Elise Wiggins. - JENNIFER KOSKINEN
Chef Elise Wiggins.
Jennifer Koskinen
The biscuits and mashed potatoes are made with buttermilk, too, but the coleslaw is vinegar-based to add a bright note. Other sides include mac and cheese, curly fries, pickled okra and maque choux, a traditional corn dish made with red peppers, jalepeño, garlic butter and parmesan. Red beans and rice are also on the menu; Wiggins says she's using real Louisiana red beans, not kidney beans, and that you'll be able to order it with or without smoked andouille sausage. And then there's the chicken-liver mousse, which the chef says goes great on biscuits with a drizzle of honey. "It's not as strong as fried chicken livers," Wiggins notes. "I love the challenge of converting people, so we're going to give people little pats of mousse to take with them to try on their biscuits."

In the South, most folks call all sodas "cokes" (as in "What kind of coke do you want?"), and Lil Yellow Chick's coke of choice will be Shasta, to match the trailer and to bring another popular taste of the Gulf Coast to Colorado.

Wiggins's goal with the opening of Lil Yellow Chick is to bring something new to the neighborhood and to provide an extra source of revenue, since business could drop drastically at Cattivella and other sit-down restaurants if COVID-related in-house dining restrictions continue into the winter. "I have a commitment to my team," she explains. "I need to do everything I can so that when winter hits I'll be able to keep afloat."

So the chef will launch Lil Yellow Chick on a wing and a prayer in late August or early September near Cattivella. Wiggins says the trailer, with its "retro wings on the back and its adorable rotund shape," will be open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily, with a weekend brunch menu also in the works.
KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Mark Antonation is the former Westword Food & Drink Editor. In 2018, he was named Outstanding Media Professional by the Colorado Restaurant Association; he's now with the Colorado Restaurant Foundation.
Contact: Mark Antonation