I'm sitting next to a larger-than-life painting of a chicken with Rachael Hebel, discussing Southern stuff like the latest season of SEC college football and our grandmothers' methods of frying chicken in cast iron. The owner of Cluck Chicken
is the picture of relief as she chats in her restaurant at 1384 South Broadway, which opened last August after many unexpected delays.
“It was a complete restaurant rebuild, is what happened,” she explains. “I thought that I was going to be able to just add a hood system because this space was two restaurants before me — a waffle place and a pho place — but it didn't have a hood system. I was under the impression that all I needed to do was add one. Turns out the structure wasn’t supportive enough. So I had to get a structural engineer involved, had to get an architectural engineer involved, had to get a mechanical engineer involved.”
Cluck Chicken's journey to its own brick-and-mortar was a decade in the making. It started as a food truck in 2012 and eventually moved into the kitchen inside the Dive Inn, just next door to its new, standalone home.
Once Hebel overcame the structural hurdles of the space, she was faced with more delays and permit challenges. “The City of Denver made me put in an 800-gallon below-ground grease interceptor — 800 gallons!" she exclaims. "The only place we could put it was under the Dive Inn...so they dug up their back patio. We had a crane bring it over and drop it on their back patio into the ground. It was a huge project. We had to get all new permits and find a general contractor during a pandemic. It was really hard to get someone from the City of Denver to talk to us, and there were delays. It just took a while for us to get to where we needed to be.”
Cluck Chicken offers chicken tenders with a variety of sauce options as well as the chicken sandwich on Texas toast.
Now Hebel hopes to spread the word about the new location to her previous food truck and Dive Inn customers. “The chicken is the same,” she notes. “Obviously, we’ve grown. I used to start with a little bag of flour, and now we use 100 pounds of flour a week. I just want people to know we’re open. It’s the exact same thing from the Cluck Truck; the exact same we had in the Dive Inn when we leased that little kitchen. But now we’re next door."
While the perfectly brined, well-seasoned, flour-breaded, crispy fried tenders are the star of Cluck Chicken’s operation, the spot also offers a variety of sandwiches, including the standard, made with chicken tenders tucked between two slices of buttered Texas toast (arguably the only bread option appropriate for such a sandwich) with melted American cheese. That all gets slathered with Cluck’s signature sauce, which puts to shame the version from a certain popular fast-food chicken tender joint.
The new space also allows Hebel to introduce new menu items, such as her housemade pickles, which are fried in a beer batter. The chicken baskets still pair well with a cocktail from next door, too. "You can order food here and take it back to the Dive Inn to eat it," she notes.
Reflecting on the hurdles of opening this location, Hebel is grateful for Cluck's progress and hopes to now focus on frying up mouthwatering chicken in a place she loves. “This is a great location,” she concludes. “I knew when I was leaving the Dive Inn that I was going to open my own location. I chose this place because I love this area.”
Cluck Chicken is located at 1384 South Broadway and is open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. For more information, visit cluckchickenden.com.