Every March, a crew of chefs and others in the restaurant business meet up at White Fence Farm to celebrate birthdays and the start of spring. This hip group's most recent visit was this past Sunday, and "It was great," says Patrick Kneese, manager of Lola. "At a table full of chefs, we all agreed the chicken was the best it had been in years." That's saying something, since Lola is part of the Big Red F group, which just snagged our award for Best Fried Chicken at The Post Brewing Company.
And soon you'll be able to get that White Fence Farm fried chicken at other spots around the metro area. Craig Caldwell and Tom Piercy, who bought the forty-year-old restaurant last November from Charlie Wilson and his family, are planning to create a farm team of satellite locations, and hope to firm up a few locations early next week. "They're going to be smaller," says Caldwell. "Dine-in, take-out, more like a fast-food place. We don't want to get into liquor, full-service." But they do want to make sure that people can get White Fence Farm food more than once a year, since many people — like that group of chicken-loving restaurateurs — consider the Lakewood location a special-occasion place.
The chicken will be prepared the same way: pressure-cooked with steam, not deep-fried. Then, after it's completely cooked all the way through, it's flash-fried for just a couple of minutes, to warm it and crisp it. "It there's such a thing as healthy fried chicken, we have it," Caldwell says, noting that White Fence Farm uses Red Bird chicken. The satellites will also serve the same sides, except for the corn fritters. "When you eat them and they're warm, they're delicious," Caldwell says, adding that they might not be so delicious after cooking off in a take-out order.
Caldwell has been in the hospitality business for decades; his first establishment was the Blue Goose in Glendale in 1973, the same year that White Fence Farm took over an eighty-acre working farm in Lakewood and turned it into a restaurant based on a model back in Illinois. From there, Caldwell went on to Thirstys, the legendary 3.2 bar, and Brooklyn's; although he's since gotten out of nightclubs and sports pubs, he's still running Keys on the Green at the Evergreen Golf Club. And it was there that the White Fence Farm deal was cooked up. At a golf tournament last summer he ran into Piercy, who'd once owned a bar in LoDo, and Caldwell told him he was thinking of getting involved with the White Fence Farm. "He lit up like a Christmas tree," Caldwell remembers. Turns out Piercy had grown up in Joliet, Illinois, near the original White Fence Farm, and was hungry to partner on the deal.
And Wilson thought the pair were just the right new owners. "I needed someone with enthusiasm and innovation, and these guys were perfect," he said in announcing the deal. "And, the most important part, they aren't going to change a thing, except for a few family photos on the wall."
That, and adding a farm team of White Fence Farm spots. Sounds like this could really fly.