Fried chicken's been coated in some crazy things, but only in L.A. could a super-trendy new restaurant concept thrive by coating it in — sorry, Colonel Sanders — chocolate.
ChocoChicken only has been open a week, but it's already got the buzz — and plans to expand.
More: Read the L.A. Times first look
The free-range chicken isn't fried in chocolate oil. It's lightly coated with a special cooking chocolate made from bittersweet cocoa, and fries up a shade of chocolate brown.
"Sure, it sounds super goofy," says Adam Fleischman, co-founder of ChocoChicken, which opened last week near the Staples Center in Los Angeles and plans another location this year in Santa Monica, Calif. "But it doesn't taste goofy. It tastes amazing."
Not enough chocolate? Douse your chicken with Chocolate Ketchup. Side dishes include White Chocolate Mashed Potatoes and Duck Fat Fries sprinkled with chocolate seasoning. Chocoholics also can order Electric Chocolate S'mores for dessert. An entree of of two pieces of chicken and fries goes for about $15, slightly more for all-white meat.
Fleischman's co-partner and self-taught-cook Keith Previte came up with concept. A third partner is Sean Robins, a film and TV producer. Fleischman, whose Advantage Restaurant Partners also owns trendy Umami Burger and 800 Degrees Neapolitan Pizzeria brands, helped fund the 175-seat ChocoChicken. And he helped tweak the super-secret seasonings.
"All of the ingredients are secret," he says. "All I can say is that the marinating, coating, seasoning and frying process all contain some element of chocolate."
Restaurant success increasingly is about appealing to Millennials, who demand unusual tastes and also are quick to snap a photo of what they're about to eat and post it on social media. ChocoChicken's gotten plenty of that.
"Best chicken wings outside of Buffalo," said one Facebook post from fan David Crvelin.
Restaurant consultant Howard Gordon — who has eaten there — says ChocoChicken serves good grub. "It actually tastes good," says Gordon, former marketing chief at The Cheesecake Factory. "But I think it's more a big-city thing — where people are into things that are new and different."
Fleischman expects to have six stores in 2015 — including one in New York City — and eight stores by 2016.
This is not the only new chicken mash-up: In the Philippines, KFC recently rolled out Crispy Cheese Chicken, fried chicken marinated in cheese and breaded with bits of cheese-flavored chips.