Joe Fontana, like many a suburban dreamer like him, has come to the city.
The restauranteur, who found success with Fry the Coophis spin on Nashville hot chickenin Oak Lawn and Elmhurst, made his recent Chicago debut with a space in The Loop's Wells Street Market at 205 W. Wacker Dr.
Open 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, the Wells Street location offers a limited version of its menu, with four sandwiches and a selection of fries or cole slaw. Off-menu vegetarian options exist but are cooked like everything else in the establishment's signature beef fat fry which, in Fry the Coop's defense, is a departure from most hot chicken's pork fry for the sake of Halal-abiding customers.
Sampled were the donut fried chicken sandwich and the seasoned fries; Fontana and his crew put the former on the menu after a day of experimentation inspired by Philadelphia's Federal Donuts. ( Local pastry connoisseurs Do-Rite Donuts has also been known to offer such a dish. )
It remains a winning combination: the sweet glaze of the donut melts neatly into a tangy special sauce, an amusing prelude before teeth meet meat.
And it's there that Fry the Coop earns its stripes: the twice-fried chicken has the perfect level of crunch, while the medium-heat seasoning ( selected over more intense options, at the insistence of the kitchen staff ) offers a satisfying full-mouth heat that lingers at just the right temperature. Sliced pickles add a nice touch of vinegar.
The seasoned fries are more of a sideshow. They're executed more than serviceably, and the seasoning offers a nice dry burn of its own, but its an extraneous experience compared to the sandwich.
Diners should keep in mind that lunch at Fry the Coop is best followed by a brisk walk, and then possibly a nap.
The only problem involved logistics, as Fontana and his crew only had four chicken breasts left for two hours of servicebut this was during Lollapalooza week. Maybe once Fry the Coop understands the ebb and flow of the crowd ( as it's been at the market only a few months ), maybe it can adjust the number of items as its post accordingly.