Florida Keys Business
Sunday, June 8, 2014
Southern(most) comfort food
Chicken Shack satisfies pot pie penchant

Achart on the kitchen wall shows a running tally of how many chicken pot pies are sold each day at Joe's Chicken Shack, the new eatery at 722 Duval St., next to Bourbon Street Pub.

In the 22 days between May 9 and May 31, Chicken Shack manager Tim Bunn and his chicken-cooking colleagues have sold 324 pot pies.

"We've sold 42 in the past two days," Bunn said Thursday, taking another three of the ultra-popular puff pastry treats out of the oven. "At first, I was only doing them on the weekends, but people kept asking for them, so I started making them every day and keeping track of how many we go through."

Bunn has managed the Chicken Shack for owner Joey Schroeder since its October opening, and is proud of the taste, quality and affordability of the Duval Street menu.

"We use Broaster Chicken, which manufactures the specific marinade and coating as well as its own pressure fryer, which reduces the amount of oil that gets into the chicken, making fried chicken that's less greasy with less fat," Bunn said.

After 12 hours of marinating, and careful coating, the fried chicken comes out crispy on the outside, juicy on the inside and temptingly tender.

"Other than the Broaster coating and marinade, the side dishes and salads are all hand-made from our own recipes and recipes we've found online. The pot pie is something I added," Bunn said while chopping pounds of potatoes that would make their way into a batch of homemade soup Thursday afternoon.

"Some people come in every day for soup," he said. "Despite this heat, I have people who get a bowl of soup every day. Even [Schroeder] eats hot soup almost daily," Bunn said, rattling off some of his soup creations that include chicken gumbo, chicken noodle and chicken and corn chowder.

Others stick to their favorite, the pot pie.

"One father walks down Duval Street every day with his 18-month-old son, who gets a pot pie every day," Bunn said.

Another regular has started calling ahead to be sure one of the popular puff-pastry dishes will be waiting him.

"They take 55 minutes to bake in the oven," Bunn said. "This guy waited almost the whole time for one of them."

Other offerings that have become popular through the classic word-of-mouth advertising include chicken salad, curry chicken salad, sweet potato fries, collared greens, coleslaw, bacon, ranch and chive potato salad, macaroni and cheese and biscuits.

The chicken salad is popular both on its own, or spread over a tortilla and served as a wrap.

"One guy came in for two quarts of the potato salad and coleslaw to take to a Memorial Day barbecue," Bunn said, laughing at the memory of his own mother in Iowa bringing her own serving bowl to the Kentucky Fried Chicken drive-through, ordering two large servings of coleslaw, scooping the slaw into her own bowl and passing it off as her own at Midwestern gatherings.

"I'm from Iowa, but always worked in restaurants," he said, adding that he managed a restaurant at a marina on the Mississippi River until moving to Key West three years ago. "I priced things the way I did in Iowa to make sure our food and production costs are covered, while still keeping things affordable.

Soups and salads come in single servings, pints and quarts.

"And what's nice is none of the chicken ever goes to waste," Bunn said. "Anything that doesn't sell in an hour or two gets picked off the bone that day and used in the soups and salads."

When asked what happens to the leftover pot pies, Bunn just laughed.

As the kitchen tally grows daily, it's obvious there's no such thing as leftover pot pie at Joe's Chicken Shack.

mmiles@keysnews.com

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