Phoebe the Phoodie: Dave’s Hot Chicken impresses

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Photo by Phoebe Goebel

Dave’s Hot Chicken features meals covering seven levels of spice.

Dave’s Hot Chicken started as a tiny food stand in California on the quest to find the perfect hot chicken recipe. Now a popular chain of restaurants, they have expanded their promise of the flawless chicken tender to Milwaukee, located at 544 East Ogden Ave.

There are four options for meals, all variations of chicken paired with french fries. With such a limited menu, I was skeptical about ordering from the restaurant. What varies on the menu is the level of spice on the chicken. With seven options of spice levels, you can cater your chicken to your tastebuds.

This is a feature I would like to see at more restaurants, especially when it comes to seasonings. People differ in their flavor profiles as well as spice tolerance, so a restaurant stands out when customers can customize their meals.

I decided to take the route of ordering online and picking it up in the store. The wait time for my meal was only seven minutes, which made the whole process very convenient. The restaurant itself was clean, which is always a factor in creating a positive dining experience.

Now for the important part: the chicken. Because the menu was so limited, I had a feeling that the chicken was going to amaze me. I’m glad to say that I was very impressed by the meal.

I ordered a single chicken tender to get the essence of the chicken. It came on a piece of bread with a couple of pickles on top of it. I chose the mild spice option, and it was the perfect punch for me.

The chicken was coated in a light breading that was delicious. It brought both spice and sweetness to the playing field, a balance that proved unique from other restaurants. Because the chicken was on the dryer side, it wasn’t greasy and didn’t leave me feeling sick like other tenders usually do. The only thing there could be more improvement in is the moistness of the chicken, which would have taken the tender to a new level than other fast-food options.

The restaurant also offers sliders as a meal, which are filled with chicken, cheese, pickles and kale slaw. If you’re looking for a more indulgent and filling meal, this is the way to go. These layers all come together in perfect harmony, offering a bite filled with varying rich flavors. For the sliders, I chose the hot spice option, which packed a little more punch than my single tender, but I enjoyed both.

All the meals come with a side of fries as well as their Dave Sauce, which is their housemade mayonnaise-based sauce. The fries are just how I like them: Crinkly, crispy on the ends, and coated with a light seasoning that mocks the flavors of the chicken. When I dipped the fries and my chicken in the Dave’s sauce, the flavors of both were truly heightened and brought a hint of creaminess that made up for the dry chicken.

The last item on the menu to test was their milkshakes. I consider myself an expert in sweet treats, so in order to gauge whether or not they were Phoebe the Phoodie approved, I went with the plain vanilla milkshake. It wasn’t life-changing, nor was it offensive. I don’t think I would order a milkshake the next time I order from the restaurant, but it was a pleasant way to end a very indulgent meal.

Overall, Dave’s Hot Chicken lived up to the hype of the press it has been getting. It benefits from having a limited menu and allows the chicken to really speak for itself. On days that I am craving chicken tenders, I know that Dave’s Hot Chicken will surpass my expectations of fast-food chicken.

This story was written by Phoebe Goebel. She can be reached at [email protected]