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First-Take Restaurant Review: Chicken Scratch + The Foundry

A funny thing happens when you pull into the parking lot that leads to Chicken Scratch, a week-old restaurant conceived by masterminds Christopher Zielke, Christopher Jeffers, and Chef Tim Byres of SMOKE. First, the smell of fried chicken strikes your nose like hot oil; second, you hear birds chirping (and suddenly a sense of guilt washes over you for what you’re about to eat); and third, after you get out of your car, you find yourself passing through an enormous structure that looks like a gigantic chicken coop. It might as well have a sign plastered to the front that reads, “Welcome, little chickadee, to the world of chicken.”

Jump or flap your wings.

Interior with oversized windows and community table (left); Mexican-inspired local and naturally flavored popsicles (right)
Fried chicken with oregano-vinegar-honey sauce, elbow mac & cheese, and homemade biscuit

Chicken Scratch is really the brainchild of Tim Byres, the award-winning chef of SMOKE. Having two kids posed a difficulty when there weren’t too many restaurants around Dallas that would allow his offspring to run around, so Byres and his partners built an enclosed outdoor space where kids could play safely while their parents ate fried chicken with a beer or two. Heavy shipping containers create the boundary for Chicken Scratch, barricading it from the trailer park to the left and post office in the back. Chris Jeffers’ wife furnished the clunky metal containers with furniture she bought from thrift stores on Jefferson Avenue. “They’re not even second hand; it’s probably third or fourth hand, and it’s the last stop this furniture is going to make,” says Jeffers.

Performance stage in patio area outside of The Foundry made of reclaimed wooden pallets

It’s hard not to go on and on about the design of this place – it really is. Just about every piece of furniture and design – from the hanging lamps fashioned out of crates to the wall decor – is a lesson in recycling. The wooden stage that hosted its first live jam session last Saturday is constructed entirely out of reused pallets stacked on top of each other. Gary Buckner, the “King of Repurposing,” is the man behind this structure, and he’s also the person to blame in case the stage ever comes crashing down. (Don’t worry, it probably won’t happen.)

Chicken Scratch exterior strung with patio lights and cactus landscaping
Seasoned rotisserie chicken

Two buildings with air conditioning sit on the right edge of the outdoor space, and that’s where you’ll hide if the weather’s acting up. Inside Chicken Scratch, you can order your chicken rotisserie or fried in quarter, half, or whole sizes. There are a few options (like the quinoa and chunky vegetables plate; lettuce, sprouts, seeds, and tofu salad; and hummus with saltine crackers) for vegetarians and vegans, but the focus is mainly on the chicken, which is undeniably good. I’ve said this before in my Sissy’s post, but to reiterate: I am not a huge fan of fried chicken. Not-so-begrudgingly, I foresee my conversion into one because of places like Chicken Scratch, where the peppery skin falls off easily and reveals tender, moist meat underneath. My lunch partner had to stop me from picking at the fried skin crumbs on my tin plate and told me to try his rotisserie chicken, which I couldn’t stop burying my teeth into. Try both types of chicken with the oregano-vinegar-honey sauce or crackling gravy, and really, you have yourself a meal made in heaven.

The only complaint I have pertains to the crumbly biscuits. I’m used to eating flaky, buttery and puffed-up biscuits from my four years in North Carolina, and Chicken Scratch’s couldn’t hold up to my measure of fluff.

At one point, I asked Jeffers why popsicles (in cantaloupe, piña colada, strawberry, mango, and lime) are the only dessert offering they have on the menu. He tells me I’ll understand when I have children of my own some day. “Popsicles solve so many problems when you’re a parent. When kids go crazy or get cranky, it’s a great quick reward, but it doesn’t fill them up.” Genius.

The Foundry seating and bar area (left); Succulents in recycled beer can (right)

I haven’t gotten a chance to venture into The Foundry, the bar that sits next to Chicken Scratch, but Jeffers tells me that it’s been getting good business so far. At night, the whole outdoor space lights up and becomes a cozy spot for friends and families to hang out with their beers and kids (two words you hardly see used together in a restaurant write-up). Even for those who can’t stand being around kids, the space is large enough for them to avoid small people. They can stay inside or outside, linger in the chicken coop area, lounge in one of the shipping containers, or take a walk near the garden the partners are growing off to the side. It’s really the best of both worlds. No, more like three. Or four.

19 comments on “First-Take Restaurant Review: Chicken Scratch + The Foundry

  1. I can’t wait to try this place. These pictures make me want to get in my car and drive over now. Nice write up.

  2. Just had dinner at Chicken Scratch, and had a great time! Fried chicken had nice flavor and was very crispy. Sides (mac and cheese/ mashed potatoes) were also good, but I have to agree with the reviewer regarding the biscuits. Very dry and mine just crumbled to dust while trying to eat it.
    We took our golden retriever Mattie, as it is a pet friendly establishment. Always love that in patio. Glad to see other dogs there as well. She received lots of love from the staff which she ate up.
    We will definitely return. Will have to try the rotisserie chicken next time around.

  3. This piece [and probably the nature of the restaurant itself] makes this place sound AMAZING. It is now on my list of must-check-out places in Dallas.

  4. Jaden – So do others who choose to venture out and try something different. You obviously don’t get out much if you still think Oak Cliff is the hood.

  5. Great space, as it was before. Fried chicken, nothing special, lots of crust, not well seasoned, not a lot of chic on the 1/2 quarter. Well priced, but my friend ordered a salad and for. 3.00 got some kinda small garnish. Inconvenient having to pay for food and drinks separate. Really? Not the same vibe as Jacks. Not as friendly..

  6. Jaden – If it makes you feel any better, it’s north of 30, so it’s actually in West Dallas. Does that sound less scary?

    It’s a great space and conveniently right on Commerce, but inside it doesn’t feel like you’re near a busy street. The fried chicken was still good after a 10 minute car ride home. The rotisserie chicken meat was fine, but it needed some crispier skin for my taste. The mac & cheese was weak compared to the excellent greens which sat in a savory and meaty broth. I agree with Carol on the biscuits. They were closer to shortcake and was way too sweet. You can’t cut them in half without them crumbling, so the Plugra butter they’re served with is hard to utilize.

  7. Great space and kid and dog friendly is a plus! The food….meh. I had the rotisserie chicken, collards and the anemic salad. The chicken, while moist, lacked seasoning as did the collards. The friends at my table thought the pan-fried chicken was OK. Staff in the kitchen and on the floor seemed to be a bit surly. Not good. I see families coming here for not-so-great-food and a chance to have a beer and let the kids run around for awhile. Once you’ve been twice, you’ve probably had all the menu choices.

  8. We’ve been to the Foundry and found the space enchanting. is it dog friendly?

  9. Where can I get a look at the menu…seems to be missing from the website. Thanks.

  10. Tried it tonight. The space was really cool. Liked the vibe a lot. Food wasn’t worth the wait or the expense. Way too salty and overpriced. Bad service. Major mosquito problem. Come for the bar and the surroundings. Skip the food. Wear bug spray.

  11. Place is awesome, but food and service not so much..loved Jacks Backyard vibe, food, & the staff/service was much better than coop/foundry. Seems like Jack’s was booted by a place with more $$$$ trying to snag their style

  12. Love the outdoor space, the stage!!, the night lighting,and the decor overall. “Service” was a term loosely applied outside with a party of 12 or so. Had chicken and biscuit, and neither one impressed. Chicken was OK, but that’s not good enough for a place based on chicken. But I’m not surprised at the biscuit reviews I’m reading….mine was awful! Very salty with actual clumps of baking powder hitting the tongue…not tasty at all, and the texture was fall-apart-Bisquik-drop-biscuit-consistency. Bake a better biscuit, please! We want to like you.