Move over, Popeyes. There’s a new chicken sandwich in town worth lining up for. San Diego import Crack Shack, which just opened at Park MGM, will make you wonder how you ever got on without it. It’s so good, in fact, I found myself texting a colleague about the sheer deliciousness of it all during my first visit. “This should be illegal,” I wrote. “Winner of the chicken sandwich wars in my book,” he replied.
Chef Richard Blais has turned his fast-casual chicken concept into a flavor explosion. Sandwiches include the crowd favorite Hangover ($10), with a fried egg, “red eye” aioli, and a honey butter-dipped and fried breast or thigh, all within a giant biscuit; or the California Dip ($12), a marriage between a French dip and a California burrito, with roasted chicken, French fries, pickled jalapeños, guacamole, lettuce, tomato and onion on fresh torta bread with pozole broth. Fried chicken (using only local, pasture-raised birds) is also available by the piece—five for $17 or 10 for $33—and can be tossed with your choice of honey butter, toro sauce, sweet heat or “fire.”
My favorite bite? The behemoth Firebird sandwich ($12). The giant, spicy fried-chicken thigh is the crispiest, crunchiest fried chicken I’ve tasted, yet it maintains the perfect balance of juicy, mouthwatering tenderness inside. The chicken is coated in an orange sauce that zings your tongue and lips in the most addictive way possible, and it’s tempered with an ample amount of creamy, cool, house-made ranch—no skimping here. Pickles provide the right touch of acidity, and crispy fried onions add a hint of sweetness and more texture, but the sturdy potato roll is the real MVP, somehow holding up the sandwich’s messy-delicious components. The ’wich will easily fill you up on its own, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t splurge for a side of delectable chicken oysters ($9.50)—little meat emeralds found on the bird’s backbone. Dip chicken-fat-fried schmaltz fries ($3-$6) into one of the Shack’s many house-made sauces, or try the Mexican poutine ($10), which finds those fries loaded in pico de gallo, pollo asado and jalapeño Cheese Whiz.
Next time you have a hankering for the bird, bypass the drive-thru and head to the Crack Shack. The name really does say it all.
THE CRACK SHACK Park MGM, 702-820-5991. Sunday-Thursday, 9 a.m.-midnight; Friday-Saturday, 9 a.m.-1 a.m.