June 29th, 2011 CASEY JARMAN | Food Reviews & Stories
 

The Hot Chick

Cackalack’s Hot Chicken Shack

dish_cackalacks_3734MADE IN OREGON: Cackalack’s fiery chicken sandwich, the Blazer. - IMAGE: Jacob Garcia
I made four visits to Cackalack’s Hot Chicken Shack before I could try the sandwich that the eatery—housed in a nondescript metal trailer—calls its marquee item. On the first visit I was just window-shopping when co-owner Jeff Barcelona caught me salivating at his wooden menu board. “Once people get ‘The Blazer’ they tend to keep ordering it,” he said of the deep-fried chicken sammy, a Southern favorite, while slyly passing me a business card. He encouraged me to order ahead if I wanted to try it on short notice. “That’s definitely our most popular item.”

On the next two visits the cart was closed: Once because the deep-fryer had broken down and again when Jeff and his charming girlfriend, Stephanie—who moved to Portland from Asheville, N.C., and opened the cart because they couldn’t find regular jobs—had closed things down for a week so they could get married (on my most recent visit, the tip jar still read “Honeymoon Fund,” hinting at another closure in the not-too-distant future). On my fourth visit I arrived too late: The cart was sold out of Blazers, so I ordered the Birdy ($6), a down-home, chicken-based alternative to the classic pulled-pork sandwich. It was quite good—its soft, untoasted bun and vinegary slaw combined to make it feel like the kind of crowd-pleasing fare that your favorite aunt might bring to the family reunion. But it wasn’t the gut-buster I was looking for. If anything, this pulled-chicken sandwich is a lighter, less fatty alternative to its pork cousin.

But on my fifth visit it finally happened: I was carried to heaven on the wings of a deep-fried bird.

From a distance, the Blazer ($7) looks like your standard—if oversized—pub chicken sandwich. But in your mouth, everything from the chewy sesame seed bun to the slightly sweet housemade pickles tastes heaven-sent. The oversized breast—courtesy of an organic Draper Valley Farms bird—is fried in a fashion that makes it resemble high-grade fish and chips more than it does a Swanson’s chicken breast. The fried layer peels away as you sink your teeth in, revealing a tender, almost wet chunk of pure white meat beneath. And the thin orange hot sauce (a touch milder than I expected for a place with “hot” in its name; order the sandwich “XXX” instead of “HOT” if you want to sweat a little) doesn’t leave you with a total soggy mess. Served with Cackalack’s limp, heavily seasoned fries (or, for $3, four thick-and-crispy hush puppies) and a housemade lemonade, this is a combo capable of transporting you to an entirely different part of the country. This sandwich is worth a return trip—or five. 

  • Order this: The Blazer ($7), chicken sandwich of the gods.
  • Best deal: The Boy Howdy!, a Saturday-only brunch plate of biscuits and gravy ($4).
  • I’ll pass: On ever eating fast-food chicken again.

EAT: Cackalack’s is parked in the Green Castle Food Court, Northeast 20th Avenue and Everett Street, 388-1772, cackalackshotchickenshack.com. Lunch and dinner 11:30 am-2:30 pm and 5-8 pm Tuesday-Friday, 10 am-6 pm Saturday. $.

 
  • Currently 3.5/5 Stars.
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