Hawthorne Boulevard's Chicken and Guns, WW's Cart of the Year in 2016, makes wood-grilled Latin chicken with sauce like crack—a crispy-skinned, tender-fleshed bird laid on top of fried potatoes laden with bits of char whose crisp edges are covered with jalapeno-vinegar sauce that stuns the senses.
But for now, you can only get it one place—a little cart in Portland's original east-side pod that churns through up to 750 whole chickens in a week from Scratch Farms—a free-range chicken farm whose farmer owns part of Chicken and Guns and vice versa.
That's all about to change. Chicken and Guns plans to open up to 5 locations in the Portland area over the next five years—likely all brick and mortar.
To make that possible, they've teamed up with a new company called Title Bout that consists of Matt Brown (Bunk Bar, Bladen County Records) Jessica Williams (formerly of Kurt Huffman's ChefStable) and Collin Connon. Title Bout will handle funding, bookkeeping, real estate and operations.
After the wild success of Chicken and Guns, founding chef Todd Radcliffe realized they needed to expand.
"It's insane," Radcliffe says. "I could never have predicted it would take off the way it did. I've got an amazing crew that just crushes it—consistently, even in the worst weather."
"This food cart makes more money than most of the restaurants in town," Brown says.
Chicken and Guns is the first project for the newly formed Title Bout—but the company is already planning to build an empire of fast-casual restaurants and midrange bars, with a model somewhat in the vein of Huffman's ChefStable or Nate Tilden's restaurant projects (Clyde Common, Olympia Provisions, Bar Casa Vale).
In the works, say Brown and Williams, is a fast-casual burger spot. They're also in talks with Modest Mouse frontman Isaac Brock to help him start a bar.
Title Bout and Chicken and Guns just signed an operating agreement March 7, and are now scouting for locations for brick-and-mortar Chicken and Guns spots.
While general manager Mike Treptow runs the soon-to-expand Chicken and Guns empire, Radcliffe will focusing on farming at his new Basan Farm, where he and his wife raise free-range chickens for eggs, alongside Icelandic sheep and a whole lot of vegetables—essentially forming a self-contained ecosystem between Chicken and Guns and the two farms.
"The chicken comes from Scratch, and the eggs from our farm," Radcliffe says. "The majority of vegetables soon will, too. It started off as a pipe dream, but things just kind of fell into place. We had the momentum. We're going for it."