ChkChk is the rare restaurant with a stated political agenda. The owners aim to "reclaim the chicken sandwich from a fast-food industry riddled with questionable sourcing and dominated by national chains who champion regressive social agendas." The shop took over the old Subway on Northwest 23rd Avenue, replacing the booths with white picnic tables and replacing Creepy Jared with twee rainbows.
They're cagey about the specifics, but we all know they mean Chick-fil-A, which just opened its first Oregon location since shuttering a spot at Lloyd Center back in 2003.
That chicken chain's late owner, S. Truett Cathy, was a dedicated culture warrior. His shops closed on Sundays and donated generously to anti-gay causes. Cathy also had oddly strong opinions about facial hair. He liked the boys under him to be clean-shaven. Yes, this outspoken straight man very strongly preferred sprightly young men with soft, smooth, babyish skin. So wholesome, so American.
I have some bad news. When it comes to fried-chicken sandwiches, ChkChk can't match Chick-fil-A. Having driven out to Hillsboro and waited in a line of 50 idling cars, I can confirm that the Atlanta-based chain still makes a sandwich with an impossibly plump and juicy breast encased in an achingly crisp shell.
ChkChk is…well, it's not as good. Not when it comes to fried sandwiches, anyway. Their breasts aren't so big and juicy, the breading is too thick in some places and too thin in others. The shell lacks the buttery warmth. However, for political reasons, I wish to acknowledge the ways in which ChkChk is superior.
Chick-fil-A is cleaner than most any fast-food shop and, despite the long lines, somehow still light years faster than the now-departed Wendy's on Southeast Powell. Many locations play instrumental versions of Christian songs. While ChkChk maintains the old Subway's layout to a degree that's almost unnerving for a former regular, the restaurant has blasted it to a bright white sheen, then added accents of teal and pink to make a very cheery place. Wooden picnic tables aren't the most comfortable seating, but, hey. Music mainly comes from the post-disco dance era. Think Culture Club and Donna Summer.
Well, mostly just the Buffalo Blue Cheese and the Hot Honey. The former is an orangey blend of hot sauce and stanky cheese, the latter is cayenne honey. My favorite find is the Buff Chick ($7), an off-menu offering in which the sandwich is drenched in Buffalo Blue Cheese sauce before you get it. Also, the sauces (just 25 cents each, so get a "flight") come in impressively large cups—they have to be twice as large as Chick-fil-A's.
Equally good fries.
ChkChk's waffle fries are pretty much just as good as Chick-fil-A's, especially if you dip them in the sauces.
Bomb mac 'n' cheese.
So, Chick-fil-A now has some really, really good sides, like a nutritious superfood salad with kale, broccolini, toasted nuts and cranberries in a delicious maple vinaigrette. It's definitely the best salad I've ever had at a fast-food joint. But ChkChk has mac 'n' cheese. It's gooey with milky white cheddar and has a nice little hat of garlic breadcrumbs.
Vegetarian sandwich option.
ChkChk has a chickpea sandwich. It's dry and bland, but it's not made of meat. Yay for inclusionary menus!
Doesn't give money to hate groups.
It's open Sundays, gives 5 percent of its gross to Q Center, and allows employees to have beards.
EAT: ChkChk, 1305 NW 23rd Ave., 971-302-6368, chkchk.com. 11 am-10 pm daily.