THE CRACK SHACK
LOCATION: Westfield Century City (10250 Santa Monica Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90067)
I’ve been following chef Richard Blais since his appearance on Top Chef: Chicago back in 2008. Periodically on his Instagram, he’d post up some photos from one of his restaurants called The Crack Shack. Since there were a few locations in the Los Angeles area, I’d had it bookmarked for quite some time to check out at some point. Leading up to my recent business trip back out to the area, my friend Heather kept telling me that I had to check this place out. So after stepping off the plane, the timing worked out great that I could punch up to Century City real quick and finally give this place a try.
As you might gather from the name of the place, The Crack Shack specializes in chicken. Whether that be fried chicken sandwiches, chicken bowls, or just straight-up fried chicken, there were definitely quite a few routes you could go. All the pictures I’d seen on Instagram were usually the fried chicken sandwiches, and that sounded especially good after a five-hour flight and holding myself over with some snack bars.
All eight of the fried chicken sandwich options seemed really appealing, just based on their descriptions alone. But I managed to boil down an initial selection between two: the Firebird and the Señor Croque. Two very different types of sandwiches for sure, as one was more of the hot chicken route and the other almost reminded me of a breakfast sandwich. But I’ve recently been on a hot chicken kick and wasn’t going to pass up the opportunity, so the Firebird got the green light.
Spicy fried chicken thigh, crispy onions, pickles, and buttermilk ranch, packed in between a potato roll — all the ingredients of what I’d consider a classic hot chicken sandwich. A side order of the Schmaltz fries helped to round out the meal. (Keep in mind that it was my first full meal in probably eight hours, so I was definitely hungry enough to pack it all down.)
The restaurant operates on the fast-casual model, where you place an order in, go take a seat with your number placard, and the staff will come bring out the food to you. I actually really liked the modern aesthetic that the dining area had, with wooden dining furniture and plenty of windows to let the natural light into the restaurant. But the centerpiece was definitely the bar, set up in an “island” fashion, with the open shelf racks above the bar top doubling as an artistic light fixture.
I’ve got to say, that chicken sandwich really makes a statement when you first see it. Fried chicken and ingredients are practically bursting out of the bun, with me gripping onto the sandwich wondering if my mouth would stretch enough to get a complete bite. The first flavor that was really prominent on my initial bite was that of smoked chiles, probably some of the spices in the sauce on the fried chicken thigh. The acid from the pickles helped to cut through that smoky flavor a little bit, while the crispy onions added another level of savory flavor that complemented the spiciness pretty well. That buttermilk ranch would have been great to help give a smooth texture to tie everything together, but even without it, this chicken sandwich was really hard to put down once you got started.
Not to be discounted from the picture was the side order of Schmaltz fries that I got as well. I didn’t know it at the time I was eating, but the name refers to the fact that the fries are cooked in chicken fat. It’s no wonder why all the fries were perfectly crisp and had this hint of extra umami flavor in each bite. Don’t forget to also check out the condiment bar that they have over by the utensils, where you can pick up some extra dipping sauces for both the chicken and the fries.
I picked up the “cracksup” (regular ketchup) and kimchi barbecue, with no real expectations for the latter. But I have to say, the kimchi barbecue really blew me away, and I pretty much used it all up dipping the fries and left the regular ketchup untouched. The sauce walked a tightrope between sweet and tangy, but yet somehow always felt balanced. Be sure to give the condiment bar a look before you go find a place to sit.
The fried chicken definitely exceeded my expectations, and that’s not the meal-deprived side of me talking after sitting on a plane across the country. The sandwich had a great blend of smoky, savory, tangy, sweet, and spicy flavors, and the fries were as addicting as, well, one of the namesakes of the restaurant. Even if the meal itself leaned a bit more on the pricier side for a fried chicken sandwich, that expense is well worth it, with really fresh ingredients and a sizeable portion. It’s hard to go wrong with a fried chicken sandwich, and The Crack Shack will definitely leave you feeling satisfied.
Let’s now take a look at The Crack Shack Dish Spotlight. Asterisks (*) below mark my recommended dishes.
** Schmaltz Fries **
French fries cooked in chicken fat, finished off with a light seasoning of salt and pepper.
And finally, here are my rankings for The Crack Shack:
Food: 5 / 5
The fried chicken sandwich and Schmaltz fries hit all the right notes to culminate into a very satisfying meal all-around. The layers of flavor that you could get with just one bite were impressive, and the variety of options between other fried chicken sandwiches as well as chicken bowls lets you hit up whatever you might be in the mood for.
Atmosphere: 4.75 / 5
The Century City location has a really nice space for the restaurant, with a combination of both indoor and outdoor seating. It has a very modern vibe, and keeps things feeling relaxed and casual at the same time. The restaurant is right at that corner spot too, so prime real estate to get people’s attention as they are walking into the mall.
Service: 4.25 / 5
I was pretty impressed at how fast the sandwich and fries were ready from the time I ordered. I found a seat at a long table and waited for probably less than two minutes before one of the staff came over and dropped things off. The restaurant staff overall seemed pretty friendly and would help to bus your table after you’re finished with your meal.
Price: 4.5 / 5
These fried chicken sandwiches definitely lean on the pricier side, “clucking” in at $12.50 each. But based on the quality of the food, that’s a price point that I’m happy to dish out.