For the record, I only called it “secret chicken” because it was a mysterious place and people were more drawn to it that way. I never actually kept it a secret.
Origin. I was rehearsing the Shades of Praise Gospel Choir, for a baccalaureate mass ceremony. I told them that I’d see them at regular 11am mass, then there would be time to eat a piece of chicken and then call time for baccalaureate was soon after. K asks me, “wait a second, where are you going to get chicken?” When I answer that I was just going to stop at Ezell’s, K tells me, “you know the best chicken is at the corner of MLK and Jackson.” He was one thousand percent correct. It must have been in June of 2000.
By the way, my order is seven wings, and as soon as I get them in the car I pop open the styrofoam clamshell so that the breading doesn’t get soggy with the steam. The wings are not in segments; they are whole wings from drumette, to flat, to tip. The breading was crunchy and peppery, and the meat was juicy and perfect.
Secret Chicken. One time after a Christmas caroling with students, I told my coworker L that we should stop for fried chicken wings. Immediately someone said “Ezell’s?” and I said, no, I have another place. The interrogation was swift and merciless. WHAT IS THIS PLACE, WHAT’S THE NAME OF IT, WHERE IS IT, IS IT AS GOOD AS EZELL’S? I had to confess, I didn’t know the name of the place. At the time they didn’t have the sign, and the place needed a coat of paint. I said I didn’t know the name of the place, and somebody yelled IS IT A SECRET? And from that point on, I called it “Secret Chicken.” I bought two orders of seven wings and we sat inside the school van and ate it in the parking lot. The students and my coworker L marveled at the flavor, saying things like, “oh my God,” “I love secret chicken,” and, “it’s a secret.”
What is this chicken? One time I went to visit an elderly relative in the hospital, where about a dozen family members were keeping vigil. I brought two orders of seven wings, and when I walked in they hugged me and were glad to see me. I said, I brought fried chicken and my auntie said, oh that is so sweet honey, I couldn’t possibly eat, they’ve been bringing in so much food… I opened the styrofoam clamshell and immediately everyone stopped what they were doing and turned their heads. Not hungry auntie was suddenly hungry, and a few bites into it, she said, “WHAT IS THIS CHICKEN?!” While her mouth was full, she was asking me, “Honey where did you get this chicken?! This is my favorite chicken!”
Whenever I describe the place, I say, “it’s at the corner of Jackson and MLK, and there’s no sign, and I don’t know what it’s called.” Invariably people ask me what it’s called even after I tell them, and then they try to picture the place in their minds, which they can’t because it’s so nondescript.
Back then they only sold chicken under a heat lamp; there were wings, and other parts that weren’t as good as the wings. There might have been a hot link. There were drinks on the shelves and in the coolers. That’s about it; I don’t think they even had chips. They had a big bottle of Tapatio that you could dress your chicken with. Now they sell jojos as well. Fyi, jojos are fried potato wedges for you sukkaz that are not from the 206.
Yelp review. One time I looked at the Yelp review of the place, and noticed one of the photos was gorgeous. GORGEOUS. Then I noticed there was a scoop of rice in the background, which I instantly identified as Niko Niko Calrose Rice. I thought, did I take that picture? I can’t have taken it, I’ve never written a yelp review in my life. I looked at the name, and realized it was my cowsin M, who was still going there years after introduced him to it. The photo does not seem to be there anymore.
She made it best. For a long time when I first stated going there, the lady behind the counter was a very kind Eritrean lady who seemed exhausted all the time. The chicken was always perfect. A friend of mine asked her what the secret was, and she said it was just the recipe she makes for her family, nothing special. My friend didn’t believe her, but I believed it; salt, pepper, corn flour, fried perfectly without over-frying. Another friend of mine asked for the recipe, they told him no-wheat flour, so it’s gluten free, no extra carbs! He owned rental houses in the area, so he stopped there all the time. Anyway, I started noticing that the wings were getting over-fried, and it wasn’t as good. I also realized the kind lady wasn’t there anymore. So finally I asked the man selling me the chicken; what happened to the kind lady who always used to work here? Oh, said the man, she passed away about a year ago. I was so sorry to hear that. I also thought, she was the one who made the chicken the best.
A few years ago, they gave the place a purple paint job and replaced the sign. Now it says “Quick Pack Food Mart” which is still too nondescript to remember. I’m not a meat eater anymore, but I have fond memories of that place. I wrote this post because I saw a Seattle Weekly article.
The other places I liked to get fried chicken were: Ezell’s, Heaven Sent (basically Ezell’s), Chicken Express (more kind Eritrean ladies), and the old Takohachi, where the Stranger reporter went to get karaage after CD Ezell’s burned down in 2000. Seattle was really a wonderful place for fried chicken. There was an Ezell’s in the UDistrict when I was in college; the Hawaiians used to buy extra dinners for the homeless people. There was a time when my neighborhood seemed to be the epicenter of Seattle fried chicken, with three of my favorite spots only blocks away.