What do you get when you pair a James Beard award–winning chef, his rising-culinary-star son, and a veteran restaurant company? Surprisingly enough, a Houston-based fried chicken joint called Funky Chicken.
Acclaimed chef Bradley Ogden; his son, Bryan; and the skilled team at Bradley Ogden Hospitality (BOH) opened the 70-seat eatery last December, a departure from the group’s upscale projects. The farm-to-table fast casual features farm-raised roasted and fried chicken alongside buttermilk biscuits, bread pudding, natural sodas, and craft brews.
BOH CEO Tony Angotti discusses Funky Chicken’s creation, early surprises, and the process of launching a quick-service concept with high expectations.
How did Funky Chicken come to be?
[Bradley Ogden] was eager to try some new things, and a real estate developer encouraged him to check out Houston. We immediately recognized the market was on fire with an interesting and welcoming food scene, culinary flair, and ambitious, talented chefs. We thought we’d fit right in.
What has surprised you since opening?
I thought we’d be a huge roasted chicken place, but our fried chicken has been the home run. We’ve also earned quite a following for our Funky Pot Pie, basically a deconstructed pot pie with a buttermilk biscuit crust. On National Pie Day, Zagat named our pot pie one of the three pies you had to try in America.
But the biggest surprise is actually our best-selling sides. We thought mashed potatoes and mac and cheese would dominate. Oddly enough, it’s our roasted Brussels sprouts, and there’s not even a close second.
How have you tried to differentiate Funky Chicken from fast-casual rivals in the neighborhood?
If you line up chicken places one after another, you either see very simplistic spots concerned with profit or places that do chicken 100 different ways. We’re not either. We offer a simplified menu and items that make sense. We’re not trying to be chicken and something else. We’re just trying to be a great chicken joint that makes high-quality, interesting food as approachable as possible.
Is the Ogdens’ involvement a blessing or, in some respects, a curse?
It’s important to note that we don’t put the Ogden name on the front of the restaurant. People can certainly discover our backstory, but we don’t hit you over the head with it.
That said, the Ogdens’ involvement intensifies the expectations, perhaps unreasonably so for a fast-casual restaurant. On the flip side, having the Ogdens involved has gotten us attention and reviews that boosted our profile. From those who understand what we’re trying to do, the responses have been very positive.