This is how your meal starts at the Blazing Chicken Shack 2, probably with a “baby” thrown in there, because Leola Gant and Nadjia Jones, the women who will greet you at the eight-year-old Park Hill soul food restaurant, know how to take care of you. While the caged exterior may not look exactly welcoming, once you’re through the doors, as Gant says, you’re family.
Inside, Frank’s Red Hot sits on the eight or so barebones tables, and Gant and Jones run the show out front while chef Rhonda Banks runs the kitchen.
At the Shack, they’re gifting us the Southern comfort food they live and breathe: the spicy burn of meaty collard greens; the thick and creamy mac and cheese; crispy, silky cornbread with just the right amount of sweetness; salty, juicy fried chicken that fills your stomach and satiates your spirit.
The food and the women are comforting, friendly, sassy, and I feel like you can’t talk about one without speaking of the other. The hospitality is so intricately tied to this kind of food that Gant and Jones are almost seasonings for the fried catfish, gumbo and black-eyed peas.
Once you place your order — probably for something fried, but certainly for those collard greens and that mac and cheese — you’ll wait awhile, because this food takes time. The chicken is fried to order and the gumbo simmers for two days before being ladled into your bowl.
Considering that slowly crispifying bird is one of the single most appetizing scents on the planet, this wait can be agony. You will get through it.
And then the food arrives, and the ritual of eating it begins. The women will leave you alone for this, because they know that eating their food is a solitary, sacred mission. When I broke into my fried chicken breast, it hissed. Or maybe that’s just my imagination, but it most definitely was stark white and glistening with chicken juices. The hissing didn’t start until at least five minutes into my meal, though, as I could not stop eating the meaty collards and the gooey, cheesy shells.
The gumbo is deep and loaded with okra, sausage and shrimp. I haven’t yet tried the fried catfish, but many people order it so I can only assume it’s equally delicious. Pretty much everything is at the Shack. Prices are so reasonable that they make me worry for their financial viability: half a chicken plus two generous sides run $16; a big bowl of loaded gumbo and a slab of cornbread is $14.50; sandwiches are $7-$8.
The Blazing Chicken Shack 2 (the original was a food truck) is an asset to Denver’s restaurant scene. A soulful, fried chicken-scented asset that should be welcomed as much as they are welcoming. To answer Gant and Jones’s question: Yes, we all are ready.
Blazing Chicken Shack 2: 5560 E. 33rd Ave., Denver, 720-596-4501; blazingchickenshackii.com
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