Tucked away in a small strip mall that includes a beauty salon and a Burger King, a new small but mighty fast food eatery is starting to make a name for itself. It's called Krisp Bird & Batter, and its fried chicken sandwiches and tenders, made from non-GMO, non-hormone pasture-raised poultry, are worth a trip, not just for the flavorful menu but for a price point that's pretty reasonable, considering.
The new restaurant is the brainchild of former Prohibition chef Ben McPherson, who you’ll find either behind Krisp's counter or in front of it, helping his staff of 12 adapt to the daily onslaught of folks who have already taken to the menu and to the almighty Yelp to espouse the restaurant’s nearly five-star ranking.
In terms of design, Krisp sort of comes off like a Whataburger for the Shake Shake generation. That is to say, the dining area serves its perfunctory purpose of ushering hoards of chicken-obsessed lunch seekers in and out in a timely fashion, coming off neither too frugal nor hipster in its approach. It is, however, astoundingly clean and welcoming — fresh signage and bright metal tables out front seem cheery enough, and inside there’s good natural lighting, a sleek white bar counter, wooden high and low top with chairs and banquettes accented in bright orange and white.
There is also a strong penchant for self-branding on the walls here that, to anyone who has spent ample time in a Michaels craft store, bears a strong resemblance to those word-bedecked scrapbooking pages that always carry a theme, be it a wedding or Valentine's Day, or in this case sustainable chickens. Anyways, the wall art isn't the reason to head to Krisp.
What is the reason? The fried chicken sandwiches, which are just a tad irresistible.
By now it’s well established that Houston has a rather large fried chicken sandwich trend on its hands with new variations being added on the daily. If this fad is indeed here to stay, then Krisp does seem primed to achieve its main goal, which is becoming one of the city's premiere fast-food eateries. There is a second location opening in the Heights this summer, and no doubt it will see a lot of traffic in a prime location, next to a new H-E-B at 2400 North Shepherd.
In terms of being immersed in the fried-chicken business, McPherson recently told the Houston Chronicle that he grew up with a grandfather who operated several Popeyes back in his native Alabama. Before Krisp, McPherson was already known for his smoked fried chicken sandwich at Prohibition.
At Krisp, I overheard McPherson telling diners that his favorite chicken sandwich on the menu is the Southwest, which includes an ample helping of queso. But I opted for the Classic sandwich, which McPherson tops with a cider-based slaw, adding a pop of vinegar to the sandwich, which also has an underlying sweetness that pairs nicely with the salty, crunchy bird.
The Korean Fried Chicken is a messier option, one that does not retain peak Instagram-worthiness if ordered as take-out, but in terms of flavor the sandwich packs a punch, owing much of its hot and sweet quality to a gochujang-based red chile sauce and Steen's cane syrup. The ability for the bird to retain its crispiness underneath a heap of housemade kimchi is indeed a mysterious feat. That being said, it is quite the gut-buster.
As the type of human who highly prefers chicken tenders to fried chicken sandwiches, likely a defect stemming from a serious Chili's chain eatery addiction as a brace-faced youth, I do think Krisp has achieved a solid variation of the beloved finger food. The tenders here are of a flatter, wider nature, and undoubtedly crunchy and succulent. The spicy version (you can also get mild) contains enough heat to warrant consistent dips of the appropriately named "comeback" sauce — a Russian and rémoulade mix — and the vanilla-bean honey mustard for a cool-down. To ramp it up, I suggest the Jalapeño Ranch, marked JR on the plastic lid, like an homage to Dallas, the theme song of which you'll definitely want to hum while taking a dive into this Texas-inspired dipping sauce.
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Waffle fries are crisp with just a touch of heat, and tater tots are effortlessly fried. Either will serve your sandwich well as a sidekick. But if you’re not into unhealthy spuds, there is coleslaw or a kale salad.
Overall, Krisp is a satisfying new offering for fast eats with the family, friends or all by your lonesome. It's a simple enough deal with counter service and the cost of a sandwich or chicken tenders combo, including a side and drink, hovering between $12.50 and $14. Take-out and catering orders are available. But there is just one question that remains.
When will McPherson turn his attention to fried chicken's highest art form, the chicken biscuit?
Krisp Bird & Batter
5922 Richmond, krisphouston.com, Open daily, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.