This column attempts to cover a wide variety of locally-owned Houston restaurants. We've reviewed takeout offerings from chef-driven fine dining establishments and local fast-food haunts. Some of our subjects have adopted takeout to survive in a post-COVID world, others are leveraging their existing takeout models to thrive in a down economy.
While pandemic precautions were probably not on most restauranteurs' minds when they opened their business, some have adapted to our new reality better than others. The recently opened, celeb-hyped, food truck turned brick and mortar, Sticky's Chicken, is (lucky for me) among them. From the first week of our "Take Out Reviews" column, I've noted both some impressive safety measures and some cringe-worthy shortcomings at every restaurant I've placed an order from — including ones I'm not reviewing.
Despite our now "re-opened" economy, I continue to choose takeout-exclusive restaurants. While my thoughts and best wishes are with those owners who must open to pay the bills, I'll be carrying out for the foreseeable future. That said, I was delighted to see that Sticky's is not only maintaining their takeout-only status, but have closed their dining room to customers and converted the front of their Sawyer Yards storefront to a walk-up takeout window, complete with two registers and an industrial-sized tub of hand sanitizer.
I was especially delighted because I've been craving Sticky's for weeks but dreaded making the long drive to the Arts District only to find myself in a line of potentially maskless customers crammed into the small retail space. The revelation was somewhat bittersweet, however, as I was the lone customer during the 15-20 minutes I spent ordering and waiting on food.
The experience was reminiscent of a time before COVID and a feeling any food writer can attest to. That is, the feeling of sitting in an empty restaurant you love, trying not to think about the fact that your much-enjoyed solitude is, in fact, a very bad omen for the future of that business. That impending sense of doom is one we who live by and love Houston's restaurants have been feeling more and more of lately.
But enough doom and gloom. There's chicken to review.
Despite the 30-minute drive home and 15 minutes spent changing and handwashing, all three of my chicken-based entrees were in perfect condition as I dug in recklessly and famished at my kitchen counter. The OG Sticky's Wings with an add-on of Asian Tings were as hot and crispy as the moment they hit the box. After my month's long search for a non-fast food takeout meal that doesn't turn to cold, congealed leftovers by the time it hits a plate, I think I've found a winner. I do regret choosing Sticky Wings with an add-on of two Asian Tings, as the latter proved a far superior wing. Dry-seasoned with a light, mouth-puckering heat as if they were hit with a pinch of Lucas salt, the aptly-named Asian Tings stole the meal and my heart.
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My usual favorite, the OG Sticky's Sliders, were very nearly perfect. Time did steal some pizzazz from the melted provolone, but everything else from the toasted Hawaiian rolls to the sauteed chicken, drizzled Sticky's sauce and aioli were in perfect condition. The sweet tanginess of the housemade sauce somehow works with the inherent sweetness of the bun, all of which blends together with tender bits of chopped chicken and the savory goodness of melted cheese. The cruelty of the dish is its mocking size. Over before it even begins, I'd happily pay a premium to replace the useless fries with two more sliders.
A delicious looking order of Chicken Over Rice, a Sticky's classic inspired by the original Halal Guys dish, was devoured by my wife. I'm told it was delicious.
At under $30 for a meal that fed us twice, Sticky's seems a better value than some high-end concepts slinging takeout for twice the price and half the quality. If you're craving wings, Asian-style fried chicken or something altogether new, give this local joint some much-needed support during a difficult time.
If you're in the dancing mood, this week was national Dance Like a Chicken Day (it's real) and Sticky's is offering willing customers buy one get one free on any entree if they participate in their Chicken Dance Challenge. On Thursday, May 14, post your best chicken dance video on Instagram or TikTok, tag @stickyschicken, use the hashtag #getstickywithit and tag/challenge a friend. Just show the cashier your post on Thursday to redeem your BOGO offer, and you'll be entered into a drawing to win free Sticky's for a month.