Cowboy Chicken’s owners did their homework.
Randy Mutchie, Joe Armstrong and Brian Eichelberger researched several concepts before settling on the Texas-based chain known for its wood-fire chicken.
The trio opened Cowboy Chicken Nov. 9 in the strip mall at 28th Street and Pine Lake Road, which also houses numerous other fast-casual restaurants.
When it opened, the Lincoln store became the first outside of Texas.
“We found this down in Dallas,” said Mutchie, who has spent more than 30 years in food service. “I thought we needed to look at it. And when we did, we just fell in love with it.”
Lincoln’s seen its fair share of chicken restaurants open in recent years (Raising Cane’s, Slim Chickens and Chick-Fil-A), but Mutchie said this one is different.
It begins with the wood-fire oven found at the back at the store, where chickens rotate to a juicy tenderness on spits. And then there are all the side items -- 16 to be exact -- that allow customers to create hearty and/or healthy meals of their choice.
The menu features wood-fire chicken as family meals or individual platters and includes tacos, enchiladas, sandwiches and salads, all featuring the tasty chicken from the oven.
I can see why Cowboy Chicken has been a hit out of the gate. The wood-fire chicken is moist, with a smoky flavor. You don’t feel bloated or sleepy after eating it, the way you can from dining on greasy, heavily breaded fried chicken.
Plus, the sides go beyond fries, and everything is made in house except the fried okra and corn fritters. Among the choices are baked sweet potatoes, sweet corn, creamed spinach and black-eyed peas.
Portion sizes seem to match up with prices. I enjoyed a quarter white (breast, wing) with two sides for $7.89 and was satisfied. One of my dining companions, however, was disappointed in her three-piece dark ($7.49), saying the leg and thigh pieces were smallish.
The enchiladas are worth checking out, too. Mutchie is a big fan, having dined almost exclusively on them during his training. Hand-rolled corn tortillas are stuffed with juicy white meat and smothered in a tasty tomatillo-sour cream sauce. Platters run from $4.99 to $9.99. Grade: B+
Cowboy Chicken employs the fast-casual concept, which now has become the rule instead of the exception in Lincoln.
Customers order at the counter, receive a number and then take a seat to await delivery of the food. Cowboy Chicken has a takeout area in front of the wood-fire oven, so you can watch the chickens cook while you wait.
Food comes out of the kitchen promptly. We received our meals within five minutes after ordering. Condiments are found by the beverage dispenser, and each table has a roll of paper towels. Grade: B.
Not surprisingly, the Texas-based chain has a Western look ranging from the mostly wood decor to photographs of horses on the walls.
It’s set up like most fast-casual restaurants with an open hallway funneling patrons from the entrance to the order counter at the back of the restaurant.
The most notable feature is the wood-fire oven, which is next to the order counter, allowing customers to see chickens grilling on spits. Grade: B.
Healthy Dining Finder breaks down Cowboy Chicken’s nutritional information (sodium, carbs, fat and calories) by each entrée. The info is accessed from the menu found on the restaurant’s website. The restaurant prides itself on its healthy food, notating options (baked sweet potatoes, white-meat chicken, green beans, etc.) on in-store menus with tiny hearts.
Its menu is built around chicken, of course, but patrons make a vegetarian meal from the 16 sides. A veggie platter of sides (choose three) is $6.99. Single servings are $2.49 (individual), $3.99 (large) and $4.99 (Texas size). Menus don’t mention anything about gluten-free dining. Grade: B.
Reach the writer at 402-473-7213 or email@example.com. On Twitter @LJSjeffkorbelik.