Chicken in the “Chocolate City”

Fired Chicken served with the wing and flat connected, which is how it is served at many Chinese/ American restaurants.

By Nathan Easington, Howard University News Service

The “Chocolate City’s” speciality chicken restaurants are slowly on the decline.  While Popeyes, KFC and other fried chicken chains have long since solidified their spots in D.C., non-chain restaurants that focus on the fried delight are now harder to come by.  

So, where do most D.C. residents get their Fix? Today, if you are tasked with finding the greatest fried chicken in Washington D.C., most would say your best bet would be to walk into your local Chinese/ American restaurant and ask for a four-piece with fires.  While there still are specialty fried chicken spots across the city, often these locations are overpriced or simply don’t have the same quality chicken that many Chinese restaurants only added to their menus due to popular demand.

“Since we opened in 1988, we have had chicken on our menu and do about 200 orders per day,” said David, the cook at Lucky Carryout located just a few blocks West of the Potomac Ave train station in Ward 6.  

David who works every day of the week behind the stove at Lucky, claims that the majority of their orders are indeed for fried chicken, but depending on the day, the restaurant may sell more Chinese cuisine.    

Another aspect that pushed more people in the D.C. area towards Chinese restaurants opposed to specialty chicken spots for their fired fix, is the availability.  Zippen Chicken which opened in spring of 2017 just across the street from Drew Hall on Howard’s Campus, closed within a year. While its Chinese counterpart and student favorite, Howard China or Ho-Chi, has been open for actual generations of Howard alum, providing the same quality chicken for almost three decades.  

“I think our freshness and also the fact that we are now known for our chicken really has people coming back, also our Mumbo sauce is the best in the city,” said the cashier at Dragon Express.

Dragon Express, Jerry’s carryout, Lucky and Ho-Chi all claim to do about 200 orders, of varying sizes, of chicken per day.  Although these restaurants are located in Wards 6, 2, and 5 the similarity in their number or orders helps illustrate people’s desire for Chinese/ American style fried chicken over classic southern fried chicken.   

There are simply more of these Chinese/ American style restaurants, then specialty chicken spots.  Even in the Ward 1, Ooos, and Aahh’s, is the one place many people associate with specialty fried chicken.  While Ooos and Aahh’s is very well known nationally, the other Ward 1 chicken spots simply don’t match the amount of chicken the Chinese-American restaurants can.  

“On the days that we are open, we go through about 125 orders,” said the cashier at Mesobe Restaurant and Market in Ward 1, which menu completely consists of fried chicken, fries and bread.   

While Mesobe began as a specialty store for African cuisine, after realizing the desire for chicken in the community, just a few years after opening the restaurant transitioned to chicken exclusively.       

While this helps to show the overwhelming number of patrons that prefer to get their chicken from Chinese restaurants opposed to actual chicken spots.  It is still a small sample when a second is taken to think about how many Chinese/American restaurants there are in the D.C. area compared to the remaining number of chicken spots.