If there’s one thing I really enjoy, it’s a fried chicken sandwich. Crispy chicken, salty pickles, a rich spread, and a toasted, buttery bun. Everyone seems to be doing one version or another these days from Popeyes to Chick-fil-A to McDonald’s. These sandwiches are about as ubiquitous as a cheeseburger. While most of them are great, if you want to stand out from the pack, you need to innovate with fresh ingredients and a unique menu, at the least.
The first time I heard about The Crack Shack was in 2017 when former Top Chef contestant and current celebrity chef Richard Blais opened a location in Costa Mesa, California. As a fan of fried chicken sandwiches, when I heard about the San Diego based fast-casual restaurant, I knew I had to try it for myself. And, from that moment, I was hooked.
Since then, another The Crack Shack location has opened at the Park MGM on the Las Vegas Strip using the same made from scratch recipes. On my recent trip to Las Vegas, I stopped by to check it out.If you are looking for more information about Las Vegas, I highly recommend picking up a guidebook such as Fodor's Las Vegas or the Unofficial Guide to Las Vegas 2020.
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Open Interior of The Crack Shack
One moment I was walking down busy, loud, Las Vegas Boulevard. The next, I was standing in the middle of an open, lively restaurant. For a moment, I almost forgot I was in Las Vegas.
The décor of the modern industrial dining room felt relaxing and inviting with bright lights yet dark colors, wooden tables, and concrete floors. The tall ceilings made the space feel much larger than it was. A square bar at the center of the dining room was screaming at me to come enjoy a cold one. In the background, music was playing loudly, but with such an open room, the music never seemed to overpower conversations.
Whether you were dining alone, with someone else, or in a group, there was a comfortable spot for you at a booth, at a table, at the bar, or outside on the patio.
Looking to a catch a game? No problem. Another great thing about The Crack Shack were its strategically placed televisions found around the dining room playing whatever game was on. If there is a game you are looking for, just ask.
During these uncertain times, having an outdoor seating area is a big plus. Having a large outdoor patio on the Las Vegas Strip is even better. If you are looking for a prime location for eating, drinking, and people watching, while social distancing, then the outdoor seating area is perfect for you.
The Crack Shack Menu
The menu at The Crack Shack was straight to the point with most items focusing on chicken and eggs. Unlike other fried chicken restaurants, The Crack Shack menu offered a unique selection of chicken sandwiches, including breakfast sandwiches. As expected, they also offered fried chicken in 5 or 10 pieces. Those looking for something a little more healthy can order one of the many bowls. Finally, there were sides or “Other Cluck” including deviled eggs, chicken oysters, fries, and poutine.
Ordering at The Crack Shack
Since The Crack Shack was a fast casual restaurant, similar to nearby Shake Shack and Bobby’s Burger Palace, you will want to order with the cashier near the front. When your food is ready, you can pick up your food from the Pick-Up counter.
One of the best things about The Crack Shack, which elevated the food to a whole new level, was its wide selection of complimentary dipping sauces. Sure Chick-fil-A has ranch but does it have Cracksup, Kimchi BBQ, Siracha 1000 Island, Sweet Heat, and Baja? I don’t think so.
Look out for sauces in bottles if you sit at the bar. Otherwise, head on over to the complimentary sauce counter where you can pump as much sauce as you want. As the sign says, please sauce responsibly.
There were many great sandwich options on the menu, but I could only choose one. And, that was the Firebird Sandwich ($13.00). This massive sandwich was made with spicy fried chicken thigh, cool ranch, crispy onions, and pickles on a potato roll.
When it comes to chicken, I am team thigh all the way. The fatty goodness and rich flavor of the thigh doesn’t compare with chicken breast. The star, the fried chicken thigh, was everything I was hoping it would be. Crispy and crunchy on the outside while juicy and moist on the inside. Covering the breaded chicken was a smoky, salty, spicy sauce along with rich and creamy cool ranch. The spicy sauce complemented the creamy, cool ranch. Only complaint? Being named the Firebird, I wanted more heat.
Topping this chicken sandwich were crispy onions and pickles. Fried to perfection, the homemade crispy onions added even more texture. They were crunchy on the outside while soft and tender on the inside. While the chicken was crunchy on its own, the crispy onions brought this sandwich to a whole new level.
Though simple, pickles are an essential component of any fried chicken sandwich. The thick slices of pickles added not only a crunchy texture but injected a tangy, salty flavor into each bite. I enjoyed how the saltiness of the pickles complemented the spicy, smoky chicken.
The final component of this sandwich, the sweet, grilled potato roll, brought everything together. With the Firebird being such a messy sandwich, the potato roll played an important role in the success of this sandwich. The roll held together to the last bite even with the chicken and sauce piled inside. Even better, the roll soaked up the spicy sauce and cool ranch, adding more flavor into each bite.
As the name implies, the Schmaltz Fries ($3.50) were fried in schmaltz, better known as rendered chicken fat. Similar to duck fat fries, these hand-cut, skin on fries may look simple, but they packed a lot of flavor.
I was certain these fries would be greasy. But, they weren’t. The fries were crispy and crunchy on the outside while tender and uniquely creamy on the inside. This was a direct result of the use of glorious chicken fat which can’t be replicated using other oils.
While I wouldn’t say the use of chicken fat dramatically improved the flavor of these fries, I felt the schmaltz added a unique richness to eat bite. A little salt, pepper, and spicy seasoning finished off these simple yet decadent fries.
As I was dining alone, I chose to grab one of the seats at the bar. And, I’m glad I did. The bartender was friendly, personable, and always around to chat it up, grab me a drink, or recommend his favorite dishes. With good people behind and in front of the bar to talk with, and views of the Las Vegas Strip from my seat, I couldn’t have asked for more.
While there are endless restaurants serving fried chicken sandwiches, none might be at the same level as The Crack Shack. Their California-style, made from scratch fried chicken was in a league of its own. Add in those dipping sauces, friendly service, modern interior, and an awesome location on the Las Vegas Strip, and you have a real winner.
- Unique fried chicken sandwiches
- Assortment of sauces for your dipping pleasure
- Friendly service, especially at the bar
- Modern interior
- Firebird Sandwich wasn’t as spicy as I would have hoped
3770 S Las Vegas Blvd, Las Vegas, NV 89109
GPS Coordinates: 36.10492,-115.17359