Feeling cooped up? Try one of three new Des Moines metro area chicken restaurants

·4 min read

Why did the chicken cross the road? To get to one of these new restaurants in the Des Moines metro area, of course.

Iowans can wet their beak and try some great food at these three chicken restaurants now open in the Des Moines area.

The Chicken Shack

Co-owners Justin Krull, David Barton and Robert Morgan brought Las Vegas-based restaurant franchise The Chicken Shack to Des Moines this spring in a former Taco Bell location.

The fast-casual eatery serves fresh, never frozen, fried chicken entrees including Buffalo chicken fries, wings, chicken fingers and sandwiches with 30 different sauce options to choose from. Beer is available for in-store purchase, and The Chicken Shack also operates a drive-thru.

"We use fresh, never frozen, chicken and I think that's one of the biggest things that separates us from all the major competitors," Krull said. "Our portion sizes are another thing that helps drastically separate us as well. We have over 30 sauces for people to try and a menu that caters to all different types of taste profiles."

The Chicken Shack opened 1501 E. Euclid Ave., Des Moines.
The Chicken Shack opened 1501 E. Euclid Ave., Des Moines.

The Chicken Shack opened in late May, and has seen early success despite opening in a time of economic downturn.

"I have multiple brands and I just think with some of the economic stuff right now, just with inflation and everything, I think things are a little slower for everybody in the restaurant industry," Krull said. "But things have been good."

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Krull, an Ankeny native and Grand View University graduate, said this is the first of many Iowa locations for the franchise, which he and his business partners plan to expand throughout central Iowa.

"Whether it's family or friends, everybody can always find something on our menu to try that they'll like," Krull said.

The Chicken Shack, 1501 E. Euclid Ave., Des Moines; 515-901-5985. Open daily from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. 

Chicken Heat

Chicken Heat started as a food truck in 2021, and customers couldn't get enough of the pain-inducing Nashville hot chicken sandwiches.

Now in a brick-and-mortar location, this casual eatery is serving its fried chicken tenders, wings and sandwiches coated in the sauce of your choice, be it mild or Carolina Reaper XXX.

"I thought the heat would kind of bring the business down, but obviously not," Chicken Heat owner Peter Cooper said. "It (business) has been really good. It was like 100 degrees yesterday and it was just crazy."

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For those who are up for a challenge, The Challenge sandwich is an off-menu order with a secret spicy sauce. Customers who make it through the mouth-melting sandwich earn a free T-shirt and have their photo placed on Chicken Heat's wall.

Chicken Heat serves hot chicken and fries.
Chicken Heat serves hot chicken and fries.

"One of the guys (who tried The Challenge) had to go to the emergency room," Cooper said. "He ended up bringing his little wrist band from the hospital, wanting to hang it up next to his picture."

The brick-and-mortar location offers a wider selection of food options than the food truck. Cooper, who learned the art of spicy Nashville hot chicken directly from expert cooks in Nashville, said the concept of bringing southern chicken to the Midwest has proved popular.

"Just to find like a Nashville flavor here, that hadn't been done (before)," Cooper said. "You got imitators, but we really studied the craft of Nashville seasoning. I think we hit it right on the mark. I've had a lot of feedback that we're better than some of those local spots in Nashville."

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Chicken Heat is now bottling its Nashville-style seasoning to be sold in the restaurant, something Cooper hopes to launch this month. In the long term, he hopes to work with grocery stores to get Chicken Heat seasoning on shelves everywhere.

"What sets us apart is our flavor," Cooper said. "It's really that simple."

Chicken Heat, 1101 Army Post Road, Des Moines; 515-318-3715. Open Tuesday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Fast-casual chicken restaurant chain Slim Chickens welcomed a new franchise location in Ankeny this June.
Fast-casual chicken restaurant chain Slim Chickens welcomed a new franchise location in Ankeny this June.

Slim Chickens

Arkansas-based fast-casual chain Slim Chickens, which specializes in tenders and wings, opened under the management of franchisee Jeff Brands this spring in Ankeny.

"The opening of our Slim Chickens restaurant in Ankeny went very well," Brands said. "Opening week was very busy and the community has continued to be very supportive."

Brands previously told the Des Moines Register that he plans to open at least nine locations across Iowa in the next five to seven years.

Fast-casual chicken restaurant chain Slim Chickens welcomed a new franchise location in Ankeny this June.
Fast-casual chicken restaurant chain Slim Chickens welcomed a new franchise location in Ankeny this June.

"We are excited about being in Ankeny and providing a great restaurant option," Brands said. "We are striving every day to provide great food and great customer service to all customers that order from the restaurant in person, in the drive-thru or online."

Slim Chickens is known for its signature tender baskets as well as sandwiches, wraps, chicken and waffles, salads, fries, mac and cheese and other Southern-inspired sides.

"At Slim Chickens, we are offering high-quality food with a focus on fresh, delicious ingredients. The brand prides itself on its southern flair and commitment to hospitality, all in a fast-casual setting," Brands said. "For those who have not visited us, we encourage them to check us out. For those who have, we would love to serve them again."

Slim Chickens, 1730 N. Ankeny Blvd., Ankeny; 515-985-0555. Open from 10:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily.

Grace Altenhofen is a news reporter for the Des Moines Register. She can be reached at galtenhofen@registermedia.com or on Twitter @gracealtenhofen.

This article originally appeared on Des Moines Register: Des Moines metro area welcomes three new chicken restaurants