The chicken on a stick from the Chicken Supply in Phinney Ridge is a glorious thing. The sticks are prodigiously endowed with 8 inches of chicken hunks that are an inch-and-a-half or more thick, coated in deep-golden crackly goodness and too hot to eat immediately (though you’ll probably try). The crust stays thin, yet still possesses an airiness, a slight upholstered puff. The bird inside, savory and very faintly sweet, is white meat, but how can it be? The juiciness, softness and richness of flavor belie your eyes — this has to be thigh. It is not.
And it’s on a stick! Food this good on a stick can make sense-memory kick in — maybe you got it at a street stand, walked around eating it in the sun and then went back for another one. Or maybe the ding-ding-ding of the carnival starts ringing, and you’re eating it while watching someone about to win an oversized stuffed animal. Maybe that animal is for you!
Careful engineering produces this chicken magic, starting with the meat — yes, it is breast, but only the rightfully named tenderloin. A 12-hour-plus marinade includes gluten-free tamari, garlic, ginger, lemon, sugar, bay leaf and peppercorn. The batter encompasses an extravaganza of starch — sweet rice flour, potato flour, tapioca and corn. The idea of the stick, Chicken Supply co-chef/co-owner Paolo Campbell explained recently by phone, is to keep the meat-to-crispy-crust ratio correct — to get the best of a traditional fried chicken breast by eliminating the strata of meat that tragically dries out by the time the center is perfectly cooked. It’s also the way he knows from “a bunch of different Filipino parties that we used to go to, and just different little street vendors in the Philippines.”
Campbell credits his friend and Chicken Supply partner Donnie Adams for zeroing in on the marinade and the batter. They met at Seattle Central about a decade ago, and as Campbell noted, “Even in culinary school [there], I talked to him about fried chicken all the time … I had all these different business plans and ideas that I would run by him.”
Adams went on to Ethan Stowell Restaurants, while Campbell joined team Rachel Yang and Seif Chirchi (including as noodle master at now-closed Trove), then became sous chef at Opus Co. When the lease was up and Opus was set to close mid-2021, Campbell said, pandemic be damned, “Dude, this is the year … let’s quit these day jobs and live the pipe dream!”
The pipe dream encompasses more than chicken on a stick. Chicken on the bone gets sold by the piece: big, meaty wings, drums and thighs for $3-$7 (all the bird comes from Draper Valley Farms). Here, the same alchemical treatment yields an even more blistery crust with burnished-bronzed skin glowing through, plus more greasiness, more chew. Is it even better? That would be up to you, and if you go that way, spicy is available, too — definitely whelming, if not overly so.
A sign in the window proclaims that the Chicken Supply also provides “some really dope Filipino sides,” and this sign does not lie. Laing is made with collard greens, with the creamy coconut sauce topped with crunchy, garlicky peanuts; pickled red onions for sour contrast and color; and chile oil made with bagoóng, Philippine shrimp paste, for a pungent spiciness. The greens are tender to the tooth while retaining their integrity, and the dish comes together with a luxurious texture and balanced complexity (though sometimes more orange oil slicked on top signals more heat). Campbell observed that since Laing varies by family recipe, it’s “awesome now [that] a lot of these [Filipino] places are opening up, to see how they’re making it,” naming Musang, Archipelago and new Bunsoy.
Pancit from the Chicken Supply comes in a salad format: thin, squiggly bihon noodles made all slippery with a tamari-lemon-garlic vinaigrette, then topped with a pretty tri-color spread of sweet-tart marinated cherry tomatoes, sour tamari-pickled celery, and earthy red cabbage with a smoky edge from a sear on the plancha. Atop all that, there’s a smattered crunch of toasted panko breadcrumbs. It’s a little symphony of color, texture and flavor, with a lot of umami going on — excellent to eat now and hopefully still on-menu for summer heat (bring it!).
The Chicken Supply also supplies housemade banana ketchup, aka jufran, something Campbell said he hasn’t come across before. A case of bananas rests in the basement, ripening; eventually, they get roasted and blended with onions, garlic, fish sauce, vinegar, jalapeño, sugar and “some spices,” then left in the oven to cook down. It’s thick, a little tropical and a lot tangy, ready to dip pretty much your entire life into. “People are really digging it,” Campbell said.
One of those people is Seattle artist and teacher Francisco Guerrero, who recently opined approvingly on Facebook, “yup the cold pancit and jufran remind me of high school after-party destruction.” Campbell laughed a bunch when he heard this. “That is awesome,” he said.
“That’s kind of one of the bigger compliments that we receive,” Campbell reflected. “When people bring [our food] to their family — their Lolo or Lola, you know, their Filipino grandparents — and they’re like, ‘Oh, this is great. This just reminds me of home.’”
There’s lots more to love at the Chicken Supply. Homestyle, comforting garlic rice tastes both garlicky and richly rice-y, made with sushi-quality grains. Sweet-and-sour housemade pickles with lots of onion and notes of bay leaf ideally cleanse the fried-chicken palate, as do sweeter-side marinated vegetables or the puckery dipping vinegar.
The single dessert available right now is pretty much perfect, in my book: not-too-sweet and very buttery butter mochi, made by team member Stephen Toyofuku with maple and — because he was out of vanilla — the genius of fenugreek. Supremely sticky, gloriously gummy, served with a little Solo Cup of fluffy coconut cream, it’s a texture-eater’s dream (and superb with coffee for breakfast, too).
The small but cheerful space is counter service, with indoor seating returning mid-April and outdoor seating pending a permit, but the best way to get Chicken Supplied is to order ahead online. With limited capacity and staff who’re only human, they sometimes can’t answer the phone and also sell out. Campbell talked about his and Adams’ priorities: pleasing chicken-eating customers, but taking care of their own families, too, as well as the family of the team, which is why they’re closed Mondays and Tuesdays, and for two set vacations a year. “We want to support them like they support us,” he said.
The Chicken Supply doesn’t make a thing out of the fact that the entire menu is gluten-free — it just sort of happened that way, Campbell maintained, as part of trying to please friends and guests. He called it “a nice little challenge” along the way to the overall goal, as outlined by the pink neon sign in the tiny dining area that reads “sarap na sarap,” which simply means “very delicious.”