By Emily Harrington
We are always excited when a new business opens close to us. Especially one that is seemingly family friendly. We anxiously watched as Slim Chickens came to life at 2037 S. Neil Street in Champaign. Slim Chickens was built among the many other businesses opening in the developing area that was previously Worden-Martin.
This fast-casual chain restaurant was unsurprisingly busy after the opening one Saturday night. The line was a dozen people or so deep, but it thankfully moved quickly. After five minutes or so, we were greeted by a super-friendly cashier that immediately handed my toddler crayons and a coloring sheet. Bless her.
We easily ordered from the chicken-centric menu. A greeter had already handed us a menu to browse while we were waiting. We were given a number to put at our table. All the tables were full, but a couple gave us theirs when they saw the car seat and wriggling toddler. Bless them.
The décor is modern country featuring a family-style table in the middle. I’m not a fan of eating shoulder to shoulder with a stranger, so I was grateful for the privacy of a booth. A booth that came with a roll of paper towels (my son’s new toy). A lot of paper towels went to waste. A lot. Like a roll.
My husband ordered the Slims Plate that had five tenders, Texas Toast and two dipping sauces ($8.49). I ordered the Cayenne Ranch Chicken Sandwich ($6.49). I didn’t have to modify a thing. Usually I’m a hold this, put this on the side and add this to get just what I want. This sandwich was the perfect combo—fried chicken breast with Cayenne Ranch, lettuce, pickles, homemade fried onions and seasoning on a toasted bun. These were “plate” options that came with a side and a drink. For our toddler, we ordered from the one item on the 10 and younger kid’s menu—two tenders with a dipping sauce, Texas Toast, fries or apple slices and milk or apple juice ($4.39).
Because we like to eat, we ordered macaroni & cheese to try ($2.49). It was very good. I was full, but I couldn’t stop eating it. Rich, creamy and hot. Not overcooked and goopy like a lot of mac made in big quantities. Next time I’d like to try the chicken & waffles or the buffalo wrap plate (each $7.99).
The sauces are a big draw. There are many flavors—Slim Sauce, Ranch, BBQ, spicy BBQ, sweet red chili, cayenne ranch, honey mustard, gravy, blue cheese and mango habanero. My husband liked the Slim Sauce best. He articulately described the sauce as a mix of BBQ, ranch and ketchup. The food was fast and fresh. All the fried chicken had a lot of white chicken to a little crispy breading ratio, so it was the perfect proportion.
Our entire bill was $26.67. They don’t serve booze—yet. A cashier told me beer and wine sales are coming soon. They do, however, have a variety of iced teas. We were laden down from the fries and fried chicken, so we opted for no dessert. It still looked good, though. They serve cake parfaits in mason jars and fried pies.
Overall, there’s a lot of frying going on here—fried okra, fried pickles, fried mushrooms and fries. It’s a lot like Forrest Gump and the shrimp scene. However, there are two salads on the menu—each one with fried OR grilled tenders on top (each $8.29).
The food came fast, and it was cleaned up fast. The attentive staff were helpful and eager to please. We are super pleased with the new addition to southeast Champaign. Check out the dining area or drive-thru for your next family meal, or you can grab a flock of wings for your next party. There are many opportunities to try the eatery since it has such lengthy hours of 10:30 a.m. to 10 p.m—seven days a week.
Emily Harrington is a Chambana townie. She left her 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. job in communications so that she could be a 24/7 mom to two busy boys. Still interested in writing, Emily uses some of naptime to practice her passion and keep her mind right. Emily is a happy wife with a happy life because she fell for a fellow townie. Emily usually finds herself engulfed in balls, blue and belly laughs.