At Crack Shack, fried chicken oysters may be added to your chopped salad
The first thing we learn about the lonely film character Dominique Bretodeau, of the 2001 French cinema masterpiece, Amelie, is that every Tuesday, he roasts and carves a whole chicken for himself. Before he even plates it, he cuts away his favorite parts to eat first: the oysters. By the time Bretodeau's brief subplot concludes, he's reunited with an estranged daughter and met his grandson for the first time. So strong is Bretodeau's fondness for chicken oysters, that straight away he teaches the young boy where to find them on a chicken, thus imparting a grandfatherly wisdom.
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Typically about the size and shape of shucked oyster — hence the name - a chicken oyster is located just below the thigh, tucked in a bony concavity that separates it from other parts of the bird. This makes it easy to overlook, which is why the French actually call it sot-l'y-laisse, which loosely translates to: only a fool leaves this meat on the carcass, because it's the best part of the whole darn chicken.
It's a firm piece of dark meat, similar to thigh meat but smoother, with denser flavor and tender chew. Since there are only two small oysters per chicken, these bite sized pieces are prized by chefs, but unless you order a whole or half piece of chicken, it's rare to find yourself eating chicken oysters at a restaurant.
An exception being the Crack Shack. From my first visit to Richard Blais's casual, outdoor chicken and egg restaurant, its fried chicken oysters have been my first choice order. Brined in pickle juice, then fried in well-seasoned batter, the boneless pieces of fowl are crunchy on the outside, juicy and flavorful inside, and pair well with any of the six distinct house sauces served at the Shack (from kimchi BBQ to buttermilk ranch). Priced at nine dollars for a hefty pile of chicken oysters, they are chicken nuggets for adults. At least for this fried chicken lover, these addictive morsels put the crack in Crack Shack.
But they're still fried chicken. Elevated or otherwise, they still check a box on the list of foods my doctor's always warning me against. I may not always listen, but with our collective cholesterol rising thanks in part to San Diego's ramen craze, it's something I strive to be more mindful about.
Which is why I finally directed my focus to the salad portion of the Crack Shack menu, where several cleverly named options stand out. I'm partial to the Downward Dog, a quinoa bowl with lightly pickled vegetables, almonds, and hummus. But when I want to go leafy, the Romaine Calm salad does the trick: romaine lettuce chopped with crispy chick peas, golden raisins, and shaved vegetables.
It's a little strange, and not unchallenging, to order salad at a fried chicken joint, but I found a trick that makes it satisfying. Order an 8 or 9 dollar salad, and for five bucks more, Crack Shack gives you a "side" of about eight fried chicken oysters with it. The fried nuggets arrive at your table, served on a tray, surrounding a salad dressed with feta ranch. Which makes the whole meal healthy. Ish.
It's like Monsieur Bretodeau's dream come true, but served with the grandfatherly wisdom of fiber.