There are three ways people usually discover The Chicken Shack: Someone tells them about it; they drive past it; they ask, “Where can I find gizzards?”
Located along Route 66 in Luther, Eddy Gochenour’s fried chicken and beer joint has been around for about four years, and word of mouth has created a groundswell of interest in a space that is as much an outdoor venue as it is bar and restaurant.
Gochenour moved to Oklahoma from Iowa in 2011. He was working for a restoration company, but had a history in the fried chicken business.
“I was always around restaurants and bars – I’m a big guy,” the former University of Iowa linebacker says. “I had restaurants when I was younger, and they did well, but I was young; I made mistakes.”
Growing up around the area inexplicably called “the Midwest,” Gochenour fell in love with fried chicken in the small bars and diners around Iowa and South Dakota, and most of them used a Broaster, a brand-name piece of equipment that combines pressure cooking and frying. The process is not unknown in Oklahoma, but it’s not as common as deep-frying in baskets – the standard method for fast food.
The Chicken Shack has a half-dozen Broasters onsite, and the demand for their fried chicken means the machines are very busy. The core menu includes fried chicken, fried gizzards, chicken strips, pork chops, wings and a remarkably good smoked tri-tip. What The Chicken Shack gets right is that it is first and foremost about the chicken, and nothing else matters if the signature dish isn’t right.
Broasting seems to produce – on the whole – more consistently good chicken than other methods. The skin is crispy, and there is good flavor and moisture all the way to the bone. It helps that the prices make it easy to get enough to share. A few of us still enjoy gizzards, and The Chicken Shack does them very well, breaking down the organ’s toughness but leaving it intact, just like my grandmother did.
Gochenour said he wanted a destination restaurant on Route 66, so it was more about that brand than Luther specifically, but Luther has proven to be an excellent choice. He has abundant space along the Deep Fork River, such that the “backyard” allows for hundreds of people, a live music venue and (in the works) an outdoor bar to go along with the one inside. They are still building the beer list, with several local options, and the goal is “66 on 66.”
The atmosphere is very relaxed, and on nice days, families can sit at one of the big picnic-style tables while the kids run around outside. Weekends include live music, crab legs and a very festive environment.
The drive from OKC is fairly short, but if you want to try it while saving a few miles, Gochenour opened Chicken Shack 2 Go at I-35 and Seward in Guthrie. It doesn’t serve the entire menu, but does have the three things that matter most: chicken, gizzards and some of the best macaroni and cheese we’ve tasted.