Following the recent opening in Bellevue (140th NE & Bel-Red Road), the next Ezell’s Famous Chicken will open in Seattle!
The new place is located in the heart of the Wallingford neighborhood, at the corner of North 45th & Corliss Avenue. The restaurant will have plenty of parking, and access from the U.W., I-5, and the surrounding area is easy!
Construction has begun and equipment is ordered. A late-summer opening is planned. Stay tuned!
This is big news. Ezell’s is a legendary Seattle institution that’s been slinging grab-and-go fried chicken since 1984. Ezell’s has 13 location worldwide, including one in Dubai that opened in 2015.
The Wallingford/Fremont Community Facebook page learned of the news and quickly lit up with enthusiastic comments including:
Well, F**K, there goes the diet…….
Come to mama!
Oh HELL yes!
The Ezell’s/Heaven Sent Backstory
Conversations about Ezell’s often lead to the controversy with original founder, Ezell Stephens. Stephens, the namesake founder, left the company in 2010 after financial woes, a divorce, and separation with co-founding partner (and his former brother-in-law) Lewis Rudd. Lawsuits were filed. Lawyers were involved. As part of a 2011 settlement agreement, Stephens lost the company name but could keep using the same recipe. Stephens now owns and operates a separate restaurant chain under the name Heaven Sent Fried Chicken. The dueling chicken chains are the subject of much debate that I won’t even get into.
Wallingford should brace itself for the crowd, the hype, the “aroma”, and the waste. Ezell’s relies heavily on packaged takeout containers, especially at the original location that does not have any seating. Let’s hope we see plenty of new garbage and compost bins in the area to handle the huge influx of trash and scraps. This will be less of a concern if the new location builds in seating as opposed to being 100% takeout.
My Experience vs. The Hype
I’ve lived in Seattle for five years but haven’t tried Ezell’s until now. I used the news as an excuse to check out the original Ezell’s location in the Central District at Jefferson & 23rd Ave., across from Garfield High School. I visited on a Tuesday evening at 5:30 pm. Business was very steady but a line never formed. Ezell’s sells their fried chicken with an impressive efficiency.
On my approach to the register I barely had time to take in the celebrity endorsements adorning the walls. Photos include Guy Fieri, Oprah, and a bunch of Seahawks players. A handwritten note by Oprah’s reads: “I don’t know what I like more the chicken or the sweet potato pie – the food is something special.” Ezell’s website boasts about catering Oprah’s birthday party in 1990. It’s even rumored that Oprah has Ezell’s specially-delivered to her home in Chicago.
This is a lot of hype for for fried chicken. As a relatively new Seattleite, I was skeptical about how excited to get over a Wallingford location. I was fully prepared to be underwhelmed and write a contrarian review. Let’s just say my skepticism faded one bite at a time.
I ordered a spicy 3-piece dinner that includes three pieces of chicken, two sides (I got the mashed potatoes and coleslaw), a dinner roll, and a fountain drink. My grand total was just $10.73. Ezell’s is famous for its chicken, not amenities like tables and chairs, so I took my well-packaged food across the street to Garfield playfield. I dined atop a concrete rail that was just tall enough to be a makeshift table. I was not alone. Several other people found a nearby stoop and were diving into their own buckets of fried chicken.
Ezell’s chicken is excellent. The meat is tender, juicy and not too greasy. The spicy breading is extra crispy, plentiful, and not one bit soggy. The spicy option was a good choice. It’s just spicy enough to add flavor without being distracting.
The mashed potatoes have a granular, authentic texture and are doused in gravy that is heavy on black pepper. The coleslaw is fine but next time I’ll order the baked beans. The dinner rolls, however, are the clear winner as far as sides go. The rolls are sweet, dense, and taste of beer batter. They’re unique and amazing!
I went in with an open mind and at the end of the day I understand the hype. The food is fast, delicious, and very affordable.