I used to ride a horse named Kissy. She was a pretty spirited gal, but there were days she was just plain stubborn. Usually, her headstrong behavior occurred when she was tired, and she looked over her shoulder and stared at the barn where fresh hay and food awaited. She had no need to carry me down to White Rock Creek, so I could shoot a few snakes or catch some frogs. Kissy would stand in the middle of the trail and freeze. I could yell, snap her reins, and dig my bare heels into her gut and she’d only shake her head.
I hadn’t thought about Kissy in a while. And it was random that her memory flooded my brain as I sat in the front seat of my car outside of Cowboy Chicken in North Dallas. I’ve stopped into this place several times before for a quick grab and go, but the food has been hit or miss. Cowboy Chicken is not a destination dining spot for me, it is an I’m-stuck-in-traffic-and-my-cupboard-is-bare-hey-look-there-is-Cowboy-Chicken stop.
The other day I steered in to taste their fries. As I ate them, I couldn’t believe the vast differences of the fries in one order. It was a mosh pit of potato slices with multiple personalities. One long fry drooped over like an unwatered sunflower. Another stood firm, with purpose. The exterior was crisp; the interior was dry and tasteless. About half of them were overcooked, the puckered, crunchy outside yielded an empty, greasy space. And then Kissy popped into my brain. Could French fry cooks get tired and lose their spirit? If I’d been eating in the restaurant, I’d have showered them with salt and pepper or poured chicken grease on them. It would have helped, but the act would not have caused the fries to progress forward to a new level. The fries at Cowboy Chicken need a swift kick and a good licking from whoever is running the joint. If you are going to put money into the product, then these fillies should fly. Perhaps they should switch to frozen fries. The final fry is less Sybilesque.
When Jeanette and Phil Sanders opened the first Cowboy Chicken in 1981, the idea of a rotisserie chicken cooked over a wood fire was bold. Grocery stores didn’t sell whole roasted chickens. It would be 1983 before Patrick Esquerre opened the first La Madeleine in Dallas. Cowboy Chicken, with it’s devotion to quality ingredients and homemade side dishes, expanded. Currently, there are around 20 locations spread across the country. Perhaps the chicken and fry market is saturated and not as many people see the added value of cooked over wood.
The menu claimed the fries were fresh cut. I know a man who has worked with Cowboy Chicken and I asked him if the fries were made on site. “I don’t know,” he said. “I’m a twice-baked potato guy.” I guess I picked the worst side dish offering on the menu. Then I called the restaurant and asked the guy who’d just rung me up. He said, “Yeah, we peel the potatoes here.” I should have asked him for more details, but at that point, I was tired, and I wanted to go back to my stable. Life is too short to take a chances and waste calories on unpredictable fries.