Hide owner Nick Backlund's love for fast food flourished while he was an undergraduate student at Mercer University in Macon, Georgia. He played baseball for the school and, after each game, had a Chick-fil-A-themed meal of a fried chicken sandwich, a cookie and some chips.
When Chick-fil-A’s spicy chicken sandwiches emerged at the college’s food market, he’d grab one of those to go, the sandwich jammed into a foil sack, as much a student's bank account allowed. Food was just food in college.
Backlund grew up in California, so fried chicken and Chick-fil-A's sandwiches weren’t on every corner, and there was something about that damn peanut-oil-golden crackle meeting floppy pickle-disc inside a smashed bun that stuck with him. So while stationed in Georgia, Backlund dove headfirst into a pile of fried chicken.
“I really fell in love with Southern food,” he says.
At Hide in Deep Ellum, you’ll find one of the best fried chicken sandwiches around. The best fried chicken sandwiches are a high-wire act balance of heat, crisp, creamy and sweet. Some of the best ones don’t quite nail the walk, and they topple over with bone-dry chicken or a pool of store-bought mayonnaise. Pickled slaw and condiments shouldn’t overwhelm the chicken breast, and dry birds ruin all good feelings.
You’ll find Hide’s $11 fried chicken sandwich arrives with a mini shopping cart of fries and two red-chile-infused pickle discs. Like Hide's cheeseburger, the fried chicken sandwich is an elevated, thoughtful version on drive-through food. The flavors are complex, but the execution is succinct and right. The crust is light and thin — it’s brittle after a buttermilk bath and coat of seasoned flour. Pickled Fresno peppers are faintly sweet, but stand tall with mind-slicing heat.
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Mayonnaise gets some extra wattage with roasted garlic and Sriracha. Coleslaw isn’t an overdressed mayonnaise soup; it’s a crunchy, spicy-sweet sidecar to the chicken. You may find yourself spooning any fallen slaw off the tray paper. (I may or may not have scooped a some on my french fries.)
The thing that makes the sandwich, of course, is Hide’s chicken prep — it does a thick, sandwich-spanning protein. There’s chicken under bun, all the way around. Weaker yardbird sandwiches leave you with entire sections of fried breading, which isn’t always terrible, or some weird, crispy corner of tough gristle. Hide’s milk-tender chicken runs the way around the dial. Cooling slaw knifes through the heat.
One of the reasons fast food sticks with us and becomes a guilty pleasure is that these inexpensive, drive-through foods cut right to the quick. There’s no pomp and circumstance behind Popeye’s drop-dead-glorious fried chicken tenders. Shake Shack's chicken sandwich is too wonderful for this world. Sometimes, food is just dumb love, and crispy chicken reminds us of what we grew up on.
Hide, 2816 Elm St.