Local pickle ball enthusiast creates mecca for players
To say that Chicken N Pickle is a restaurant is to sell it short. According to Bill Crooks, (whose self-dubbed title is ‘pickleball boy’) it’s really an entertainment hub. The complex, located at 1761 Burlington in North Kansas City, does hum with activity and while an adult beverage may be procured, it’s surprisingly family friendly.
Chicken N Pickle opened late last year with the promise of, well, chicken and pickleball. Pickleball is a tennis/ping pong hybrid that is sweeping the nation. Less physically demanding than tennis, due to smaller courts and lighter paddles, it’s gained a loyal following among both old and young alike. Chicken N Pickle has both indoor and outdoor courts so game play may continue throughout the year, although Crooks says that he has seen fanatics playing outdoors in 35-degree weather during the winter.
The concept is simple but difficult to pull off. Because of the vast, spread out nature of Chicken N Pickle (there are three bars and at least as many seating areas plus outdoor yard games), diners can start a tab either at the bar or at the food counter where meals may be ordered. Feeling lazy? Don’t worry, there are servers available as well. With a tab under your name, held with a credit card, you can migrate from one area to another with no fear of walking out on a tab or not being able to find a server.
The food is rustic fare–wood roasted rotisserie chicken is the specialty here. Crooks, who came from a long tenure at PB&J restaurants, is dedicated to quality and uses hormone and antibiotic free chicken and grass fed beef. He doesn’t make it a calling card but says that using healthier products fits in with the active, healthy theme that Chicken N Pickle is striving for.
The chicken may be healthy but it doesn’t taste like it–in a good way. There are four seasonings available–original, southwest, 7 chili, and jerk. Birds can be purchased by the quarter or half, white meat or dark, or just in batches of wings. I opted for wings to try the Southwest and Jerk flavors and both hit with a fury. The wings were crispy and fresh and while both were good, the jerk was my favorite.
For those that want something more portable, there’s a full selection of sandwiches. The fried chicken is served on a fluffy bun and topped with hot sauce, lettuce and spicy slaw. All sandwiches come with a side–I chose fries. Although they were hand cut, they were short and gave the appearance of being the odds and ends. They tasted good though and were the only slightly odd moment on the menu.
If a salad is more your style, check out the NKC Powerbowl. This hearty salad includes farro and quinoa on top of local greens. Feta, beets, pistachios, and cranberries top the bowl and a blueberry vinaigrette finishes it off. Add chicken if you’re really hungry. I was and I didn’t regret it.
There are other sides to choose from of course, including tater tots, cat head biscuits, beets, spicy slaw, BBQ beans, or Brussel Sprouts. The Sprouts were a hit, roasted and warm and topped with crispy bacon bits and parmesean.
Of course, not everyone loves rotisserie chicken. Not a problem! Chicken N Pickle also invites food trucks to pull into their mid-restaurant alley and set up shop. Crooks says they’ve had taco trucks, Filipino cuisine and a host of others for different events. Food trucks are typically there on weekends but Crooks says he hopes to have them 7 days a week.
Not a fan of Pickleball? Don’t worry, there are plenty of yard games and life sized versions of games that we all love–Jenga, Connect Four and even a giant Battleship. Play a round of bags while you wait for your open court slot. Or reserve a court and enjoy an hour of uninterrupted play.
Chicken N Pickle is even branching out to a more peaceful practice–yoga. Currently, Yoga on the Lawn only happens on Sundays but they are planning on adding Saturday as well. Yoga is free, taught by instructor Julia Cloud. Bring your own mat.
Chicken N Pickle has something for everyone, from a rooftop deck complete with Boulevard bar to a game of bags to a fast paced game of pickleball doubles with your new best friends. No matter what you’re looking for, there’s a good chance you’ll find it at Chicken N Pickle.