It took 2,000 tries and the better part of four years, but Ashley Christensen believes she has landed on the perfect chicken sandwich.
Now the world can taste for itself.
BB’s Crispy Chicken opens Saturday, Oct. 30, at 11 a.m., in Raleigh’s Midtown East development on Wake Forest Road, joining the collection of new shops and restaurants in the shadow of the Wegmans.
Here’s everything you need to know about the hottest chicken sandwich in town.
What is BB’s Crispy Chicken?
This is Christensen’s first fast-casual venture and her first restaurant outside of downtown Raleigh. The James Beard Award-winning chef of Poole’s Diner and Death & Taxes partnered with MDO Holdings to create BB’s.
Chicken sandwiches have become the most competitive item in the food world over the last few years, following a frenzy ignited by fast food chains. Christensen joins the fray, promising a “shatteringly crisp” sandwich made to hold its crunch, even after the car ride home.
Soggy chicken was a problem even before the pandemic, but with the necessity of takeout in recent months, Christensen said BB’s had to nail the crisp it promises in its name.
“We thought a lot about when families pick this up and take it home,” Christensen said. “How do we make sure this is still crunchy and delicious if they eat it an hour or an hour-and-a-half later.”
What’s on the menu?
BB’s shares a connection with Christensen’s popular downtown Raleigh restaurant, Beasley’s Chicken + Honey, but this is a very different chicken sandwich. Compared to the Beasley’s thigh, the BB’s sandwich is a boneless breast, brined and tossed in a wet batter before frying.
To burn or not to burn is the central question of the BB’s menu, where four of the nine sammies are topped with increasingly hotter hot sauces. Five take the cool way out, topped with options like pimento cheese, barbecue sauce, shredded lettuce and mayo or just a few thick pickles. There are also salads, wraps and grilled chicken if you’re not feeling fried.
Beyond chicken, all the sandwiches can be made with a fried and lightly pickled green tomato on top. Christensen said a vegan option is still in development.
Beyond sandwiches, BB’s calls its version of chicken tenders “Dunkers.” These thin pieces of chicken have been breaded in gluten-free panko and eat like strips of chicken schnitzel.
The sides are sweet potato waffle fries, salt-brined French fries, a dill-pickled cabbage slaw, fried cheese curds and a plate of fries covered in liquid cheese.
Desserts include chocolate and vanilla milkshakes, plus a seasonal pick. For now, it’s pumpkin.
The five most intriguing BB’s sauces
There are 13 housemade sauces on the BB’s menu, from classic buttermilk ranch to “Scorpion Red Fire,” the hottest sauce in the building. The hot sauces bypass North Carolina’s Texas Pete, instead using Louisiana’s Tabasco for the base heat.
Here are the standout sauces:
Mango Sweet & Sour: Fried chicken loves a sweet and sour sauce, and this one has a tangy punch. It’s sweet but not cloying and delivers on its fruity promise.
Hot Honey: This trendy condiment is beginning to cozy up with ketchup and mustard on many restaurant tables. This one mixes Tabasco buffalo sauce and honey, finishing with a tingle instead of a burn.
Southwestern Ranch: Double the ranch, double the fun. The BB’s buttermilk ranch is tried and true, an herby hug for Dunkers and fries and everything else. The southwestern one, though, delivers more spice than expected, plus a smokiness that takes it deeper.
White Hot Buffalo: Think of this as Alabama white barbecue sauce mixed with buffalo. Here, Duke’s mayo is spiked with just a bit of Tabasco Scorpion pepper sauce and clocks in as BB’s second hottest and most flavorful hot sauce.
Scorpion Red Fire: For heat seekers, this is BB’s most searing sauce, made with the same Scorpion Tabasco as the previous sauce, but with more of it, plus chili sauce and some agave for sweetness. This hot sauce unexpectedly teases out the fruitiness of chili peppers, but it also brings the heat. It’s not as searing as the ghost pepper chili oil at Beasley’s, but it’s hot.
The pandemic made online ordering second nature. BB’s is launching an app for diners to order online, and it has tall shelves for picking up takeout orders. Diners can also dine-in and bypass the counter by sitting down and ordering with a QR code on the table. The meal will be brought out when it’s ready.
More BB’s on the way
The Raleigh restaurant is at 2920 Sherman Oak Place, Unit 140, and will be open 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Beyond the Raleigh location, BB’s will open two other Triangle locations early next year. The next to open will be at Durham’s University Hill, followed by Cary’s Parkside Commons.
Those locations will open by March, MDO president Doug Warf said, possibly earlier depending on equipment arrivals.
BB’s is already looking beyond the Triangle, with future locations possible in the Triad, Wilmington and Charlotte, and even outside North Carolina into Richmond.
If Christensen ordered at BB’s, she said she’d keep it basic.
“I always struggle with favorites, but I love the basic fried chicken and pickles,” Christensen said. “I’d throw a little mayo on mine. Second to that, I’d say the fried green tomatoes with pimento cheese.”