Chicken sandwich Michelle Mitchell

The second day of this accursed year of 2017, I was in a nasty car crash coming back from snowshoeing at Trillium Lake, in which a pickup slid on ice, fishtailed over the center line and into the front of my friend’s Subaru. We had time to choke out a half scream before it was airbags and a temporary lights-out for me.

The front end of her car was crumpled like a tinfoil swan, but everyone miraculously walked away. Riding home, I realized the last thing I ate before my potential demise were some inedible dry jo-jos from the Thriftway deli in Welches. A tragic end for a professional glutton.

So here’s to Big’s Chicken, whose version of fried potato wedges I’d be happy to have as a last meal. Jo-jos are not a fancy food—in fact, co-owner Ben Dyer says they’re the only thing not made in-house. After rounds of tasting and testing, the team decided to order them frozen. This is not the place for snobbery, however. They’re deep-fried to order, spiced up with paprika, cayenne, curry, and other spices, and remain moist with the crisp edges that good jo-jos possess. That’s all a girl can ask.

Michelle Mitchell

Served alongside the slammin’ smoked chicken sandwich, it’s a meal I would beg someone to pick up for me if I were ever 86’d from the restaurant for being a jerk. And while it’s good as carry-out, the immediacy of a juicy sandwich and fresh-fried potatoes are best enjoyed with a draft beer inside the small but cheery location, decked out with old license plates and Smokey the Bear posters.

Opened this spring in the former Big Ass Sandwiches spot in North Tabor, Big’s Chicken is part of the Laurelhurst Market, Ate-Oh-Ate, Reverend’s BBQ, and Simpatica mini empire, and is a monument to the chefs’ love of chicken.

Smoked and grilled, Big’s manages to stand out in a city full of great bird options, especially thanks to that sandwich, which was born last summer as the Five Napkin chicken sandwich in the parking lot of Laurelhurst Market. Juicy, boneless thighs are served on a griddled potato bun and topped with slaw, pickles, and Chef Ben Bettinger’s twist on a white, mayo-based Alabama barbeque sauce ($8.95). It’s sloppy without being soggy.

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Fried cauliflower Michelle Mitchell

That “White Gold” is the best of the three sauces on offer (along with a tart green Fresno chile and a forgettable red), especially since they’ve cut back the sweetness; it could probably stand to shed the Alabama association, though, since its inclusion of mustard and a few other twists makes it different from the sauce they lay geographical claim to in the South. Either way, it’s ideal on the dry spice wings ($6.95 for six), which come smoked and fried to a nice crunch.

A whole bird ($18.95) is plenty of charred chicken, marred only by the fact that in order to make it a full family meal, you’ll have to order some sides—and that’s where the menu’s wheels come off. Fried green beans and cauliflower were uniformly greasy and overcooked, and a “dirty rice” with chicken livers and a trinity of bell pepper, onion, and celery, missed the mark by being neither spicy nor particularly flavorful. Steer instead toward the house salad ($8.95) or the righteous grilled corn with queso on special and you’ll do just fine. Or, like me, just order more chicken and jo-jos.

Buttermilk pie Michelle Mitchell

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