This article was originally written for the Anchorage Press.
Chicken Shack, a new eatery on the west side, opened its doors on May 2. It’s modern and chic. The design is similar to restaurants in Seattle and Portland, and that isn’t a bad thing. A Facebook review says that Chicken Shack is “New. Different. Needed in Anchorage.”
Opening day went better than initially expected.
“We had blown through almost 500 pieces of chicken breast, and we had to close an hour early,” Shana Whitlock, executive chef, general manager and owner of Chicken Shack, said.
Whitlock has been in the food industry for 22 years. In 2004, she graduated from the Culinary Institute of America and worked in several restaurants in New York before moving back to Alaska.
She’s been the executive chef of multiple Anchorage restaurants, including the Red Chair Cafe, a breakfast/brunch/lunch spot with menu items ranging from lemon poppy-seed pancakes to the nauti crab benedict.
After Red Chair, Whitlock moved onto Torchon Bistro, a fine-dining restaurant which she owned and operated. There, she was the executive chef for two and a half years. She had a fried chicken dish on Torchon’s menu, which was “super popular.” There were a lot of calls for to-go orders.
“I really debated whether or not I was going to put it on the menu, and I did. I was so glad I did,” Whitlock said.
After that, she knew she wanted to open up Chicken Shack, her first casual restaurant. The menu incorporates Whitlock’s high regard for quality and consistency with southern-style sides like house slaw, fried cheese curds, mashed potatoes, blistered shishito peppers and okra.
As far as their chicken goes, they have several options, the mini shack, the half shack, the full shack and the double shack. Their mini shack consists of one piece of dark or white chicken and a side for $8.75, whereas the double shack is made up of four pieces of dark chicken, four pieces of white chicken and two sides for $34. Whitlock’s favorites on the menu tie between the chicken and waffle sandwich and the chicken biscuit sandwich.
Whitlock wanted to make the menu fun and filled with comfort food of all kinds, not just chicken. There’s shrimp and grits, poutine and smoked ribs. There’s a wide variety of salads, too, if you want something lighter.
Whitlock says she’s eager to focus on the now. She’s had a lot of guests follow her on her food endeavors. After Torchon Bistro, she was the executive chef at Sacks Cafe. Now, at Chicken Shack, those same guests visit her.
“How could I pass up a place in Spenard? The menu just fits the vibe out here,” Whitlock said.
Petra Sattler-Smith from Lumen Design was the architect for the space, and Mad Dog Graphx, located the same business park, designed the logo and fonts. Willodell Enterprises did all the labor behind Sattler-Smith’s design. They started construction September and finished the day before opening day.
“We wanted something that was unlike anything here, to match the menu and the branding, everything I think really ties in together,” Whitlock said. “I really just want to make this a staple here in town.”
Whitlock says she’s ready to continue on this new adventure. At Torchon, she tried to do everything, the book keeping, the accounting, the cooking, all of it. But this time, she has a team to help her along the way.
Still, she opens the restaurant every morning and prepares her sauces and biscuits.
“I won’t let anyone touch [the biscuits] right yet… my hands are on everything, it’s important to me,” Whitlock said.
Chicken Shack is located at 1443 W Northern Lights Blvd and is open Monday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.