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Bucky Rooster's
Photograph: Courtesy Bucky Rooster's

Bucky Rooster’s, Saint-Henri’s new fried chicken pop-up, ain’t cluckin’ around

The new fried chicken pop-up from owners of Arthurs Nosh Bar and the Letter Bet art space in Saint-Henri is all winner winner, chicken dinner.

By JP Karwacki
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Since it started up services little more than a week ago, the ‘late night pies ‘n’ thighs’ pop-up Bucky Rooster’s has been selling out on the regular.

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Montréal 😮 Thank You Sold Out 2 Nights in a row

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With little more than quiet, tag-free posts on Instagram with strong branding from Shah Kash of the nearby art space The Letter Bet—plus some animated stories via Arthurs Nosh Bar’s co-owner Raegan Steinberg—Saint-Henri’s newest arrival has built up momentum to the point of single-handedly raising the bar on fried chicken in Montreal. 

The thing is, that wasn’t always the plan: Less than two weeks before the city began to close the doors of every restaurant, bar and business for months in March, Arthurs Nosh Bar co-owners Raegan Steinberg and Alex Cohen along with Shah Kash and Paulina DiCapua of the Saint-Henri art space The Letter Bet announced a plan for a sleek new restaurant that would artfully pair the Middle Eastern spice trade routes and Latin America.

That didn’t happen.

Bucky Rooster’s was an idea born out of the chaos that the current pandemic’s caused. “This place wasn’t built for Bucky,” says chef Alex Cohen. “It was built for Evelina’s,” the team’s original plan for the address. “The kitchen, the design, the workflow; everything was built for a different style of restaurant.” 

After deciding on the stopgap of a takeout concept with Cohen, Shah Kash and Paulina Do Capuo wanted to bring the diner styles of the 1980s and 1990s to Montreal, and the feelings of “childhood, family vacations, and the grandiose nature of America with it,” Kash explained. That brought him to creating an iconic character that could represent that. “It made me think of cool nicknames and bright colours,” he told Time Out. Think "Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Ferriss Buller and Do the Right Thing" as motifs and inspirations, culminating in the character of Bucky Rooster drawn by the California-based artist Kaseem Greenem.

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Pair that mascot and branding with some solid food, and Montreal’s got one of the most exciting pop-ups to come out of the new reality facing restaurants. Set up only for pick-up with standing room to dine on its neon-lit, back alley terrasse, the fryers at Bucky Rooster’s are working at full tilt.

“I have a secret obsession with fried chicken. It’s a delicious, deep-fried thing,” chef Alex Cohen told Time Out Montreal in an interview. The chef of Arthurs Nosh Bar’s no stranger to the stuff, as fried chicken plays a part of that restaurant’s grand slam during weekend brunches, but this restaurant allows his research to really take off.

Despite the sudden rush and immediacy the arrival of a pop-up comes with, it took Cohen and his team months of testing. “Every piece, every muscle should be taken into consideration. Our bone-in fried chicken has a brine or dry cure to it, has an aging process to it, then it has a dredging process, which goes through another marinade process, and so on. Then our tenders have a different method to it, as do our sandwiches.”

Bucky Rooster's
Photograph: Bucky Rooster's

That said, depending on the form of fried chicken, Cohen explains that a menu item can pull from a variety of different influences to the point of going beyond single definitions. Nothing draws from a single source like Louisiana, Korea, the Carolinas or elsewhere. It’s a huge culmination of different sources, a chimera of styles.

Bucky Rooster's
Photograph: Bucky Rooster's

As a pop-up, Bucky Rooster’s promises to change up its menu somewhat frequently, but plans to move forward with fried chicken sandwiches, buckets of pieces, nachos, potato wedges, chopped salads, fruit salads and mountainous slices of pie. The only thing they aren’t making in-house is the potato bread that the sandwiches are served on.

That said, Bucky Rooster’s plans to keep Montrealers guessing. Additions will come, like more sauces, more sandwiches, and more recurring specials. “What I want is to bring back the way menus were done at diners in the 80s and 90s,” says Cohen. “Monday to Friday, every day there’s a standing special like Shrimp Tuesdays or Chicken Wing Fridays.” 

Bucky Rooster's
Phototgraph: Supplied

Will the pop-up close down as it gets colder? For now, no. The restaurant pop-up plans to forge forward as far as October with delivery apps and a focus on the future. 

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As for Evelina’s? “It’s up in the air until we can sit people without 50% capacity,” says Cohen, who continues to look forward to the day the original restaurant can open in full force. “When we open, I want everyone to see the grandiosity of it, of what this restaurant means to us and the amount of hard work that myself and my partners have put into it at 100%. Not 50%.”

Bucky Rooster's is located behind 3981 Notre-Dame Ouest. Schedules for opening hours—normally 5PM to 11PM on a weekly basis—are posted regularly on its Instagram page here. All menu items are tax-in, plus a 15% tip.

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