There’s a new sensation drawing throngs of diners to the North Market. Called Hot Chicken Takeover, it appears on Thursdays in an otherwise unused space on the second floor, deftly serves thousands of hungry Columbusites eager to savor some delectable yardbird, then vanishes again until the next weekend approaches.
Yesterday when the Ex-Neighbor and I arrived the check HCT out the line was already long, and a look of bug-eyed chickenlust was on the face of every would-be patron. A friendly worker handed us a menu, and the E-N and I scanned it as the line moved along. We quickly decided on our choices — both featuring waffles — as the tantalizing scent of fried chicken hung heavy in the air and workers called out the names of people whose orders were ready. In the meantime, some lucky souls were seated at long tables covered with red and white-checked table, already attacking their food with frenzied glee.
I got the thigh and leg combo; the E-N went for a chicken breast. We both chose waffles over bread (which costs a bit extra) and selected the “hot” flavor (HCT has four seasoning options, with “hot” being second behind a mouth-burning level described on the menu only with a curse word) and took our seats. After a few minutes of pleasant conversation, our styrofoam containers of crunchy goodness arrived, and we dug in. The chicken smelled wonderful and tasted better than excellent — piping hot, juicy, with tons of flavor and a rising, accumulative heat level that left me greedily sucking my fingers and nibbling on bones searching for final scraps of meat until the E-N discreetly advised me, with just a hint of embarrassment, that I needed to wipe my face and start acting my age. The spicy chicken goes perfectly with the sweetness a waffle and syrup, and the mac and cheese side dish, which is light and bright and not leaden with cheese, is a fine complement.
When we left a sign advised that HCT had sold out of two of its options, and by the end of the lunch hour it was all gone. No surprise there! When a place that serves fried chicken this good pops up — even if only in a mysterious, only-on-some-days, end-of-the-week way — it’s going to be ridiculously popular. Now we know why.