By Robin Garr
I’m not going to say I’ve solved the ancient riddle about whether the chicken or the egg came first, but I can tell you that we enjoyed both those good things and more in a delicious brunch at Chik’n & Mi.
It shouldn’t come as a huge surprise that the fare is excellent at Chik’n & Mi, as it’s the only local eatery I know of where both owners/chefs – the husband-and-wife team of Jason McCollum and Aenith Sananikone McCollum – are graduates of the prestigious Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York.
Chik’n & Mi has earned considerable popularity in its relatively short run of five years or so. It arrived in March 2017 in a small building on Lower Brownsboro that had housed a long string of short-lived eateries. It moved into its current larger quarters in the spring of 2020, when the pandemic forced Jason McCollum to close his other restaurant, Hearth on Mellwood Eatery, after less than a year of operation.
Chik’n & Mi appears to be thriving in its new location where Clifton meets Butchertown, a historic farmhouse that for many years housed L & N Wine Bar, Bistro 1860, and Hearth on Mellwood.
It’s open for dinner only on weekdays, brunch and dinner on Saturdays and brunch on Sundays, with an attractive shady patio in addition to the old-house space and comfortable bar inside, which features an extensive sake collection, craft beers and creative cocktails.
In the land of Kentucky Fried Chicken and a host of down-home eateries that offer country-fried chicken, Chik’n & Me charts a bolder path. Drawing on Aenith McCollum’s Laotian heritage, it features Laotian-spiced fried chicken. There’s also a variety of “Asian-inspired comfort foods” across China, Korea, and Japan (ramen is a specialty), and on to a world-spanning range of other delights through Mexico to the U.S.A.
The weekend brunch menu is similar to the dinner menu but a bit more concise. It offers nine brunch starters and ten brunch dishes, along with its regular range of three ramen bowls and Asian fried FreeBird brand chicken.
Most of the brunch appetizers are $8 to $9, save for fried calamari ($15) and oysters on the half-shell ($15 for a half-dozen, $29 for a dozen). Brunch dishes range in price from $12 (for chilaquiles) to $16 (for fried chicken and waffles).
Miso pork, chicken noodle, or vegetarian ramen are all $16; add a dollar for the spicy or garlic lovers’ option. The Asian fried chicken is priced by size, from $8 for a chef’s choice trio of thighs, legs, or wings, to $15 for a large order of breast-meat nuggets. You’re also welcome to order a traditional breakfast a la carte with two eggs, bacon, or sausages for $4 each plus other traditional fixings.
Everything we tried showed off the kitchen’s skills. There wasn’t a sour note in the entire meal.
A cherry ginger salad ($9) featured a delicious, complex, faintly smoky cherry-ginger vinaigrette. Noodle-thin julienne strips of zucchini, yellow squash, and watermelon radish added flair to a fresh, clean and flavorful salad greens mix, with a generous portion of thin-sliced toasted almonds on top.
Tofu lettuce wraps ($8) offered plenty of neatly diced firm tofu mixed with thinly sliced red onions, julienne carrots, chopped cilantro and mint, piled high atop large, bright-green bibb lettuce leaves. A dish on the side bore a seductive, creamy spicy peanut sauce and bright-orange sweet-hot chili sauce. I wondered for a minute if iceberg lettuce would work better as I struggled to wrap tender bibb leaves around the filling to make a taco-style wrap. But the flavor and texture combination made the effort worthwhile.
Asian fried FreeBird chicken ($8 for a three-piece dark-meat order) was very tasty, firm and mild flavored. We were hard-pressed to detect anything that made it clearly Asian – perhaps an elusive hint of anise-scented “five spice” – but it was delicious all the same, fried with a pale-tan crust so crisp that it cracks when you bite into it. Perhaps it’s intended as a fresh palette to bear choice of sauces – sweet soy, hot Laotian jeaw bong, or X-tra hot. We chose the naked option, free of sauce, with house-made mild peppercorn ranch on the side.
From the chicken to the egg: We crossed to the Americas to enjoy a Mexican brunch favorite, huevos rancheros ($13). This dish would do credit to a taqueria. A pair of delightfully crunchy tostadas made a sandwich around two very runny eggs and a deeply flavored black-bean puree, drenched under a bath of spicy salsa roja and striped with creamy queso fresco and a cilantro garnish. It came with a small dish of fresh fruit and a bowl of spicy home-fried potatoes.
A delightful, filling brunch totaled $40.28, plus a $10 tip.
Chik’n & Mi
1765 Mellwood Ave.
Noise Level: Crowd noise ebbed and flowed during a busy Saturday brunch. At its peak, spikes to 85dB made conversation difficult at times.
Accessibility: The entrance and dining areas appear accessible to wheelchair users, but closely spaced tables could make wheelchair navigation tricky.