Sort-of Secret: Grateful Chicken, chef Brandon Olsen’s fried chicken comeback

Sort-of Secret: Grateful Chicken, chef Brandon Olsen’s fried chicken comeback

Also on the menu: Basque cake and champagne

More Sort-of Secrets

The sort-of secret: Grateful Chicken, chef Brandon Olsen’s fast-casual counter inside Chef’s Hall, the fancy food court in the Financial District

You may have heard of it if: You follow Olsen on Instagram or you were a big fan of Brando’s, his last fried chicken biz

But you probably haven’t tried it because: Olsen’s been keeping it quiet since March. It’s now been officially open for just over a month

When Brandon Olsen lost the rights to his eponymous fried chicken brand, Brando’s Fried Chicken, back in 2020, there was no crying over spilled buttermilk. While we mourned the loss of the cult-status poultry, Olsen distracted himself from his King Street Co. breakup with all kinds of work. He dabbled as a cabinetmaker, stocked shelves at an LCBO and launched Le Melon, an in-home dining company. Then, late last year, he was tapped to take over as Chef’s Hall’s culinary director.

Olsen at work
The current menu

Part of the gig was coming up with a new concept for the food hall. It didn’t take Olsen long to land on fried chicken. “After all, it’s what I know best,” he says.

Even though Olsen launched Grateful Chicken in March (King Street Co. owns the original Brando’s Chicken name), he’s managed to keep its existence on the down-low. He didn’t post about it on social media and kept the restaurant off the delivery apps. “I didn’t want to launch officially before I felt everything was ready,” says Olsen, who went public with his project this month.

Since Brando’s Fried Chicken first popped up in 2010, Olsen’s recipe has slowly evolved. He’s tweaked the brine, the fry time and what exactly goes into the breading (all for the better, of course). However, what you’ll get at Grateful Chicken is delightfully familiar. Whatever secret spices he’s using (he’d only tell us that there’s lemon in the brine), it’s still one of the city’s juiciest birds enveloped in one helluva crispy buttermilk batter.

The classic, with a side of chonky fries

So far, the classic chicken sandwich has been the bestseller. It’s a deep-fried free-range chicken thigh on a potato roll with coleslaw, buttermilk ranch and a few dashes of Frank’s Red Hot. Side options include cajun fries, kale caesar, buttermilk onion rings, coleslaw and shishito peppers with Cajun-lime mayo. ($13 for just the sandwich, $18 for the combo)

The Grateful Hot Chicken sandwich douses a deep-fried thigh in a piquant oil laced with paprika, cayenne and black pepper. It’s served with shredded iceberg lettuce, pickled pepper relish and honey mustard. ($13 for just the sandwich, $18 for the combo)

And the Grateful Hot Chicken, pictured here with a side of onion rings

The menu is 95 per cent poultry, but there are a few non-avian options on offer, including the aforementioned buttermilk onion rings ($7) as well as a deep-fried mushroom sando ($13) and a hot shrimp sandwich ($13).

And, of course, there are boxes of chicken too, the largest of which is a 10-piece option (all dark meat, of course) for $35. Make it a combo for a few extra bucks, or for even more bucks, add a bottle of cava or Veuve to your finger lickin’ feast.

The healthiest thing on the menu

The menu at the Grateful Dead–inspired food stall (the name is pure Jerry Garcia while the artwork is a mix of the Dead’s iconic dancing bears with a pinch of Warhol and Lichtenstein) is almost all deep fried. The only thing that gestures toward health is this buffalo chicken kale caesar ($16).

Desserts (all $6) include fried Mars bars, panna cotta and Basque cake served with brown butter cream. “I’m taking back what’s mine,” jokes Olsen, who, a decade ago, was the chef who added the now famous cake to Bar Isabel’s menu.

111 Richmond St. W. (inside Chef’s Hall), @thegratefulchicken