Where Nicole Gomes of Cluck N Cleaver Eats Chicken
Roast chicken, chicken wings, karaage chicken — Nicole Gomes, Cluck N Cleaver’s Chief Chicken Officer, loves it all and shares where she goes to eat them in Calgary.
photograph courtesy of nicole gomes
Cluck N Cleaver opened in early 2016. The restaurant, which Gomes runs with her sister Francine, specializes in southern fried chicken. While fried chicken accounts for at least 40 per cent of Cluck N Cleaver’s business, you’ll also find rotisserie chicken on the menu as well as side dishes like potatoes, fries and chicken poutine, and salads like potato salad, coleslaw and chipotle lime corn and bean salad.
Gomes has been cooking for 21 years. She started her career in Vancouver before moving to Calgary 15 years ago to work in Catch, then Mercato, then start Nicole Gourmet. That being said, she's always loved chicken. “My sister and I have always joked about making fried chicken together,” says Gomes. “Then, we just got up and did it. We wrote a business plan and did it.”
Of course, Gomes’ chicken is some of our favourite fried chicken in the city, but we wanted to know where the chef goes out to eat when she’s looking for a great chicken dish, whether it's roast chicken, chicken wings or another kind of chicken.
Here are some of her choices.
Cluck N Cleaver, 1511 14 St. S.W., 403-266-2067, cluckncleaver.com
“The roast chicken here comes with traditional sides, but it’s also served with chicken liver pâté,” says Gomes. “The chicken is big — you can tell it’s a farm chicken. I love the quality of the ingredients at Cassis and I love the environment there. And, I love the service here too. It’s very French.”
Cassis Bistro, 2505 17 Ave. S.W., 403-262-0036, thecassisbistro.ca
Like anyone, Gomes has a dish that she considers to be a guilty pleasure. It’s a fried chicken dish, but it’s not KFC. Rather, if Gomes wants to go out to eat fried chicken, she’ll always get the karaage chicken at Japanese restaurants. (Karaage chicken is Japanese-style fried chicken that’s usually marinated in ginger, garlic and soy sauce.)
“I’d say my favourite place for karaage chicken is Sushi Bar Zipang,” says Gomes. “I think this style of chicken is a guilty pleasure for me because we ate a lot of Japanese food when we were young. Whenever we had fried chicken, we didn’t go to fast food joints or anything — it was always Asian places.”
Sushi Bar Zipang, 1010 1 Ave. N.E., 403-262-1888, zipang.ca
Gomes’ favourite place in the city for chicken wings in Anju, hands down. When she goes to Anju, she’ll always order just salt and pepper wings with a side of the spicy gochujang sauce — she doesn’t like to get messy when eating wings and prefers to add her own sauce.
And, by the way, Gomes thinks that Chef Roy Oh has “the chicken game down.”
“Anju’s wings are incredible. They are so crispy and savoury,” says Gomes. “And Roy Oh has been doing them for so long. Before Anju was on 17th Avenue, me and other chefs would go there for wings. It used to be our little quiet spot.”
Anju, 344 17 Ave. S.W., 403-460-3341, anju.ca
But Gomes isn’t picky when it comes to chicken wings. She says she also loves regular pub wings and frequents Richmond’s Pub. (Mostly on Tuesday nights when the wings are on special.)
“Richmond’s Pub is in my hood,” says Gomes. “They do Memphis Rub chicken wings that I always order there. They’re dry wings and I’ll always get them with hot sauce and blue cheese on the side.”
Richmond’s Pub, 3919 Richmond Rd. S.W., 403-217-7744, richmondspub.com
If Gomes is looking for a late-night bite and a drink, she heads to Ricardo’s Hideaway. Typically, she likes the jerk chicken and she pairs it with a piña colada.
Ricardo’s Hideaway, 1530 5 St. S.W., 587-349-2585, ricardoshideaway.ca
Gomes’ favourite chicken dish of all time is Hainanese chicken rice, a dish most commonly associated with Singapore and Malaysia. For this dish, the entire chicken is poached, the rice is cooked in chicken stock with ginger, garlic and pandan, and it’s served with chili garlic, dark soy sauce and cucumber. Gomes doesn’t tend to go out for this dish — she makes it herself at home.