Two very different takes on fried chicken at Fixins, BAWK!

Craving some fried chicken? Two new restaurants with Curtis Park ties offer different takes on how to cook the bird.

BAWK! on R Street offers a limited menu in a fast-casual setting.

BAWK! opened Aug. 31 in Magpie’s original R Street location as a collaboration between Curtis Park resident Rob Archie and Josh Nelson, CEO of Selland Family Restaurants. Archie is also owner of Pangaea Bier Cafe and co-owner of Urban Roots restaurant and brewery.

In Oak Park, Kevin Johnson has opened Fixins soul food restaurant at Third Avenue and Broadway. Johnson, the former Sacramento mayor and a previous resident of Curtis Park, has also invested in the newly reopened Oak Park Brewing Co.

Fixins soul food restaurant at Third Avenue and Broadway. Photos/Joan Cusick

During recent visits to each eatery, here’s what we found.

At Fixins, we found a line out the door and Johnson greeting everyone with a smile. We waited 15 minutes outside the 40 Acres building until a text told us our table was ready. But then our service and food delivery were downright speedy.

My fried chicken came with two “fixins,” or side dishes, plus a biscuit with strawberry butter. As someone who grew up in the South, I’m picky about chicken and biscuits. But this bird was golden, crispy and flavorful while still keeping the white meat moist.

The square biscuits were almost two inches tall, with a soft and flaky interior and just a hint of sweetness. For sides, I chose a vinegar-based coleslaw and black-eyed peas topped with white rice.

On the other side of the table, my pescatarian husband chowed down on fried catfish and hush puppies with creamed corn and mac and cheese. What his plate lacked in color, it made up for in taste. In fact, he said the catfish was the best he’d ever eaten, and the creamed corn was our favorite side dish.

The dinner portions are ample, so we didn’t have room for peach cobbler or other desserts. But we’ll be back – especially for all-day breakfast and for the vegan menu, including barbecued tempeh. (That’s for the husband. I’ll take pork.)

Expect to pay $20 to $25 each for dinner at Fixins, including a soft drink and tip. It’s open daily from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. at 3428 Third Ave. Phone: 916 999SOUL.

Step into BAWK!, and you’re enveloped in a riot of color, from the graphics on the walls down to the painted concrete floors. Unlike full-service Fixins, BAWK! offers a more limited menu in a fast-casual setting. You walk up to the register, place your order and then take a table.

I ordered the fried chicken plate with coleslaw and black-eyed peas. The pescatarian rejected the pricey seafood appetizers – $18 for a half-dozen oysters or $20 for a half-dozen prawns – and ordered the only vegetarian sandwich/entree item, “chicken fried” cauliflower.

Our order arrived quickly, but the first thing I noticed was the dark-brown color of the chicken, topped with a dry-rub I expect on Memphis ribs. Spicy.

Not burn-your-mouth spicy, but definitely more of a kick than my mother’s fried chicken.

The sides were tasty, with less vinegar in this coleslaw and black-eyed peas served with greens instead of white rice. Alas, I didn’t see a biscuit on the menu, and the cornbread was offered as a $5 side.

My husband found the cauliflower sandwich to be interesting, but said it wasn’t something he would order again soon.

Prices at BAWK! also run $20 to $25 per person, including a soft drink and tip. It opens at 11:30 a.m.

Wednesday through Sunday for lunch and dinner at 1409 R St., Suite 102. Phone: 916 465-8700.

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