Washington Square Mall has officially leveled up. As malls continue to struggle across the country, the Tigard-area shopping center has made itself relevant once again by attracting celebrated chains to its halls: Dumpling haven Din Tai Fung, Taiwanese bakery favorite 85°C, and soon, Washington fried chicken chain Ezell’s Famous Chicken.
The Oregonian reports that Ezell’s will open at the mall in late January, making it the state’s first location. The chicken shack, which currently operates 14 locations in Washington, became a national name after it won the heart of US royalty Oprah Winfrey. The chicken chain currently holds a spot on Eater Seattle’s fried chicken map and won over the Seattle Times: “Those who scoff at anything but the glory of dark meat might want to try a chicken tender here, undeniably tasty, the extra-crispy breading making an extra-loud crunch,” writes Seattle Times food correspondent Bethany Jean Clement. “But those who swear by Ezell’s spicy-style are onto something: The red-gold shell, with just enough cayenne heat, encases meat that’s deeply flavored, having been favored with a Creole-accented marinade.”
Ezell Stephens, Faye Rudd, and Lewis Rudd opened the first Ezell’s in 1984, before Stephens left the business and opened Heaven Sent Fried Chicken. There’s still some contention over who really dazzled Winfrey, but it doesn’t really matter: Both chicken shacks are Seattle institutions.
The real question is whether Portland can even sustain more fried chicken at this point. Several fried chicken carts and shops opened in Portland within the last two years, and Doug Adams and Jen Quist will open another next year. Time will tell if the Ezell’s expansion is a safe bet or a needle to pop the bubble.
• Ezell’s [Official]
• Oprah’s favorite fried chicken chain is coming to the Portland area [O]
• 15 of Seattle’s Finest Fried Chicken Restaurants [Eater Seattle]
• Seattle restaurant classics: Why you need to go to Ezell’s Famous Chicken [ST]
• Who Makes Oprah Winfrey’s Favorite Fried Chicken? That’s a Bone of Contention [WSJ]