It’s pretty clear from the moment I step into the store that My My Chicken is not necessarily aiming for Me Me. I don’t think they are after the seniors market share, in particular, because we are not all that keen on fried anything at this point of our lives. Something twice-fried? That’s a stretch that our waist lines don’t need.
But street buzz drove me in one day when I saw the lights on while cruising through the western end of Westerly Parkway Plaza. I was disappointed to learn that I had to call in to place an order first. No picking things right up there, at least not at this point. The following week I followed orders and called in and was told when to come by for my chicken. I planned my evening accordingly.
Bringing a whole new meaning to “dinner date,” I picked up a half of a fried chicken — four pieces of breast, thigh, wing and drumstick. I also tried a small order — six pieces — of My My Chicken wings, a gluten-free option coated in rice and tapioca flours and tossed with Colonel Ling sauce (a lesser-ranked though similarly sweet and savory relative of General Tso’s.) It was all I could do to drive home for seven minutes and not rip into that brown paper tote sack of sizzling chicken goodness.
Last month, Paul Madrid and Patrick Donaghy opened My My Chicken, a retail shop, and Paul’s Provisions, a catering company, two businesses that share a large, bright kitchen space at 536 Westerly Parkway in the shopping center between Weis Market and Rite Aid. Madrid, a seasoned restaurateur, is the owner of the enterprise and Donaghy is the director of operations who brings nearly two decades of catering experience in the Centre region to the table. Currently they are open every day from 4-9 p.m., selling freshly fried chicken that has been pre-ordered.
“I wanted to be able to offer fresh fried chicken, not a product that has been held in a hot box. That’s my big thing, our My My chicken is twice-fried, which makes it extra crispy and we want it to be that way for our customers. The Fried Chicken is fried at 325 degrees in peanut oil in a pressure fryer for 13 to 15 minutes,” Madrid said. “The employees answering the phone know when the chicken pieces are going into the pressure fryer and when they are coming out. The wings and boneless cutlet pieces of My My Chicken are brushed individually with sauce after they are fried the second time so they remain crispy. It’s all about the timing.”
The timing seems right for these two men with young families. They have created an edgy, urban clubhouse feel to the space, very unlike their neighbors along the strip. Skateboards are the only decoration on the walls, which sport exposed brick. A heavy industrial beam on the ceiling doesn’t really bear any weight, but defines the interior as do the bare concrete floors. Its no-nonsense, brawny feel is undeniably hip — if hip is still the word that defines hip-ness.
“We take what we do seriously, but we don’t take ourselves too seriously,” explained Madrid, who still partners in two restaurants in DC, Sixth Engine and Town Hall. He and his wife, Nada, have two sons, Ron Abdallah Madrid, who goes by “RAM,” will be 4 in March, and younger son, Cole, is 1. The young family moved here last January from the DC area and reside in the Tusseyview neighborhood very close to the business. “I’m able to go home and have dinner with the family most nights,” said Madrid, “though I generally hope for something besides chicken,” he added with a grin.
Donaghy is glad to have a close family connection nearby as well. His oldest son, Jameson, 14, is in high school and stops by after school to help out in the shop. His wife, Cori, works in the College of Arts and Architecture at Penn State and they have two other children, Braden, 12, and Cassidy, 5.
The menu offerings are limited right now to the fried chicken and two types of My My chicken in wings or cutlet pieces, with a growing number of side dishes. There are always fries available, macaroni and cheese, and salad, but the veg du jour changes each day and the team gets creative with this offering. The day I stopped by, the Brussels sprouts, flash fried in a wok with bacon and then brilliantly garnished with tiny bits of fried chicken skin cracklings, were delicious. The quick service restaurant plans to offer specials throughout the week, such as chicken pot pie on Thursdays, or roast chicken on weekends, until they determine what their customers want.
Super Bowl Sunday will inaugurate new hours for the store. They will be open at 11 a.m. and have started accepting reservations for pre-orders. The next day, on Monday, Feb. 8, they will begin lunch service from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. and then continue with a dinner menu from 3-9 p.m. every day of the week.
Both Madrid and Donaghy assert that they are aiming for broad appeal within the community. Their largest customer base may be the student complex behind the plaza. There is a new walkway that connects the huge Retreat development with direct access to the center of the strip of businesses and many residents are already regulars. Their customer base could also be the busy queue of parents driving to pick up their children from afterschool sports and activities at the high school. Summer will no doubt bring in the Welch Pool swimmers heading home after a day at the pool. Or it might be the senior crowd after all, since as I was leaving the store I saw a woman of a certain age walk from Weis to My My Chicken and carry out her brown paper tote bag with a big smile on her face.
But it will not be me — at least not until I give up on the New Year’s resolution to diet which generally lasts until the end of January.
Anne Quinn Corr is the author of “Seasons of Central Pennsylvania,” of several iBook cookbooks (“Food, Glorious Food!” “What’s Cooking?!” and “Igloo: Recipes to Cure the Winter Blues”) that are available for free on iTunes. She regularly posts to the blog HowToEatAndDrink.com and can be reached at chef firstname.lastname@example.org.
On the Web
My My Chicken
536 Westerly Parkway, State College
MY MY BRUSSELS SPROUTS
4 cups Brussels sprouts, split and any damaged leaves removed
6 strips of thick cut bacon, cooked but not crispy
1 tablespoon oil + more for drizzling on sprouts
3 tablespoons maple syrup
1 tablespoons Sriracha, or more depending on preferred heat level
salt and black pepper to taste
Optional: Reserved chicken skins from previous meal, fried crisp in pan with oil, set aside to cool, and chopped
Preheat oven to 450 degrees with sheet pan in oven while preheating. Once pan and oven are hot, carefully remove pan and add Brussels sprouts tossed with a drizzle of oil, salt and pepper. Cook until tender but centers are firm. Turn saute pan on medium heat. Add bacon, 1 tablespoon of oil and Brussels sprouts. Saute until bacon and Brussels sprouts leaves start to crisp. Carefully turn heat to high and add maple syrup and Sriracha. Toss quickly to incorporate. Immediately turn off heat and serve hot. Top with optional chopped chicken skins.