New chicken joint opens on Ford Parkway

Daves Hot Chicken exterior
Dave’s Hot Chicken exterior
Max Ridenour

A new restaurant opened its doors on Ford Parkway this spring, serving up hot chicken from a building spangled in neon lights and galactic decor. Formerly the site of a Dairy Queen, the building now houses Dave’s Hot Chicken, a restaurant chain with a significant presence in California and the Southwest that has seemingly been expanding up North. Despite its recent opening on March 12, Dave’s has already managed to accumulate huge crowds and huge lines of cars stretching out from the drive-thru line into the street on a regular basis.

Obviously, I had to see what the hype was about.
I made a spontaneous stop on my commute home after my evening class, as it was one of the few restaurants still open. A major positive about Dave’s is that it is open until 10:00 p.m. every night, making it one of the few reliable late-night spots in the area (minus Doge Pizza, which is mercifully open until midnight daily and is extremely affordable, tasty and close to campus– but that is beside the point). Despite it being within an hour of closing by the time I made it inside, the energy was as lively as ever. Workers bustled about within a brightly-lit fluorescent kitchen and several large tables were filled with people happily enjoying their food. I placed my order and grabbed a seat by the front window.

The building’s exterior was impressive enough, with murals of nebulas and neon geometry seemingly appearing overnight, and I was amazed by the even more impressive interior decor. It was like having entered a futuristic, technicolor geode. Every surface was covered in paintings of cosmos, St Paul-related iconography and enough trippy, melting arrays of patterns to mystify anybody who may have stumbled across Dave’s on a quest to satiate their munchies. The murals were attributed to Splatterhaus, a design studio with a minimal online presence that offers their services painting airbrushed murals inspired by the aesthetics of street art.

Eventually, my buzzer went off, signifying my order was ready. I had gotten a hot chicken sandwich (the spice levels came on a seven-point scale from “no spice,” which felt too tame, to “Reaper,” which I was too afraid to try) with a side of fries and a chocolate milkshake. The milkshake was ready first and was shockingly sweet. I could not manage more than a few sips at a time without overwhelming my tongue with the taste of sugar and chocolate powder, so I dove into the food… and while it was perfectly fine, it sadly was not what I was expecting.

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“Open Late” sign outside Dave’s ( Max Ridenour)

The sandwich came with a tender, a drizzle of sauce, pickles and a small portion of coleslaw. It was served on a tray alongside a bed of crinkle-cut fries– not my favorite form of fry, but I did my best to put my bias aside as they were well seasoned. Right away, I noticed the portions were lacking somewhat in comparison to one of my other favorite chicken restaurants in the city, Nashville Coop. The prices were somewhat better at Dave’s and I still received a hearty amount of food, but it still was not quite as good of a deal in terms of “bang for your buck.” The sandwich was spicy and somewhat acidic, and the fries were perfectly fine. It was filling, but it all lacked luster, not to mention the hours of digestive pain that followed.

The restaurant is nonetheless an exciting addition to the space. A 2023 article from the Twin Cities Pioneer Press mentions that Dave’s plans to open six locations around the Twin Cities. One location at the Ridgedale Corner Shoppes in Minnetonka is already in operation. Meanwhile, the closure of the Dairy Queen that formerly stood in the new restaurant’s place comes amidst a string of Dairy Queen closures throughout the Twin Cities, perhaps signifying a shift in the taste of Twin Cities fast food goers.

Do I think the food at Dave’s Hot Chicken was bad? Not in the slightest. Do I think any hot chicken enjoyer should try it at least once? Probably. The experience of eating there in person was far and away the highlight of the evening – there are just better culinary options available for the true chicken connoisseurs out there.

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