When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, chef Deborah VanTrece decided to shut down her modern soul food restaurant Twisted Soul Cookhouse & Pours before it was mandated. She tried offering meal kits. She attempted a pay-what-you-can concept to use up leftover inventory. But, she says, “those were short-term answers.”
So, she changed direction. On May 2, she launched a pop-up concept called A Different Kind of Chick that offers a curated menu of Springer Mountain Farms chicken entrees and sandwiches available for takeaway and delivery. It features items like the Morning After Chick (fried chicken with vanilla waffles and maple bourbon syrup), the Skinny Chick (herb and garlic-marinated grilled chicken breast), and the Spicy Chick (a po boy with jalapeno jack cheese, grilled onions, and remoulade). “Side Chicks” include sautéed farm vegetables, three-cheese macaroni, and garlic mashed potatoes.
A Different Kind of Chick operates out of Twisted Soul (1133 Huff Road Northwest) Saturdays from noon to 8 p.m. and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. To-go orders can be placed by calling 404-350-5500 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Delivery is available via Zifty.
“This is something I’ve wanted to do,” VanTrece says. “It‘s not as expensive, and it’s still showcasing food we’ve done throughout our existence.”
We spoke with her to learn more.
How did you come up with the idea for A Different Kind of Chick?
It was 2013 or 2014. I had been catering for years. I thought about how I would cook all day but not eat anything. I like having quick options that are still potentially healthy. A lot of people eat chicken.
When I decided I wanted a brick and mortar, I put feelers out. The restaurant space that came to me quickest was in Decatur. It wasn’t what I would’ve chosen for A Different Kind of Chick. It was a little nicer—an atmosphere for a more refined dining experience. So, I did a quick pivot [to Twisted Soul Cookhouse].
Why did you decide now is the time to bring A Different Kind of Chick to life?
It had been sitting on the backburner. It was a takeaway-type concept with limited seating. It’s slow food fast, where you order at the counter and have limited contact with service people. Those seem to be the restrictions put upon us as we move into the future.
What safety measures have you put in place?
We have markers on the floor to keep six feet between customers. We’re distancing in the kitchen as well. We have one area for ordering and another for pickup. There’s a host outside who can take orders and payment from your car. Everyone is masked and gloved.
How was the first weekend?
I was really nervous, but it was fun. Saturday, we did 70 orders! It’s about 50-50 with regulars and new people. I think we all need something exciting to break up what’s becoming mundane. The Georgia Chick (Southern marinated fried chicken) is the most popular because it’s a signature item on the Twisted Soul menu.
How long do you plan to continue A Different Kind of Chick?
We’re going to keep it going. We’ll increase the days it’s offered. When we get back to our regular dining scene, we might take this concept and transition it to another space. We’ll also continue our Fish Fry Fridays—we’ve had a lot of success with that since COVID-19 began.
What are your plans for reopening Twisted Soul?
Twisted Soul will be back the way it was. We’re going to keep our eyes on the science and adjust accordingly. When we restart dine-in, we’ll do some Twisted Soul Tuesdays. I’m also writing a cookbook that’s basically a reflection of the food I make at the restaurant. It will be released in the spring.
Read more: VanTrece and her wife Lorraine Lane run Twisted Soul together, but now that the pandemic has taken hold, VanTrece works in the restaurant while Lane looks for grants and loans to apply to. For our upcoming June issue, we talked to them about how the pandemic has impacted both their business and their relationship.