Urban Fries ($12) popularity is Owner Brandon Gawthorp’s inspiration for the Chronic Fries virtual kitchen. The loaded fries basket is adorned with mac and cheese, chopped hot chicken tenders, bird sauce and pickles. (Asia Armour/ Community Impact Newspaper)
Urban Bird owner Brandon Gawthorp hatched the idea for Chronic Fries in August 2021 from the popularity of the Urban Fries dish, which consists of a plate of fries topped with mac and cheese, two chopped Nashville hot chicken tenders and pickles and drizzled with the restaurant’s signature bird sauce.
“I realized people really liked these loaded fries, so I created a separate concept that is mostly delivery based out of Urban Bird, but you can actually order inside,” Gawthorp said. “The frontside of the menu is Urban Bird, and when you flip it over, you will see Chronic Fries. We wanted to be very transparent about it.”
Virtual, or “ghost,” kitchens are a business model restaurants have used since the rise of online delivery when stores could not offer dine-in seating during the height of the pandemic, according to an article from the National Restaurant Association.
It is a way for restaurants to capitalize on digital revenue streams after the drastic shift in service from the COVID-19 pandemic, which limited restaurants to low- and no-indoor dining capacity, the article said.
General Manager Alex Harris said she likes the idea of having this specialized menu as a way for Urban Bird to explore out-of-the-box items.
“It gives the company the opportunity to do something totally random—a chance to be creative—and I dig that,” Harris said.
The main menu at Urban Bird features the Tenders Sando, a Nashville hot chicken tenders sandwich on a toasted brioche bun from Ashcraft Bakery in Stafford, Gawthorp said. The menu also includes regular chicken and meatless tenders in a basket and by the piece as well as Urban Fries and chicken and waffles. There are six heat levels spanning from Country to Fire in the Hole.
Chronic Fries’ menu features categories such as meal fries, street fries, sides and desserts. One dessert is the $7 S’mores Fries—a basket of sweet potato waffle fries topped with Nutella, toasted marshmallow cream, graham cracker crumbs and mini marshmallows.
Though the concept of having two restaurants wrapped into one seems like a complicated idea, both menus are centered around simplistic comfort foods, Gawthorp said. Harris commended Gawthorp on the way the two different concepts emerge from the same foundation.
“I like the way he did it because it’s the same thing, but it’s different,” Harris said. “It’s still fries; it’s still chicken; but the way the menu mixes up different flavors adds to it and makes it something new.”
Urban Bird Hot Chicken & Chronic Fries
21788 Katy Freeway, Ste. 500, Katy
Hours: Sun.-Thu. 10:30 a.m.-10:30 p.m.,
Fri.-Sat. 10:30 a.m.-11:30 p.m.