A true East Van institution since 2018, DownLow Chicken Shack (or DL Chicken as it’s more commonly known), is an unmatched force of chicken frying genius. And that’s not a label I give lightly.
At first glance, the unassuming hole-in-the-wall is just that. Unassuming, and a hole-in-the-wall. Take a few steps past the door and the aroma of sweet, sizzling, buttery chicken will stop you dead in your tracks. That, and the 90s hip hop blasting from the kitchen.
Whether you go day or night, rain or shine, snow or sleet — be prepared to stand in line. But as any self-respecting food enthusiast (especially a hungry one) will tell you, it will be worth the wait.
So, what are you ordering? My top recommendation: The Original Sando. All other fried chicken sandwiches pale in comparison to the ‘Great One.’ Dusted with house seasoning and drizzled with honey, the fried chicken is warm and tender with the perfect balance of sweet and salty. The skin has a satisfying crunch for those of us (like me) who are snobs about that sort of thing. Depending on your spice tolerance you can kick the heat up or keep it mild and sweet.
While the coleslaw and pickles are not the centre of attention, I would be remiss to leave them out of this review. Together they balance out the richness of the chicken, sneaking some necessary acidity into every bite. Finally, the bun. Slathered with a creamy mayo-based house sauce, the bun soaks up just enough juice that the inside becomes a pleasant doughy texture, while the outside remains light and airy. Overall, the OG Sando will be the best $14.75 you ever spent.
If a sandwich is not your cup of tea, I strongly recommend chicken thighs ‘à la carte.’ At $4.75 a piece, you cannot go wrong. In my personal experience two thighs are a full meal, but who am I to stop you from indulging in three, or four, or twenty? Like the OG Sando, the fried chicken thighs are crispy, juicy, and mouth-wateringly sweet. Pair it with some fries for an extra $4.75 and now it’s a party. Dip them in the house sauce, or don’t — you’re in charge of your own destiny. Powdered with the same house seasoning and sprinkled with salty goodness, DL Chicken’s crispy fries will reignite your faith in humanity.
Setting the food aside, DL Chicken has a very unique and specific vibe. The kitchen sits in the middle of the restaurant, so while you wait you can watch the staff prepare the food and bop along to classic hip hop tunes. The energy in the restaurant exudes a warmth and positivity that just makes you want to come back again and again and again.
When I returned to campus this September after a Covid-long hiatus, I was thrilled to find that DL Chicken had opened a new location at UBC. I was even more thrilled that the fried chicken was just as delicious and crispy as I was accustomed to. I was, however, slightly disappointed that the liveliness and up-beat energy that I associate with the DL brand was lacking. Fingers crossed it’s just growing pains. But if you want the true DL experience, I highly recommend making the trek out to East Van. Greatness awaits you.