It’s a very good time to be a fried chicken lover in Milwaukee. Great variations are popping up all over, including spots like Palomino, The Tandem, Merriment Social and Ashley’s Bar-B-Que, which will be serving fried chicken as part of its soul food buffet at the new Pabst Eleven25 Food Court.
And the Milwaukee fried chicken scene is going to get even bigger later this summer when Bumstead Provisions, 2671 S. Kinnickinnic Ave., takes on a new identity as Hot Head Fried Chicken.
In some ways, the concept change is more of an evolution for a restaurant that built its reputation on over-the-top sandwiches and creative takes on classic comfort food like macaroni and cheese, and doughnuts.
"Bumstead was our passion for the better part of three years," says Mike Bodow, who owns Bumstead Provisions and Crafty Cow with partners Devin and David Eichler. "We loved the concept and we poured everything we had into it. But, when it was all said and done, there was one dish that was our best seller by far. And that was our Nashville Hot Chicken Sandwich."
And when one dish is out-selling everything else on the menu (to the tune of sometimes 70 orders a night), that sends a message to keen restaurant owners.
"We’re nuts about fried chicken," Bodow says, "and we’ve eaten a lot of it, both here in the Midwest and beyond. So, it just made sense to build the concept around it. We built Bumstead on the idea of kick-ass crazy-good food. And now, we’re channeling that passion into kick-ass, crazy-good fried chicken. It’s about doing what’s best for the business, the community and our customers."
Chicken, mac and family
Hot Head Fried Chicken is named for the comb atop a chicken’s head that "always makes it look like the bird’s head is on fire," says Bodow, who notes that spicy chicken will only be part of the picture at the new restaurant.
In addition to Nashville Hot Chicken, Hot Head will also offer traditional Southern fried chicken along with Carolina Gold, fried chicken tossed in Carolina-style mustard based barbecue sauce.
Chicken will be available in a variety of quantities, from two and four-piece plates to whole fried chickens with sides including options like creamy macaroni and cheese, jalapeño cole slaw, Crafty Cow cheese curds and cheesy corn.
According to Bodow, Hot Head's macaroni and cheese will also be a feature.
"It won’t baked, and it won’t be buried in bread crumbs," notes Bodow of the dish, which will be available as both a small side and a main course. "It will just be awesome creamy mac and cheese."
In addition to ordering it up as a side with their chicken, Bodow says guests will also be able to order it on its own as a main dish with add-ins like brussels sprouts, hazelnuts and lemon oil; cajun shrimp and andouille sausage; sweet corn and roasted tomatoes; or their choice of fried chicken.
And if the thought of fried chicken makes you think of Sunday dinners at home with family, Bodow says you’re on the right track. Like Crafty Cow, Hot Head will be a venue that caters to moms, dads, kids and everyone in between.
"For us, food is all about family," he says. "And we want this to be the sort of place where people want to gather. We love the idea of people gathering together … grandparents, moms, dads, kids … and enjoying a great meal together."
Bodow says the aesthetic transformation from Bumstead Provisions to Hot Head Fried Chicken will take place later this summer, likely within the next six weeks or so. During the transition, Bumstead will be closed for a brief period of time. However, Crafty Cow will remain open.
Lori is an avid cook whose accrual of condiments and spices is rivaled only by her cookbook collection. Her passion for the culinary industry was birthed while balancing A&W root beer mugs as a teenage carhop, fed by insatiable curiosity and fueled by the people whose stories entwine with each and every dish. She’s had the privilege of chronicling these tales via numerous media, including OnMilwaukee and in her book “Milwaukee Food.” Her work has garnered journalism awards from entities including the Milwaukee Press Club.
When she’s not eating, photographing food, writing or recording the FoodCrush podcast, you’ll find Lori seeking out adventures with her husband Paul, traveling, cooking, reading, learning, snuggling with her cats and looking for ways to make a difference.