By Lori Fredrich Senior Food Writer, Dining Editor, Podcast Host Published Feb 14, 2024 at 1:03 PM Photography: Lori Fredrich

Champion Chicken has been a fixture on the Northwest Side since 1959. The restaurant survived two moves under founders Edward and Richard Seebach, landing at its current location in 1967, where it served as a popular family restaurant for decades. Unfortunately, the past decade has been rocky for the longtime brand, which has struggled to regain its stride, even under its most recent ownership.

But a veteran restauranteur, whose family has been in the business since 1961, is bringing a new vision to the proverbial table which he hopes will assist the restaurant in regaining its reputation as an inclusive neighborhood gathering place.

Darnell Ashley, the second generation owner of Ashley’s Bar-B-Que and founder of The Q, is slated to assume the lease at Champion Chicken, 8718 W. Lisbon Ave. If all goes well, the ownership transition could take place as soon as the end of February.

Exterior of Champion Chicken
New signage on the dining room side of the restaurant points to the upcoming change.

The vision

Ashley says he has fond memories of Champion Chicken that hearken back to his childhood.

“I remember coming to this place when I was like 12 years old with my family,” he says. “The place was always busy and there were always a bunch of classic cars in the parking lot. I loved it.” 

He says he’s aware that both the quality of the food and the service at the restaurant has gone down over the years, and he says that’s where he wants to focus his energy.

“I want to bring back high quality housemade fried chicken,” he says, “Plus introduce some new items for people to enjoy.”

But his vision goes further than a simple menu rehab.

“Ultimately, I want to create something like we had at 2nd and National at Ashley’s Que,” he says, referencing the popular restaurant in Walker’s Point which he operated between 2012 and 2017. “We had a diverse crowd, and bringing people from all walks of life together to enjoy food and gather together is what I enjoy most about this business. And I think this is the perfect neighborhood for that.”

To execute his plan, Ashley has hired Tony Howard, a 20+ year industry veteran whose front of house experience has included eight years with Bar Louie in Downtown Milwaukee, plus extensive experience at eateries including Denny’s, Charcoal Grill in Grafton and El Greco.

“I’ve known Darnell for many years,” says Howard, “And we’ve always talked about working together. I'm looking forward to working together with him and sharing ideas for this new restaurant."

Tony Howard and Darnell Ashley
Tony Howard and Darnell Ashley


Together, Ashley and Howard hope to create a dual-concept restaurant that offers both quick carry-out options and an enjoyable sit-down dining experience for customers.

Ashley says he plans to retain current staff at Champion Chicken and offer training on a new, streamlined menu for the carry-out side of the restaurant.

Offerings will include his recipe for brined Southern style fried chicken, as well as spicy fried chicken, an addition he says he’s introducing based on consumer demand.

Guests will also find fried chicken wings, vegan wings, salads, chili, hand-battered shrimp and fried fish, burgers, and Ashley’s BBQ, available as both meals and sandwiches. He also plans to continue to offer frozen custard in vanilla, chocolate and swirl.

Ashley's BBQ mealX


Meanwhile, in the dining room, guests will find a reimagined dining area featuring new art, seating and a snazzed-up bar area.

They will also find a more expansive menu featuring starters like wings, Buffalo chicken dip and hummus and a large selection of sandwiches including BBQ pork, BBQ brisket, po’boys and a chopped salmon sandwich, a chicken and waffle sandwich and a portabella mushroom burger.

Longtime favorites will also be included.  That includes "The Whole Damn Farm", a cheeseburger topped with BBQ pulled pork, bacon and an over-medium egg; and The Prince sandwich, an indulgent combination of chopped steak, lamb, cucumber sauce, mixed peppers, mayonnaise, fried onions and shredded cheese piled high on a hoagie roll.

The Prince sandwich
The Prince sandwich

The menu will also include 9” personal pizzas with a range of toppings, along with various specials including 18” pizzas and prime rib on Fridays and Saturdays. Ashley will also host his famous soul food Sundays featuring a range of offerings including housemade greens, oxtails, meatloaf and fried catfish. Desserts are likely to include offerings like peach cobbler (available with or without a scoop of frozen custard).

Ashley says they may add more weeknight specials (including offerings like smothered pork chops and BBQ beef ribs) if both demand and staffing will allow. 

Howard says that the restaurant will also stock a full bar featuring wine, domestic and local craft beers and cocktails. They also plan to introduce happy hour Tuesday through Friday from 4 to 7 p.m. with both food and drink specials available.

Athletic games, including Brewers, Bucks and Packers games will be broadcast on televisions throughout the dining room and bar on game days. And guests can also look forward to the implementation of special activities like trivia nights.

A semi-private dining area, which accommodates 25 to 30 guests, will also be available for a nominal fee for those who wish to host small gatherings, corporate events, birthday parties or showers.

Once open, Ashley’s Que Too will offer carry-out Tuesday through Sunday from 11 am. to 9 p.m. and dine-in service Tuesday through Sunday from 11 to 2 p.m. and 4 to 11 p.m.

Lori Fredrich Senior Food Writer, Dining Editor, Podcast Host

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.