It’s only been about three months since The Cluckery opened at Mequon Pavilions, 10944 N. Port Washington Rd., but the fast casual restaurant, which specializes in hand-breaded chicken tenders, has already "beaked" a great deal of interest.
It’s not just because they serve up some of the tastiest tenders, macaroni and cheese and ooey gooey butter cake in the Milwaukee Metro area; It's because they're serving something that few other concepts do: truly gluten-free chicken tenders.
The orignal Cream City Cluckery was launched by the Milwaukee Bucks as a ghost kitchen in 2020, offering pick-up and delivery of its laser-focused menu. But, less than a year later, they expanded their reach to the North Shore with a fast casual brick and mortar location, The Cluckery.
When it opened, the Mequon location debuted something new: gluten-free chicken tenders, which were created not only to provide an option for diners who cannot tolerate gluten (yes, they are Celiac friendly), but an equally delicious one at that.
Kenneth Hardiman, the vice president of hospitality for Fiserv Forum, says he took great pains to develop a recipe for gluten-free chicken tenders that was just as tasty as their flour-based counterpart. He also went the extra mile to ensure that all the accompanying sauces (ranch, honey mustard and comeback sauce) were gluten-free as well.
In fact he says that most of the time, if given the choice, he’ll choose the gluten-free tenders over the more traditional.
“I’m actually partial to the gluten-free tenders,” he says. “They’re a bit lighter, more like a tempura style batter.”
Chicken tenders for everyone
“I’ve had iterations of the gluten-free tenders in my repertoire for years,” Hardiman says, noting that he first experimented with a gluten-free breading 18 years ago when he worked as executive chef for Hotel Phillips in Kansas City where the general manager’s wife and son had Celiac.
“Since then, my wife has developed a gluten intolerance,” Hardiman says. “And I have other family members who have as well. There are so many things like this they like to eat, but so few places offer them without gluten.”
So when he began working on the gluten-free recipe for The Cluckery, he says he already had an arsenal of knowledge that he could reference to make the recipe safe for everyone to eat.
Not only are the chicken tenders made with a custom, gluten-free flour mix and gluten-free beer, he says, they are also prepared using safe Celiac-friendly protocols.
That includes dedicated spaces in the Mequon restaurant for both gluten-free ingredient storage and food preparation, along with dedicated gluten-free fryers, which ensure that even those very sensitive to gluten won’t have a reaction.
“When the orders come in, employees also follow protocols to ensure that no flour is transferred to the customer,” he says.
Currently, the six piece gluten free chicken tenders (which come with gluten-free tater tots and a choice of sauce for $14) are available only at the Mequon location. Hardiman says they hope to expand their gluten free offerings, as well as launching catering services for The Cluckery, as time moves forward.
The Cluckery in Mequon is open Monday and Tuesday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Wednesday through Sunday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Orders can be placed online for pick-up or delivery at cluckery.com.
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.