Feb 4, 2024 - Business

Nashville Coop, Dave's Hot Chicken grow quickly in the Twin CIties

Illustration of a chicken wearing sunglasses with fire reflected in the lenses.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

One of the fastest-growing restaurant concepts — the hot chicken shack — is pitting a local chain against a national one.

  • Well, sort of.

The big picture: The local entrepreneurs behind Nashville Coop don't see the aggressive expansion of Los Angeles-based Dave's Hot Chicken as a threat to their growing group of quick-serve restaurants.

What they're saying: "We're glad Dave's Hot Chicken is coming to town because they're going to spend a lot of marketing dollars on teaching people what hot chicken is — regardless of brand," said Arif Mohamed, who owns Nashville Coop with his parents and brother.

State of play: Mohamed told Axios he discovered the insane demand for hot chicken when visiting LA.

  • Since no restaurants back home in the Twin Cities were serving primarily hot chicken, he and his family converted one of their two Mediterranean food trucks to Nashville Coop in 2020.
  • The launch was so popular that they converted the other truck, too, and opened restaurants in St. Paul in September 2020 and in Minneapolis' Stadium Village in 2022.

Meanwhile, Dave's Hot Chicken in June opened its first Twin Cities restaurant in Minnetonka. The local franchisee is the family of Kris Humphries, who starred for Hopkins and the Gophers before playing 13 years in the NBA.

Zoom in: Hot chicken sandwiches have been gaining steam for years as other national chains have added them to their menu, as have several local restaurants, including Revival, Red Cow and Handsome Hog.

What to watch: Nashville Coop plans to grow through a mix of franchising and company-owned restaurants. Its next location is slated to replace Flynn's Eats in Richfield this spring.

  • The Humphries will soon open a second Dave's restaurant in St. Paul's Highland Park neighborhood and a third in Apple Valley this spring.

Taste test

A chicken sandwich next to a bed of fries
Nashville Coop's chicken Sammich and fries. Photo: Nick Halter/Axios

I've enjoyed the rise in spicy fried chicken sandwiches and gave these two restaurants a taste test.

Zoom in: The Sammich at Nashville Coop is two spicy chicken tenders on a buttered bun, with pickles and coleslaw on the side. It was an excellent sandwich and the Coop Sauce was a great addition for both the chicken and fries.

  • The Mohamed family is from Ethiopia, and they blend their homeland spices into the mixture.
  • They know their audience. There's a Minnesota Nice option with no heat. I'm a couple steps up from most Minnesota wimps, so I got the medium, which was just fine for my taste buds.
  • Along with fries, it's a generous portion for $14.

The chicken on the other side of the road: Dave's Hot Chicken has sliders, with one tender apiece. Also a very good sandwich, I preferred its chicken and slaw topping over Coop's.

A chicken sandwich, tender and fries with pickles and slaw atop the sandwhich
The slider-and-tender basket at Dave's Hot Chicken. Photo: Nick Halter/Axios
  • A slider and a tender with fries is $13.

Yes, but: Neither restaurant's fries were anything to write home about.

Between the lines: I appreciated both restaurants having very limited menus — a sandwich option and a chicken tender option, with a few sides.

  • Dave's also offers a nonmeat cauliflower tender.
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