Dining in the new normal has been interesting, to say the least. Anecdotal reports of restaurants allegedly failing to enforce social distancing fill up Reddit, contact tracing is the latest to hit Earls in Port Coquitlam, and these are the cases the public currently knows about. I thought it would be a good time to share some good news of an eatery I think is doing a good job operating in the new pandemic: Downlow Chicken Shack. Almost as soon as the pandemic hit and restaurants had to shift to takeout services, Downlow got to work on transforming their method of operating. Today we feature a quick blog post on the new format and my personal accolades to this business.
Team Tastic got a Sunday fried chicken takeout from Downlow Chicken Shack and I had a great taste of the following:
- Pile of Thighs (10) – Medium Heat ($32)
- Fries ($4)
Fun fact: ordering a pile of thighs means the person taking your order shouts to the kitchen "PILE OF THIGHS!" and the entire chicken roars back with a cheer. It was a very homey vibe despite me having to stand on the outside and hear it happen.
The chicken skin here is fantastic. The skin is on the darker side, implying a lot of frying, but it has a flavour profile to match the frying intensity. Each bite had a lemony tang to it to complement the seasoning (read: salt) and each juicy piece of chicken was completely boneless, allowing you to really shove your face into each piece. Each order of chicken includes a few slices of bread (white, unfortunately) to soak up excess juice and seasoning from soaking through the box. This is either a lucky coincidence or a stroke of genius – I'm leaning towards the latter. There were exactly 0.8 juicy pickles per piece of fried chicken.
The fries here are wavy fries which is the right way to pair fries with fried chicken. The waviness means there was lots of surface area to cling to the house Downlow sauce which was a level up on something like White Spot's Triple-O sauce – a favourable comparison in my book, and one making me wish they sold bottles of the stuff.
Downlow Chicken Shack has completely transformed into a new business, converting its interior to a takeout packaging facility that shoves piles of fried chicken orders through a pickup window. As such, there isn't much to report on for amenities, seating capacity, or the washrooms. Downlow's been a favourite in Vancouver for awhile, but I thought it was worth mentioning their new practices in the new normal.
If you are ordering a lot of items from Downlow, boxes will be stacked on top of one another. With the top box fully open, which in my case was the fried chicken, the top box's contents remain crisp. Keeping the fried chicken open and on top makes sense from a prioritization aspect. What this means though is the bottom box, which for me were the fries, remains closed and slowly sogs up from steam condensing within the box. I imagine Downlow wants to minimize its use of bags, so if you want to preserve the crispiness of your bottom box, you should separate out your boxes as soon as you can or bring a spare reusable bag to hold each extra box.
Service is where Downlow Chicken Shack really shines. There is now a tent designated as the ordering line where guests are encouraged to wear a mask while lining up. Because Downlow sits at on a corner next to a back alley, there is plenty of space for customers to line up with social distancing in mind.
The order window is almost completely shielded with plexiglass and I had confidence while ordering that the cashier wouldn't pick up any viruses I might be asymptomatically carrying. The near-full covering meant that I had to be a little louder in placing my order as my voice had to travel through my mask and underneath the large plexiglass divider, but I appreciated that there were helpful instructions on the window reminding all customers of this new measure.
Payment was done through tap to pay which is perfect for most orders under $100 which should satisfy most families unless you are a fried chicken ingesting monster.
Pickup had the same type of social distance line leading to the former patio space of Downlow. The staff were really effective in shouting out the order numbers from the inside and handing the takeout bag through the window.
Overall, I felt super comfortable with all the space afforded to me and the proper methods of barriers to protect the Downlow employees who have to interact with customers all day.
One-liner: The best way to enjoy fried chicken and support a business that has enforced new effective methods of operation during the global pandemic
Highlight: Pile of thighs
Price per person: $10-$15
Would I go back? Yes.