CHESTER — Dressed in jeans and a sweatshirt, taking a moment to speak with us after hauling an ice machine upstairs, chef Everett Reid, lately of L&E and Good Elephant, chatted easily in the cozy front dining room of his new venture in Chester on Thursday morning, just hours before the restaurant would first open for dinner.
Before taking a break from the restaurant business and closing L&E in 2017, Reid was widely regarded among the best chefs in the region, and his return tonight has already sparked gossip in kitchens and social media.
Prior to opening restaurants in Chester, Reid trained at the Culinary Institute of America and Le Cordon Bleu, worked in a number of kitchens, and with wife Linda Reid, opened the well-regarded American Seasons on Nantucket.
As Reid explained it, Hot French Chix means to fill a niche for high-end comfort food at moderate prices, a very personal take on the “hot chicken” craze now stretching between David Chang’s distinctive brand of high-low fried chicken at Fuku, Danny Meyer’s Shake Shack and mass market Popeye’s.
“This whole thing with chicken is getting really huge, between Popeyes and David Chang, Danny Meyer … but we didn’t want to get that conformist,” said Reid. “There are people who don’t want to sit in a Popeye’s or a fast food place and people who don’t want to spend $200 to go out for dinner for two people, which is really easily done. So we’re trying to find a little niche where the service is professional yet casual. And the same for the portions of the food, portions will be healthy. The food will be fun and French-inspired.”
Reid’s “chicken and burger joint,” features French cooking by way of New Orleans, North Africa, Canada, and Southeast Asia — fried French creole chicken with pimento macaroni and cheese, French Vietnamese barbecued chicken with nuoc cham — an easy-to-love sweet-sour-salty dipping sauce — coq au vin with wild mushroom salsify and celeriac, a vegetarian Beyond Meat burger with gruyere, tomato tarragon jam, a French Provencal Burger of braised daube of beef, garlic aioli and wild mushroom marmalade, a Lyonnaise-style hamburger à la Julia-Child of bifteck haché, caramelized onions, gouda and arugula.
“We wanted to focus on chicken and make it really reasonably priced — and fish prices and meat prices are volatile — and we thought this would be a good way to do it,” explained Reid. “We wanted it to be an atmosphere where you could come in dressed any way you want. You just came back from yoga and you could sit at the bar and have French Vietnamese chicken or barbequed chicken.”
Reid said that when he was in Paris, he always ended up at the Morrocan places. “We wanted something that was more fun, more casual. For people who want to dine regularly.”
Along with Reid’s more classic bistro-style cooking at L&E, and the French-Vietnamese pairing at Good Elephant, his Tuesday burger nights were a mainstay at L&E before its closing.
Reid said that for the time being Hot French Chix would be open from 5 p.m. until close, Thursday through Saturdays, serving beer and wine, with no reservations for parties of less than 6, and pop up dinners planned soon for the other days, Saturday morning breakfasts with espresso and bread from Wave Hill in Norwalk.
Hot French Chix
59 Main Street