Since opening in March 2014, Ukrainian Village’s Leghorn Chicken has become a favorite of hipsters, neighborhood residents, and Chicago’s fried chicken enthusiasts. They boldly positioned themselves as the anti-Chik-fil-A with Sunday hours, branded condoms, and donating a portion of their sales to support gay rights.
Their strategy paid off and Element Collective (the brains behind Leghorn, Nellcôte, and the popular new Owen + Alchemy juice bar in Logan Square) has opened a second location in River North in the iconic Ohio House Motel.
The Leghorn Café is located in a small building in front of the iconic Ohio House Motel. Seemingly straight out of Mad Men, the motel, built in 1960, still retains its distinctive Americana styling and has managed to survive despite the gentrification of River North.
While the Leghorn Café isn’t really a café and more upscale fast food, like the also recently-opened Shake Shack, it does retain a few classic diner motifs like a counter with a few stools and two booths. Mostly, though, the small restaurant has more of a trendy lounge vibe with a mix of red, white, and brown leather.
It does look similar to the original location, but the overall vibe is a lot calmer, at least when I was there for breakfast. There weren’t a whole lot of people coming in and out on a Friday morning before work.
Upon entering, you order right at the front counter. The woman working the front was extremely friendly and helpful about the menu. While small, there are quite a few options, and I was happy to have some guidance. After ordering, my “wingman” and I took a seat at the counter. The food came out in just a few minutes and was brought to us by a friendly gentleman who was eager to see how we liked the food.
For breakfast, the Leghorn Café has a minimal menu with a choice of a few main entrees and several extras. This is a sandwich-based restaurant, so I went with the chicken biscuit sandwich– a variation of which they sell as their primary lunch and dinner specialty.
All of the chicken sold at Leghorn is 100% natural Amish chicken that has been humanely treated. In the middle of a biscuit, I was given a huge piece of lightly fried chicken drizzled in their Buttermilk Rancho Verde sauce (recommended by the cashier) and topped with thinly sliced pickles, as well as a slice of local artisanal cheddar cheese.
The chicken was incredibly tender and fresh tasting. I think it could have been seasoned a bit more, but the entire sandwich package was solid. The highlight was the buttery biscuit that was rich and hearty enough to support a whole sandwich without being overly heavy. At the end of the meal, I was enjoyably full rather than having to pass out for a few hours full.
The lunch/dinner menu is focused on the chicken sandwich (available on a bun or biscuit) almost entirely, but offers plenty of combinations to keep you coming back. Choose from hot or not, breast or thigh, seven different sauces, five sandwich add-ons, and eight sides to give you plenty of customizations.
Leghorn Café doesn’t have the best chicken in Chicago or the best fast food I’ve ever had– yet it’s certainly a welcome addition to the River North area and a better alternative to Chick-fil-A or the nearby Rock & Roll McDonalds. The classy atmosphere, friendly and helpful service, playfully aggressive corporate outlook, and the plentiful combinations guarantee I’ll be coming back frequently.
600 N. LaSalle Street Chicago, IL 60654