Why “Top Chef” Winner Richard Blais Is Clucking Excited About Opening The Crack Shack In Sin City

Richard BlaisPhoto Credit: Amelinda

There’s a clucking great new addition to the Vegas Strip in The Crack Shack, a gourmet fried-chicken eatery courtesy of “Top Chef” win Richard Blais and Michael Rosen. Up until now, the eatery, which is known for one-of-a-kind menu items, decadent sandwiches and a fun vibe, only had California-based locations, but now with its sixth location, the brand has officially opened its doors at Park MGM.

Fried chicken is the star of the show at the all-day restaurant, featuring juicy, uber-crispy Jidori fried chicken, with a choice of signature dipping sauces including housemade ranch, sriracha, 1000 island, barbeque, Baja hot sauce, Sweet Heat and The Crack Shack’s own version of ketchup, Crack-Sup. There’s a little bit of everything here, from fried chicken oysters, sandwiches like the Double Clucker, which features two ground chicken patties, cheddar, bacon, smashed avocado, pickle, fried onions and burger sauce on a potato roll; and the signature Firebird, which is almost as hot as Las Vegas itself with a spicy fried chicken thigh, cool ranch, crispy onions and pickles on a potato roll. There are also healthy items such as the Anti-Salad Power Bowl made with smoked chicken, soft boiled egg, heritage grains, chato’s salsa, avocado and arugula; the Downward Dog with seasonally rotating grilled vegetables, quinoa, housemade hummus and lemon yogurt vinaigrette; and the Border Slaw with papaya, mango, jicama, coconut, chili and pineapple with spicy salt on top.

In true Las Vegas fashion, The Crack Shack offers a full bar with a selection of craft cocktails, frozen rosé, Champagne and a stellar beer program. Cocktails include options such as the Scramble, a blackberry mule made with vodka, crème de mure, lemon and ginger, and the Hot Mess, a take on a smoky margarita made with mezcal, Ancho Reyes, honey, lime and grapefruit.

Those familiar with the Cali locations will be pleased to see that it’s retained its signature rustic farmhouse chic aesthetic—though there is, of course, a Sin City twist. Interior finishes include barn wood, exterior fencing and corrugated metal; booths are made using reclaimed redwood from a storage silo that previously housed cherries. Unique, whimsical, cluck-centric art gives a cheeky nod to the neighborhood, and of course The Crack Shack’s signature larger-than-life rooster statue, wearing a proper Vegas Golden Knights jersey, welcomes patrons to “the coop” at the venue’s Strip entrance.

Blais takes us on a tour of his fun new eatery and discusses what to expect should decide to get Cracking in Las Vegas.

The Crack ShackPhoto Credit: Amelinda

You’re about to open The Crack Shack’s first location outside of California. First, let’s talk location: Why Las Vegas?

The better question is “Why not Las Vegas?” From the perspective of building a brand, there are few places on earth better than The Las Vegas Strip. Las Vegas has some of the best fine dining restaurants in the world as well as some very low end offerings. We feel that The Crack Shack, while more expensive than fast food, offers both tremendous value for such high quality ingredients and a less formal dining experience for those who are trying to make a show or spend more time at the tables.

The Crack ShackPhoto Credit: Amelinda

What drove you to Park MGM specifically?

Actually, MGM approached us. A few of the MGM executives had been to the original Crack Shack in San Diego and contacted us about coming to Las Vegas. After reviewing a few opportunities with MGM, both MGM and our team settled in on Park MGM.

The Crack ShackPhoto Credit: Amelinda

Will there be any differences to the Vegas location in terms of aesthetic, menu items, etc. that guests should expect?

We do have two Las Vegas-only menu items. One is a breakfast sandwich called “The Hangover.” It is a large biscuit, fried breast or thigh, fried egg with red eye aioli. On the drinks side, we’ve brought in a few beers from local Las Vegas breweries. We also have longer hours to appease the late-night crowd looking for a quick, delicious bite.

The Crack ShackPhoto Credit: Amelinda

Tell us about the aesthetic and how it compares and contrasts to your California restaurants.

We share the industrial façade of The Park MGM with Eataly, however the aesthetic is all Crack Shack inside. We still use old reclaimed wood for our tables and benches, and reclaimed corrugated metal. In this unit, our table tops are made from reclaimed redwood storage barrels.

The Crack Shack
Scramble

Photo Credit: Amelinda

What Vegas-style cocktails can guests expect?

Our craft cocktail menu will start off the same as our other units. And we will offer boutique craft draft beers and bottled beers. The differentiating factor is most fine casual places do not offer fun pairings and high quality beverages. I guess the biggest difference is we will have to-go cups?

The Crack Shack
Double Clucker

Photo Credit: Amelinda

Since your signature chicken is going to be wearing a Vegas Golden Knights jersey, is making this a favored haunt for the team a particular goal?

Our giant signature chicken will have as many costume changes as Cher? It is likely that we will have a Vegas Raiders jersey and perhaps costumes that evoke acts playing in the Park MGM Theatre. Of course, we would love to have Golden Knights and other local sports figures and entertainers experience The Crack Shack.

The Crack Shack
Classic slaw

Photo Credit: Amelinda

How did you elevate a casual concept into a gourmet eatery?

First and foremost we use the same high quality ingredients that are used in the top fine dining kitchens. Our chicken is from Jidori which while far more expensive that the chicken utilized by other casual concepts is worth it. We also use boutique farm eggs and produce. Finally, we use classic chef driven techniques to elevate the ordinary into the extraordinary.

The Crack Shack
10 Piece

Photo Credit: Amelinda

How important is it for you overall to elevate the concept of comfort food, and why is it so important, if so?

It’s not only elevating comfort food that is critically important. It is elevating casual food. Many of our customers could be eating at Michelin restaurants every night but choose to eat something more satisfying. Given the challenge in the restaurant industry, many concepts have been forced to use the cheapest, lowest quality ingredients they can buy. We believe that educated diners would rather order at a counter and not sacrifice from a quality ingredient perspective.

The Crack Shack
The Jack Rosen

Photo Credit: Amelinda

On that note, what do the words “luxury” and “gourmet” mean to you?

The dictionary defines luxury as “the state of great comfort and extravagant living”. But we like the concept of an affordable luxury. The highest quality friend chicken is a luxury that anyone could and should afford. Gourmet is less relevant to our value proposition as you don’t necessarily need a gourmet palate to love The Crack Shack!

The Crack ShackPhoto Credit: Amelinda

Last but not least, you’re a multiple “Top Chef” winner. Which chef would you like to compete against if you did the show another time and why?

I don’t think I’m coming out for another run on “Top Chef” ever, but I think Gregory Gourdet is an incredible talent, plus a runner, so I’d play chase for a while and see how it went!

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