Ashley Christensen will launch chicken sandwich concept, branching beyond Raleigh

Ashley Christensen, the reigning James Beard Outstanding Chef in the country, has some fried chicken-related news.

The Raleigh chef announced Friday that she’s starting a chain of chicken sandwich restaurants in the Triangle, with the first locations in Durham and Cary. The concept is so far nameless, but Christensen directed fans to the website projectxtracrispy.com in the meantime. This will be Christensen’s first venture beyond downtown Raleigh.

“I have often thought about the right way to expand our reach beyond downtown, and this felt like the perfect opportunity,” Christensen said in a release. “We are excited to bring the approachable, universally comforting flavor of chicken sandwiches to a larger audience, and to bring our cultural approach to a new model of restaurants.”

For the new chain Christensen is partnering with MDO Holdings, a development group led by Michael Olander Jr., the son of Eliza Kraft Olander, one of the early investors in Christensen’s flagship restaurant Poole’s Diner.

“Ashley and I have been friends for years and I couldn’t be happier for us to partner with her on this new journey, and I am ecstatic that we get to work together to spread her ideas on food and community,” Olander said in a release. “Not only do more people get to enjoy her stellar menu, but more team members get the chance to learn her thoughts on food and hospitality — and probably more importantly — on furthering equality, fairness and kindness in the food service industry.”

Christensen is well versed in the beauty of fried chicken, with her restaurant Beasley’s Chicken and Honey a popular spot on Wilmington Street in Raleigh. With the new chicken concept, the chef said she’ll focus on the chicken sandwich, offering five different versions. There will also be sides, salads, milkshakes and wine and beer.

The first location will open in Durham’s upcoming University Hill shopping center, aiming to be serving by next spring. The next will be in Cary’s Parkside Commons development, slated to open by the middle of 2020. A third location is planned for Raleigh, but that location was not revealed.

As if there wasn’t enough going on in the AC Restaurants world, Christensen is also opening a new downtown Raleigh pizzeria called Poole’side Pies, with an opening planned for this summer.

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Drew Jackson writes about restaurants and dining for The News & Observer and The Herald-Sun, covering the food scene in the Triangle and North Carolina.