And AC said, let there be chicken.

Last week, the Raleigh-based investment and management firm MDO Holdings announced a new partnership with award-winning chef, local celebrity, and purveyor of kindness culture Ashley Christensen. The mastermind behind the downtown Raleigh empire AC Restaurants (Poole’s Diner, Death & Taxes, Fox Liquor Bar, etc.), will spearhead a new fried chicken sandwich concept in Durham and Cary, with a third location—potentially in Raleigh—still to be determined.

What you won’t find come 2020, however, is the same elevated fried chicken for which enthusiasts flock from all over the Triangle to Beasley’s Chicken + Honey. Christensen’s vision for “Project Xtra Crispy,” the placeholder title, is basic by design, with convenience in mind.  

“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,” Christensen said in a statement.

Fried chicken, the epitome of Southern comfort food, is universal—a dish with innumerable iterations that spans cultures. While Christensen couldn’t reveal any details about her new recipe, she did say that, for her, it’s all about striking a balance between the crunchy exterior and juicy interior. That contrast, she says, plus the right seasoning and quality ingredients, is what makes good fried chicken great.

The 2019 James Beard Award winner for Outstanding Chef is crafting a simple menu for the project, including five different takes on a chicken sandwich plus a vegetarian option. She’s also whipping up a handful of sides, salads, made-to-order milkshakes, and fried pies, and plans to serve beer and wine on tap and by the bottle.

“We are really excited to grow beyond what we’ve done in downtown Raleigh and to take it to the surrounding communities,” Christensen told the INDY in an email.

The native Raleighite describes the new fast-casual concept as challenging.

“It allows me to build on my experience while learning from our new operating partner,” she says.

The partnership has announced locations at the new University Hill Shopping Center in Durham and the Parkside Town Commons in Cary. In Raleigh, a third location will open in the Midtown East shopping center just off of Wake Forest Road. 

The restaurant trio has yet to unveil its name, menu, or branding, but fried chicken freaks can stay up to date with announcements via Project Xtra Crispy’s website

Contact food and digital editor Andrea Rice at

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