My favorite takeout food has always been fried chicken, but growing up in New Jersey, the Colonel was my only option. Decades later, fried chicken is still my favorite, but happily, my Southern zip code gives me way more choice. Though it just opened in mid-September, DeeLuxe Chicken, the new Durham fast-casual concept from lauded restaurateur Scott Howell, has already topped my fried chicken hit list.

Howell, an eight-time James Beard Award semifinalist who recently closed his fine-dining eatery Nana’s, has teamed up with Rise Biscuits Donuts’ Rick Robinson. The pair met almost thirty years ago while working at Magnolia Grill and always planned to open a restaurant together. The duo’s dream has materialized as a casual eatery specializing in fried chicken and seafood, located on Broad Street next door to Watts Grocery.

Vibe: A din of chatter greets me when I enter, lending a friendly energy befitting a joint serving Southern comfort food. The interior has an industrial-retro feel, with a silver-metal bar counter and globe lamps. DeeLuxe mirrors Howell’s NanaTaco fast-casual vibe, where diners order and pay at the counter. Friendly staff keeps the dozen-or-so-deep line moving, and floor staff quickly delivers food and replenishes the sauce bar. Inside tabletops range in size from two- to eight-tops and could easily come together to fit, say, a softball team’s post-game dinner or a moms’ night out.

Menu: “Mighty Fine” fried chicken headlines the large, well-lit menu on the wall behind the counter; you can opt for a quarter bird of either light or dark meat. There are fried seafood baskets, too, filled with shrimp, oysters, or catfish, each served with Texas toast and one side. Salads and sandwiches round out the menu, both of which include vegetarian-friendly grilled portobello options. Sides, called sidekicks, range from classics such as potato salad and baked beans to unique offerings like spicy Asian cucumbers or chili-spiced sweet potato fries. The bar menu includes eight North Carolina beers on tap, wine, and bubbly, because good fried chicken is a celebration on a plate.

What to order: The fried chicken lives up to its moniker; this bird is golden, crunchy, and tender, and pairs well with any of the sauces, depending on your preference, such as sweet Scooter’s Lexington dip, kicky Alabama white sauce, or spicy-herbalicious Peruvian green sauce. Sample a bunch and dunk to your heart’s content. If you go the salad route, get the avocado- and hardboiled egg-topped “Our House” salad and add fried oysters. I could eat oysters every day of the week and DeeLuxe Chicken’s twice on Sunday; these bivalves are plump and juicy, and lightly breaded and fried. Sidekick standouts include spicy Asian cucumbers, Velveeta mac ‘n’ cheese, and crinkle-cut fries. End the meal with a soft-serve chocolate or vanilla ice cream cone.

Price: Basket entrees range from $7.75 to $16. Salads, from $6 to $8. Sandwiches average around $7.50.

Perfect for: A quick dine-in or takeout meal with family or friends, a casual date night, a solo comfort-food pitstop.