Ex-Wife’s Famous Chicken is a surprisingly loving metro Detroit restaurant chain

Staffers at this divorce-themed restaurant were exceptionally cheerful

Feb 9, 2023 at 4:00 am
click to enlarge The Hot Chick sandwich with tenders from Ex-Wife’s Famous Chicken. - Tom Perkins
Tom Perkins
The Hot Chick sandwich with tenders from Ex-Wife’s Famous Chicken.

I hesitated when I saw the name of this place — it sounded ripe for misogyny and bad jokes. But au contraire: whoever is writing copy for the Ex-Wife actually seems pretty fond of owner Allie T. Mallad’s former flame (if such a person exists in fact and not just in legend).

Signs in the restaurant proclaim “Can’t Live Without the Chick” and “Ex Knows Best.” The website says, “It’s so good you won’t want to split.” The logo shows a comely woman in a chef’s hat. The signs, the seats, and the staff’s shirts are all pink. We have Rebound Sauce, Love Me Tenders, a Heartbreaker salad, a kids’ section called Child Support, and just one dish that sounds resentful: Cole-Hearted Slaw.

So women, whatever their marital status, can feel comfortable at the Famous Chicken. In fact, the staff is exceptionally outgoing and cheerful, especially for behind-the-counter workers. Twice they gave us free fries — and I just figured out this minute why those are called Freedom Fries. Yet another divorce joke.

This is not fast food; your sandwiches and salads are made to order. The breasts that go into the sandwiches (it’s all halal white meat) are brined at least 12 hours in a buttermilk mixture, dipped in a fry batter, and pressure-cooked.

The spot serves the Hot Chick (customers’ favorite), the Wild Chick, the Boujee Chick, and the Mellow Chick, as well as the Basic Chick with Rebound Sauce. Each comes with its own sauce, whose ingredients are proprietary. Portions are large and juicy, with an appropriate amount of breading.

Of these my favorite too was the Hot Chick, which is spicy but not crazily so, with the Ex-wife’s version of Nashville hot sauce. It comes with slaw and bread-and-butter pickles, so it’s the most Southern. The Boujee is a tiny bit sweet because of the miso honey butter, and dill pickle is prominent. The pickle flavor is even more prominent in the Mellow Chick, where the fried green tomato was a great idea, but I couldn’t taste it. The Wild Chick will be your favorite if you like barbecue sauce; the Vidalia onion is a plus and it also includes cheddar and Alabama white sauce, also a secret recipe.

When I visited, the Heartbreaker salad was not available but it sounds like the Ex-Wife’s company salad: a housemade red-wine vinaigrette on hearts of romaine, pumpkin seeds, quinoa, dried currants, and Parmesan. Not so much the House Wife salad, much more ordinary with iceberg, cheddar, and ranch.

The only drink besides pop is a house-made strawberry lemonade that I can’t recommend: a pinky brown, it tastes of neither of its fruits.

Mackin & Cheese (mackin: “romantic play activity that includes kissing and loving caress”) is fine if not outstanding. It uses a blend of pepper jack, cheddar, and Boursin. The crisp fries are crinkle-cut and do taste like potato, which as you know does not always happen. Once again the spice mix used for dusting is a secret.

Vegan nuggets are made from cauliflower.

For dessert, when I opened the packaging on the strawberry cheesecake — more pink — I got a waft of chemical smell. But on tasting, it turned out to be good and creamy; it’s just more of a red pop flavor than a strawberry flavor. I preferred the chocolate chip cookie, which is chock full of chunks with a tiny bit of salt. “Cluckin’ best I ever had,” says the wrapper.

At the Dearborn Heights location there’s a patio right on Ford Road, for when it’s warm enough to go outside again, and there’s another Ex-Wife’s Famous Chicken in Battle Creek, with a third recently opening in Warren. The chain is spreading the love: additional locations are planned for Plymouth, Chesterfield, Westland, Howell, Lansing, and Grand Rapids.

Location Details

Ex-Wife’s Famous Chicken: Dearborn Heights

22444 Ford Rd., Dearborn Heights Detroit



Location Details

Ex-Wife’s Famous Chicken: Warren

32187 Van Dyke Ave., Warren Macomb County



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