Back in the sixties, Youngblood’s Fried Chicken was a Texas institution. The Waco-based chain operated over thirty locations throughout Texas. The memory of its batter still inspires people to share recipes, and the decades that it operated still result in wistful nostalgia.
And, next year, it’s making a triumphant return. While the company’s restaurants closed in 1969, after a failed attempt to expand nationwide, a team of Austin-based restaurateurs are partnering with a member of the Youngblood family to revive the brand, the Austin American-Statesman reports.
Lenoir chef-owner Todd Duplechan is teaming with Jeffrey’s co-founder Jeffrey Weinberger, former Trio at the Four Seasons general manager Jeff Haber, and a member of the Youngblood family to reboot legendary Youngblood’s Fried Chicken.
“We’re trying to usher in a new style of fast food,” Duplechan said. “The Southern food your grandparents would have had. Not Paula Deen-Southern, but from-the-garden Southern. Good, fresh healthy food.”
The counter-service restaurant’s menu will include fried chicken, oak-roasted rotisserie chicken and homemade sides. The first Austin location, expected to open sometime next year, will be on Airport Boulevard west of I-35.
Opening new businesses with the same name as dearly-missed icons isn’t unheard of in Austin: There’s a new Taco Flats now open on Burnet, while a new venue called Vulcan Gas Company operates on Sixth Street. (In San Antonio, meanwhile, a business called “Tacoland” operates in the same space as the punk rock club that closed its doors when owner Ram Ayala was murdered in 2005.) But while those businesses have appropriated the names of the prior institutions, they don’t have the participation of the people who coined the name, and they don’t resemble the original concept. (Taco Flats does claim to have received the blessing of the original owner Linda Steele.)
Youngblood’s, meanwhile, seems poised to replicate some of what made the original such a success: Affordable, fast, and tasty food. As Duplechan told the Statesman, the idea was to compete with places like In-N-Out Burger:
Duplechan said he was inspired in part by the influx of out-of-state brands like In-N-Out Burger and Gus’s Fried Chicken invading the Austin market in recent years. He wanted to build a home-grown concept that could represent Texas at home and outside of the state. The former chef at the Four Seasons also wanted to create a family-friendly environment that didn’t sacrifice quality for flavor.
“I wanted to open a place where you can bring your family and feed them real food. I don’t feed my kids health food, but I feed them good food,” Duplechan said. “I want them to eat food that tastes good but is also sound in a lot of ways … I’m trying to figure out how to live my life and not raise my kids on ramen noodles and Twinkies. But I’m also not going to tag along to the health food store every five minutes, because I’m not going to sacrifice my lifestyle.”
The first Youngblood’s location will open in Austin, but the team hopes to expand to the rest of Texas if this experiment works. If they deliver what they’re promising, meanwhile, it’s hard to see how it could fail. More than likely, the same sort of people who used to line up around the block to visit the city’s original location in South Austin will stretch around the block on Airport Road, too. For all the changes in Austin over the past fifty years, apparently a willingness to stand in long lines for food isn’t one of them. We can only imagine what the lines will be like when someone re-opens a Holiday House, El Matamoros crispy tacos, or Uncle Van’s Pancake House.