Houston’s Clutch City Cluckers adds Montrose location, has global ambitions

Houston's Clutch City Cluckers adds Montrose location, has global ambitions

It’s hard to believe that just a few years ago there were virtually zero places to find hot chicken in Houston. The landscape has rapidly changed, however, with a brand new spate of hot chicken spots seemingly popping up each week. In the latest news, Clutch City Cluckers is adding yet another truck to its fleet, which is set to take up residence in Montrose beginning Aug. 26.

Hot chicken, with its dangerous spectrum of spice levels and accompanying sides, including slaw, pickles and dipping sauce, has long been a staple of Nashville, made famous by iconic haunts like Hattie B’s and Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack. Houston restaurateurs have created similar recipes and are now slinging sweat-inducing sandwiches and hot chicken baskets that locals can’t seem to get enough of.

Since launching its first hot chicken food truck at the corner of Chimney Rock and Westheimer in 2021, Clutch City Cluckers has gone on to roll its spicy fare to streets in the Medical Center, Katy, and San Antonio, and even added a brick-and -mortar location in Amman, Jordan. It may sound like a random mix of locales, but the minds behind the fast-growing brand have a method to the madness.

“We have a great team in marketing, in planning, and in budgeting,” says general manager, Shadi Ardekani, referring to himself and Clutch City Cluckers’ sole owner Ahmad Kilani. “We worked on this concept for a year before opening, and our plan was to expand and create a brand for Houston.”

The duo hails from Jordan, so choosing it for their first international outpost was only natural, Ardekani explains. They’ve since received franchise requests from all over the Middle East, including appeals for spots in Dubai, Egypt, and Qatar. The requests have tallied up so quickly that Clutch City’s owners have created a franchise model, and plan to start accepting applications from hopeful owners this fall. “We want to take the brand to the next level, and to do that, you gotta go big,” Ardekani says.

Kilani, an immigrant who moved to Houston from Irbid, Jordan to obtain his master’s degree, learned the ins and outs of the food truck business when he worked at a halal food truck called Abu Omar Halal while also going to school full time. Kilani went on to invest in that brand, and now co-owns six of its locations across Texas and Louisiana.

Surprisingly, the idea for Clutch City Cluckers was born in California, where Kilani and Ardekani sampled hot chicken for the first time. “There were a couple of people doing it in Houston … but we felt like it was not being represented well,” Ardekani said. “We wanted to do everything that the competition was missing, like use good ingredients and serve top notch fries.”

The flour power tacos, packed with fiery hot chicken, queso, and slaw, at Clutch City Cluckers

The flour power tacos, packed with fiery hot chicken, queso, and slaw, at Clutch City Cluckers

Clutch City Cluckers

Fond of cooking, the men created their own recipe for Nashville-inspired hot chicken and built a unique menu for Clutch City. A standout among the list sandwiches, tender baskets, and loaded fries are the Flour Power Tacos, a dish which Ardekani proudly says was a first in Houston. The tacos, an alternative to cradling hot chicken strips between fluffy buns, are served in three flour tortillas, and are topped with queso, slaw, and pickles, resulting in triple the fun. “The tacos are definitely my favorite thing on the menu,” Ardekani crows.

The opening of Clutch City Cluckers’ new Montrose truck will be celebrated with a three-day grand opening spanning from Friday, Aug. 26 until Sunday, Aug. 28, with Kilani’s and Ardekani’s Nashville-inspired hot chicken starring in between buns and waffles, atop fries, and more. In addition to offering guests half off their meals during the event, there will be opportunities to participate in raffles for a Playstation 5 and an iPhone 13 Pro.

Houstonians can look forward to another truck opening in the Spring area this September, and it won’t likely be the last. “We want to open in the Woodlands; that is definitely a target for us,” Ardekani says. “Then we want to move on to California and Florida.”

Clutch City Cluckers’ massive social media following has served as a tool for Kilani and Ardekani in choosing future locations. “A lot of people ask us on social media to open in different cities,” Ardekani says. “We look at that, but it also comes down to finding the right operators, especially outside of Houston.”

Moving forward, they plan to shift their focus to opening family-friendly brick and mortar restaurants that include drive-thru windows. “There hasn’t been anything like a McDonalds, a Popeye’s or a KFC in a long time,” Ardekani says. “Our vision is to become a big franchise that was born and raised in Houston, and to grow it all over the world. That was our business plan from the start.”



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