Chicken wings rank very near the top of my list of desert island foods—the handful of dishes I wouldn’t mind eating for the rest of my life should I inexplicably find myself marooned without hope of rescue. I don’t fancy myself as any sort of expert or connoisseur per se; but I do enjoy the heck out of them, and for the most part I do not discriminate when it comes to style.
Meanwhile, my feelings toward marijuana are pretty similar. So when I was tipped off to the existence of Trap House Chicken, aka THC, and it’s creative assortment of weed-inspired menu items, I was more than a little interested to explore this hidden gem.
THC isn’t strategically located to maximize foot traffic or attract attention from a heavily trafficked thoroughfare. It’s a bit off-the-beaten-path, occupying a nondescript shopping strip on a side street in Arlington near Jacksonville University. It’s a to-go-only joint and it isn’t much to look at, but rest assured, there’s more than meets the eye at this singular establishment.
Everything, and I do mean everything, at THC is fried, including the ribs. Yes, ribs. On the menu they are touted as Duuuval Fried Ribs because presumably no one, throughout time and space, has been so bold as to attempt this singular feat of culinary hubris, but a quick Google search quickly dispels this haughty claim of innovation and discovery. That, however, doesn’t make them any less fascinating. As you might expect, frying in high heat does not yield your typical falling-off-the-bone juicy ribs. The meat is a good deal tougher than a tender, smoked rib, bordering on overcooked. They are available seasoned but dry, aka Reggies, or dressed in one of several sauces including variations on buffalo and BBQ sauce. For my part, the sweet-and-tangy Acapulco Golds far outshine the buffalo versions. Something about the combination of fried pork and buffalo sauce just didn’t sit well with me. Let’s just say they hit a little different and call it a day.
Intriguing as they may be, the fried ribs are a bit of swing and a miss, but the breaded chicken wings are sensational! In my opinion, this is where the menu really shines. Of particular note are the Sexy Reds, a spicy lemon pepper number that I would happily sub for any breaded chicken wing, anywhere, anytime. The Krab Tray Wings strike a distinctively Duval cord, topping THC’s original Southern Fried Baptist wings with that perplexing garlicky, creamy, aioli-like sauce you are destined to find dressing a plate of steamed blue crabs at your local crab shack. There’s also the slightly more subdued Garlic Butter Wings and the I-dare-you-to-try-them Kamikazes, which combine all three sauces in a combination reminiscent of the Suicide Sodas you likely made as kid. But you’ll have to consult someone with even more adventurous tastebuds than I for the verdict on those.
Naked wings have not been left off the menu. You can find them under the Hot Boy Wangs category and tossed in the same sauce options as available with the fried ribs; although I imagine to greater effect. For an undisclosed limited time, one may partake of the decadence that is the Henny Wings, tossed in a sweet, sticky sauce made from actual Hennessy. The cognac flavor actually plays quite well with the wings, but it’s a bit strong and would benefit substantially from a high-heat reduction to cook off some of the alcohol.
If your taste for novelty is still not fully satiated, look no further than the Crack Wedges. I imagine fried (duh) potato wedges topped with your choice of fried ribs and/or chicken and smothered with cheese sauce are the kind of thing Guy Fieri fantasizes about. And at just $8 for an entire styrofoam container of the combo rib and chicken version, they excel in value and addictiveness. Just like their namesake!
Not sampled (yet) were the Blk Pines Mayport Shrimp, named for the historically Black neighborhood near Jacksonville’s favorite little fishing village, but they do look intriguing.
The world of fried chicken things has changed substantially in the few short weeks since I “entered the Trap” when Popeye’s released its answer to Chick-fil-A and ignited the now infamous Chicken Sandwich Wars of 2019. Not to be outdone, THC has since rolled out not one, not two, but six of their own chicken sandwich options, each delightfully named after a different side chick (get it). Suffice it to say, they’ve piqued my interest and are more than enough to suck me back in for a follow up–so stay tuned.
Everything comes with a side of mysterious, white “Kilo sauce” that I was unable to figure out, but apparently some find it irresistible. Thankfully, the stand-outs on the THC menu don’t require it, and I’m still thinking about those Sexy Reds weeks later as it is.
Save some room for dessert because after you’ve indulged in your main course of fried everything, you’d be remiss not to top it off with even more excess. THC slangs your standard cookie flavors courtesy of Submissively Sweet Bake House, but the cheesecake-stuffed chocolate chip cookies are not to be passed on. These oversized, soft baked, diabetic shock-inducing delights make for the perfect finale, a decadent denouement, if you will, even if they do belong on the controlled substance list themselves
No matter how you feel about the food, and to clarify, I am 100% a fan of this joint, you can’t knock the creativity that has gone into the naming and description of THC’s menu items. Their website is well worth a crawl and good for many a laugh. As someone who does that kind of thing for a living, I tip my hat to whomever crafted that colorful copy and bow to your exceptional copywriting skills. Well done!
To conclude, Trap House Chicken is certainly not for everyone. Everything is made to order, so expect to wait, either inside where you’ll likely leave smelling of fry oil for at least a few hours, or on the curb of the not-so-savory Arlington shopping strip. For most of us it’s also a bit out of the way, but you can order it to your door from any of the major delivery apps. But be advised that this food is best consumed as quickly as possible, especially anything breaded and sauced, lest it turn into a soggy, greasy (but still delicious) mess. Point being, it’s the kind of place that’s going to garner mixed reviews and is best approached with an open mind. In fact, for best results, some actual THC isn’t the worst idea. Bong appetit!
This feature originally appeared in Void Magazine, Vol. 10, Issue 6.