When Cy Washer was managing Mama Gaia in Crosstown Concourse, he’d often walk outside on the loading dock during lunch hour and see people eating takeout from fried chicken fast-food restaurants. So when the time came to revamp the Mama Gaia concept, Washer took that to heart.
“We revamped based on what we were hearing from the people we see everyday. They said they wanted something quick and affordable. And when we saw what people were eating, we thought, what if we could give them something in that same price range but of superior quality?” says Washer.
Enter Saucy Chicken. Located in the west retail corridor, Saucy Chicken opened last fall to fill the need for a quick, casual lunch spot in Crosstown Concourse. Saucy Chicken’s menu of fried chicken, seafood, salads, and deli-style sandwiches is accented by their unique and wide-ranging selection of sauces. Guests can choose from Crosstown Comeback sauce, Ranch, Sweet and Spicy, Honey Mustard, Spicy Mustard, Bleu Cheese, House BBQ, and one simply named “Saucy Sauce.”
“Saucy Sauce is something I put together years ago for this kid who ate chicken tenders every single day at a country club I worked for,” says Washer, manager of Saucy Chicken. “It eventually caught on with other members of the club.”
Saucy Chicken chef Celina Webb brought her own personal recipes for honey mustard and comeback sauce with her to the restaurant. Webb cut her teeth in fine-dining Italian restaurants in Cincinnati before moving back home to Memphis in 2014 to help out her grandmother. She started working part-time at Alchemy, where she met Cy, who also worked at Alchemy then.
“Her talents really shined there,” Washer says. “So we moved Celina into the position of Chef de Cuisine at Alchemy. Alchemy was best known for its awards and rankings for cocktails, but Celina got us our first awards for food.”
Washer eventually moved from Alchemy to Mama Gaia in Crosstown Concourse. When Mama Gaia owners Cru and Philipp von Holtzendorff-Fehling were looking for someone to lead the kitchen, Washer knew just the person.
“I called Celina and asked if she would make a change,” he says. “She jumped at it. She’s from a fine dining background. I’m from a fine dining background. Mama Gaia was a new thing for us, and it was a nice challenge to be able to serve organic, healthy food and try to reach people in that manner. We’re sad it didn’t work out, but we’re having a really good time with Saucy Chicken. People in the [Concourse] building have been really responsive to it,” Washer says.
Saucy Chicken has a steady crew of regulars, who stop by on their lunch breaks from office jobs in Crosstown Concourse.
“There’s one lady who comes in every day and gets the exact same sandwich, and she loves the fact that we remember what she gets,” Washer says. “It’s great to see these people everyday and know their names.”
The menu features everything from hand-breaded chicken tenders (with dipping sauces, of course) and catfish nuggets with tartar sauce to shrimp po’boys and daily plate lunch specials. Saucy Chicken takes customer feedback seriously and recently expanded their menu to include diner-style burgers, a chicken quesadilla, and a chicken philly sandwich.
But Washer says his favorite menu item is the fried BBQ Chicken Sandwich.
“It’s a crispy fried chicken sandwich, dipped in warm BBQ sauce and served on a kaiser roll with our homemade slaw. “It’s sloppin’ droppin’ deliciousness,” Washer says. “To me, it’s so much better than a pulled pork sandwich. It’s the perfect blend of Memphis and Saucy Chicken. I eat it every day.”
While Saucy Chicken may be best-known as a lunch spot, they’re also boosting up their dinner business by offering a family dinner takeout deal with ten chicken tenders, four dipping sauces, baked beans, and potato salad for $16.99. Diners simply call ahead, and their meal will be ready for pick-up between 5-6:30 pm.
“We’re trying to catch people who are leaving their office jobs at Concourse but have soccer practice or church, and they don’t have time to go home,” Washer says. “By the time you get out of your office and wait on the elevators and get out of the parking garage, the last thing you want to do is go sit in line at Popeyes or McDonald’s or Panera Bread. This is something you can grab on your way home.”