On the southwest corner of Downtown's color-changing residential tower, Money Chicken, a new fast-casual fried chicken restaurant, distinguishes itself from other local chicken joints with its unique take on traditional recipes and modern, psychedelic interior design. As you'd expect from a fried chicken joint, the service is quick and efficient, but the food itself is elevated in quality.
It's the Sichuan peppercorn seasoning, which creates a slight numbing effect on the palate, that sets Money Chicken apart from other restaurants serving similar fare. The sensation created by the seasoning is an exciting experience for diners who've never dabbled with the eastern spice. Since the pepper’s lingering presence isn't overwhelming, it highlights the menu's simple, quality ingredients.
Those same quality ingredients are chosen by Chef Evan Hartman, author of Money Chicken's menu. Not every dish includes chicken, though. Vegetarian options are offered, such as the fried tempeh sandwich seasoned exactly like its flagship chicken counterpart. In addition to sandwiches, diners can order wings seasoned with dry rub or a buffalo sauce as well as chicken tenders. Add a side of crispy french fries, refreshing coleslaw topped with crunchy peanuts and a honey miso dressing, a classic Caesar salad, or a house salad to take any entree to the next level.
There's no doubt Money Chicken is good. That's thanks to the storied team of local restauranteurs Daniel Souder and Joanna Kirkendall—a recent James Beard fellow. Enthusiasts of the OTR dining scene may recognize their names as the co-founders of Pleasantry, where Chef Hartman also cooks. Furthermore, Souder is the current wine director for 1215 Wine Bar & Coffee Lab, which Kirkendall opened. Between the three of them, the team is steadily creating a culinary empire in Cincinnati.
While they've mastered the menu, designers Amy East and Tina Stear of Platte Architecture + Design helped with Money Chicken's minimal, refined aesthetic. The dining room is clean and enticing with its contrast of white tabletops and multicolored plexiglass that refracts sunlight like a cinematic kaleidoscope. Similar to the color-changing skyscraper above it, the moving sun dyes Money Chicken's ivory dining room different colors as it pours through myriad pigmented panes throughout the afternoon.
Money Chicken's name, playful slang denoting something that brings joy and is good in quality, points to the ingredient at the heart of the kitchen. Above the cashier counter, this relatively simple moniker is represented by complex neon branding in the form of a graffiti-inspired “$chix," which was designed by Blake Lipper of Main Street OTR's Midwestern Press.
There's a reason the restaurant is filled with businesspeople at lunchtime on any given weekday. The formula of the team's playful brand, the chef's elevated menu, a prime location, and the visual expertise of design world luminaries truly sets Money Chicken apart.
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Money Chicken is located at 300 E 7th Street (45202). Its hours are 11:00 AM to 8:00 PM Monday through Thursday, and 11:00 AM to 9:00 PM Friday and Saturday (closed Sunday).