July 31, 2021

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Nashville hot chicken chain Angry Chickz opens in Ceres CA

Have you ever tasted instant regret?

Like, the moment it touches your lips you realize you’ve made a terrible, terrible mistake kind of regret?

Well, I have and it came in the form of one bite of french fry covered in the highest, hottest heat level offered by the newly opened Nashville hot chicken chain Angry Chickz in Ceres. What was once an innocent fried potato became a fiery missile of pain and remorse — again, after just one bite.

My face hurt for an hour afterward. As a lactose intolerant person, I even drank my first glass of milk in a good decade to ease the burn. Then I sealed the rest of the fries in a plastic bag lest any of their evil seep out. I will not try a second bite, ever.

“It’ll ruin your whole day, pretty much,” said Mary Mkhitaryan, whose family owns the chain and has been on hand to launch the new Ceres location.

So why would any sane person subject themselves to this kind of punishment? Science? Adrenaline? A reminder that life is fleeting and each day is a gift? Well, for me it was my job, but for the more than 200 people who have signed a waiver to try the Angry-level spice in the week since the restaurant debuted, it was just part of the whole hot chicken experience.

Stanislaus County’s first dedicated hot chicken restaurant opens

Angry Chickz opened on Mitchell Road earlier this month and has had consistent lines out the door since as Stanislaus County’s first dedicated Nashville hot chicken restaurant. The new eatery, in the former home of the short-lived meal-prep and barbecue restaurant Fired Up Grill, has a simple design and even simpler menu.

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Angry Chickz restaurant on Mitchel Road in Ceres, Calif., on Thursday, July 15, 2021. Andy Alfaro [email protected]

Come in, walk up to the counter, order one of four combinations of Nashville hot chicken and then pick your spice level.

For those unfamiliar, Nashville hot chicken is a style of fried chicken often slathered in a spicy, buttery sauce or seasoning that was popularized in Tennessee and become a trendy food fad across the country. At Angry Chickz, which debuted in the Los Angeles area in 2018 and now has 12 locations across California (and one in Las Vegas), the chicken is all tenders fried in peanut oil.

Their tenders then come two pieces to an order, served on slider buns, slices of white bread or over rice (combos run $12 to $14 and most include slaw, pickles and fries). You pick your own spice level out of six options. From the top, they are Angry (more of a chemical irritant than a food product), X-Hot (described as “Call 911”), Hot (“Feel the Burn”), Medium (“Perfect Heat”), Mild (“Light Spice”) and Country (zero spice, just a fried chicken tender).

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Angry Chickz restaurant in Ceres, Calif., on Thursday, July 15, 2021. Andy Alfaro [email protected]

I tried all the spice levels (save Country) and found that while they’ll definitely make you sweat, they’re all pretty palatable except, of course, the Angry. The restaurant also serves a variety of sides to help soothe your scorching mouth, including coleslaw, mac and cheese, buttered rice and french fries.

Angry heat level uses world’s hottest pepper

You have to be over 18 years of age to even try the Angry seasoning and sign a one-page waiver that warns of “increased use of profanity, burning sensation of the mouth, lips, profuse sweating, bodily injury or even death.”

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Angry Chickz restaurant in Ceres, Calif., on Thursday, July 15, 2021. Chicken made with the certified world’s hottest pepper, the Carolina Reaper, requires that customers sign a waiver before eating. Andy Alfaro [email protected]

I don’t know about the death part, but everything else came true for me. So I am begging you, again, don’t order the Angry. Now, many of you already have, and others still will. So you should know its punishing heat comes courtesy the world’s certified hottest pepper, the Carolina reaper.

The appropriately named hot pepper is some 200 times hotter than a jalapeno. The reaper comes in at 2.2 million Scoville heat units (the standard measurement used to determine hot pepper spiciness), while the humble habanero comes in between 100,000 to 350,000 Scoville units.

The restaurant’s second two hottest spice levels, X-Hot and Hot, use the scorpion pepper and ghost pepper, respectively — which both clock in at over 1 million Scoville units each.

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Mary Mkhitaryan holds a stack of signed waivers at Angry Chickz restaurant in Ceres, Calif., on Thursday, July 15, 2021. Chicken made with the certified world’s hottest pepper, the Carolina Reaper, requires that customers sign a waiver before eating. Andy Alfaro [email protected]

Mkhitaryan said the menu has been kept intentionally simple to highlight the chicken. Her older brother, David Mkhitaryan, owns and operates all of the locations. Mary Mkhitaryan, who works as the company’s grand opening supervisor, said they purposely like to pick smaller towns in addition to their big-city locations.

“We’re from Fresno, so we like opening in smaller cities,” she said. “Growing up, we liked to try trendy and new food. But we’d always have to go out of town. So rather than just open in big cities, we like smaller towns so they don’t have to leave to try the food.”

Lines out the door at new Ceres spot

The strategy is working so far in Ceres, where lines have been steady and waits long. As with any new restaurant, be patient with the staff. The site’s 35 employees are new and still learning. The restaurant is also still hiring and would ideally like have at least 10 more employees, Mkhitaryan said, to handle the 12-hour business days.

The roughly 3,000-square foot space has been decorated with some wall art and Angry Chickz slogans like “Feed your hangry” and “Money can’t buy you happiness but it can buy you fried chicken.” Seating is limited inside, with chairs for maybe 50 to 60.

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Alexa Golyamskaya gives the thumbs up after eating the x-hot chicken at Angry Chickz restaurant in Ceres, Calif., on Thursday, July 15, 2021. Andy Alfaro [email protected]

You can get your hot chicken to dine in or take out. Currently, Angry Chickz does not offer delivery, though in the future it plans to perhaps partner with a third-party delivery service. The eatery also does not take telephone orders, so you’ve got to go in person to feel the heat.

Staff recommends first-timers order the medium, and level up from there. Restaurant workers also emphasize there’s a right level for everyone, even the spice adverse. But if you must order the Angry, consider covering just one of the tenders in the pure evil and going with a lower level on the other.

“We’ve seen people throw up, people cry, red faces, all of the above. They always say, ‘I’m never trying it again,’” said Angry Chickz opening staff crew member Anthony Ballesteros. “I’ve never seen people eat Angry over and over again. It’s a one-time thing and that’s that.”

I concur, one bite was way too much for me. But, I guess one person’s pain is another person’s pleasure. Just don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Angry Chickz, at 1778 Mitchell Road in Ceres, is open 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily. For more information, visit www.angrychickz.com. The restaurant does not have a public phone number.

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Marijke Rowland writes about new business, restaurant and retail developments. She has been with The Modesto Bee since 1997 covering a variety of topics including arts and entertainment. Her Business Beat column runs multiple times a week. And it’s pronounced Mar-eye-ke.
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