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Our crispy-coated savior

BY CHRIS STEINKE | FEBRUARY 10, 2011 7:10 AM

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Downtown is evolving — or on life support, depending on whom you ask.

The sloppy monotony that characterized the unhealthy heart and the wild attraction of Iowa City has taken a hit. The novel number of empty storefronts is daunting for anyone concerned with the community’s present and future viability. A downtown that used to be lavishly sprinkled with wide-eyed and fun-loving visitors on any given weekend has been tranquilized to a point that a mini-skirt in the blistering cold has become an eerily unfamiliar sight (much to the selfish disappointment of this writer, among others).

So, what’s the next move? What sort of business could possibly restore Iowa City’s status as a destination district? Our answer currently resides in the so-called “armpit” of the state: Clinton.
That’s right. (Flavor) Flav’s Fried Chicken, Clinton’s crispy-coated savior.

For those of you who don’t know, Flavor Flav, legendary hype man and noted clock-necklace connoisseur, opened his first fried chicken joint on Jan. 24, a business phenomenon that is expected to expand nationwide.

I made the 90-minute pilgrimage, and I wasn’t the only one. The family in line in front of me hailed from Peoria, the couple behind me, Cedar Rapids. The line was too much for the building to handle, and patrons were forced to huddle in the bitter cold long enough for superficial conversation to morph into a rigorous discussion of what, exactly, deep-fried corn on the cob tastes like.

Once inside, the jolly vigor was as catchy as “Yeaah Boii” in the early ’90s, or type-2 diabetes in the long-term. Older patrons chuckled over the menu and the décor, kids posed for pictures in the fashionably extinct B-Boy stance, and everyone at least mouthed the words to “Baby Got Back,” all the while aware that their wait would be at least another half-hour.

This is a town that seldom witnesses any degree of culinary demand (outside of the middle school postgame rush). It may also be worth noting that Clinton smells really, really bad. Former Clinton-area resident and current University of Iowa senior Bethany Byer provided her input on the subject:

“It smells way worse than farts. It’s like road kill and dog food. When I was a kid, I’d be driving through and think, ‘Oh, that’s where clouds come from.’ ”

My point? The benefits of Flav’s Fried Chicken are not purely economic. The seductive smell of the deep-fried delicacies pours through the open door, flooding the streets with an alluring fragrance so acute, so powerful it might be capable of overcoming the foul rank that emanates from the Iowa River each spring. Is that a smell worth waking up to in the morning?

My thoughts exactly.

Imagine what Flav’s Fried Chicken could become in Iowa City. Allow me to speculate, perhaps fantasize: Flav’s Fried Chicken signs a lease in the former Vito’s location. It acquires a liquor license and offer 40s behind the counter, with a separate bar to boot. Because of the focus on dining, minors are welcome past 10. Old school hip-hop blares on the speakers day and night. There’s a lively dance floor (no 40s allowed), only mildly slick from chicken grease. Would this be a sight worth seeing? Would this be worth a trip?

Of course, the only notable criticism of Flav’s Fried Chicken would likely surface on our home front, and it concerns the issue of stereotypes. People of Iowa City: With only one KFC (to Clinton’s three), it’s time we embrace the stereotype that everybody loves fried chicken.

At this point, Flav’s Fried Chicken management is unsure of its next move, to Iowa City or otherwise.

“Our next plan of action is getting this place here running really smoothly,” said Nick Cimino, Flav’s business partner responsible for the seemingly inexplicable chicken inauguration in Clinton. “We’re gonna open them up all over the world, but we’re going to crawl. You crawl, then you walk, then run. So we’re gonna take our time with everything.”

That’s fine with us Nick Cimino, Flavor Flav. Take your time, sell some chicken, get your finances in order – Just keep Iowa City in mind.

We need you.


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